Schmaltz is the key ingredient. Schmaltz is rendered chicken fat. You have to prepare the schmaltz in advance, as a bi-product of making chicken stock. In an earlier blog I suggested putting the chicken stock in the refrigerator overnight so you can lift off the fat before using it. This can be the start of your schmaltz. Keep it refrigerated in a sealed jar, and when you’ve collected a cup or so heat it in a heavy saucepan with 2/3rd of a cup of thinly sliced onions, then proceed as below.
Success depends upon a specific kind of potato grater. There may be other varieties, but the Kuchenprofi Potato Grater/Shredder is available at Amazon. Kuchenprofi Potato Grater/Shredder in 18/10 Stainless Steel
This grater gives the long, thin rough grated potato you need for success.
The onions should be grated on the finest side of a standard four sided grater. [picture] Progressive International Deluxe Grater.
A heavy cast iron skillet is best for cooking them. I have a 13 1/4 inch skillet, which seems perfect, but I couldn’t find any that size in a quick Internet search. The Lodge 15 inch looks good, but it weighs 13 pounds! Lodge Logic L14SK3 Pre-Seasoned 15 Inch Cast-Iron Skillet
Gretel always peeled the potatoes, but I scrub them well and leave on the skins. They are rich in Vitamin C, Potassium (1 skin has as much as a banana), Iron (almost a quarter of the daily recommended amount), Copper ( another quarter) and large amounts of fiber. Potatoes also have a great deal of undigestible starch that acts like fiber in the digestive system.
I should do a whole blog about potatoes, another wonderful gift of the Americas. They originated in the mountains of Peru, where there are still 4000 varieties. For this recipe, we can shop closer to home.
3 Idaho type baking potatoes
1 large onion
3 tablespoons flour
Salt and pepper to taste
Peel and grate the onion on the finest side of 4 sided grater into a generous mixing bowl. [TIP. Don’t trim one end of the onion and it will stay together better during the grating.] Grate the potatoes into the mixing bowl with the Potato Grater/Shredder. Add the flour and mix thoroughly. Add the well beaten egg, salt and pepper and mix thoroughly. The batter should be fairly wet.
Frying the Latkes
Now here’s the key to thin, crispy latkes. Cook them in plenty of smaltz (rendered chicken fat) in a cast iron frying pan over a medium high burner. Use about a tablespoon of batter and spread it out as thinly as possible with the back of the spoon. Cook until the latkes are brown on one side, then flip and continue cooking until brown on the other side. Remove the first batch to a paper towel and keep them warm in the oven as you cook up the rest of the batter.
Latkes are best served as soon as they are cooked. We used to stand around Gretel’s kitchen and eat them as they came out of the pan, almost burning our lips. Gretel served them with fresh sour cream from the Jewish delicatessen on the corner and homemade applesauce.