Friday, December 04, 2009

Fear of Frying

How many times have you eaten a soggy, mushy latke? Or one that was burnt on the outside and raw on the inside? Or heated up frozen latkes because the idea of frying was just too much for you? Well, I can assure you that frying is not difficult, need not be messy, and once you’ve mastered it, you will never reach for a bag of Kineret latkes again.

Successful latke frying is not a secret, and will work if you follow these basic rules:

Quantity of Oil: There should be about three-quarters of an inch of oil in your frying pan. Really. Take a ruler and see how deep that is. If you fry at the correct temperature (keep reading), you will find that most of the oil will still be in the pan when you’re done. The oil should be deep enough to cook the entire bottom of the latke.

Temperature: If the oil is not hot enough, the latke batter will soak up lots of oil while frying but if the oil is too hot, the outside of the latkes will start to burn before the inside has had a chance to cook through. So how do you know if it’s hot enough? Test it! Generally, the burner should be on medium high, and you should give the oil sufficient time to heat up (about five minutes). When the surface of the oil starts to shimmer and seems to be sliding around, start testing.

Testing: Start testing by dropping one teaspoon of latke batter in the oil. The oil should bubble up around it, and the latke should seem to be nearly floating in the oil. The bottom should be browned in about four minutes, then flip and cook the other side, which should take three more minutes. If the test latke looks burnt, lower the heat, wait a few minutes for the oil to cool down a bit and test again. If the latke never browns well, turn the heat up a bit, wait a few minutes and test again.

Forming the Latkes: For each latke, stir the latke batter, and using a rounded serving spoon, scoop up some batter, lightly tap the spoon on the side of the bowl to compress the batter, and slide the “formed” latke into the oil. Don’t drop the batter into the oil!

Several latkes can be fried at the same time, but don’t overcrowd the pan; leave at least an inch in between the latkes as they’re frying. Don’t press on, push around, or otherwise disturb the latke until the edges look golden brown. Once the sides look golden brown, gently flip the latke. Using both a spatula and tongs will make it easier. Place the cooked latkes on paper towels to drain for a minute, and then put in a single layer in a 300 degree oven to keep warm (if they’re not eaten immediately). Once one batch is done, give the oil 30 seconds to reheat before starting again, and always start the next batch by stirring the batter.

Deb’s Latkes

2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes

1 small onions (or a larger one, to taste)

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

3 eggs

1/3 cup matzoh meal or potato starch


Cheesecloth or thin tea towel

In large bowl, lightly beat eggs. Peel or scrub potatoes and cut into quarters. Trim and peel onions and cut into quarters. With shredding blade of food processor, shred potatoes and onions. Using doubled layer of cheesecloth or tea towel, squeeze excess water out of potatoes/onions a few handfuls at a time. Add 2/3 of shredded potatoes/onions to eggs. Put the remaining 1/3 of the shredded potatoes/onions back into the food processor with the chopping blade and pulse a few times to lightly chop the potatoes. Add to the bowl with the eggs. Stir well. Add the salt, pepper and matzoh meal or potato starch. Allow to sit 15 minutes before frying.

Note: This recipe doubles well, but after frying the first half, start with fresh oil for frying.

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