I have loved latkes for as long as I can remember. My Mississippi-born, non-Jewish mother used to fry them for us every Hanukkah... from a boxed Manischewitz mix. And they were absolutely the best latkes that I ever had as a child. My siblings and I would fight over who had already gotten their 8th or 9th latke, and beg my mom to fry them up again on another night of Hanukkah.
In college, I proudly made latkes for my roommates from the same mix. They didn't fully understand the magic, but I ate enough for all 5 of us. Over the years, I've come up with my own recipe that fits my foodie personality a little more, but I can still eat my weight in latkes, no matter the source. As long as they are fresh! Serve these by the batch. My mom would always say that you know you can start slowing down when the batch doesn't disappear as quickly as it arrives on the table.
Ingredients (makes about 15 latkes, depending on size)
4 large russet potatoes (12 oz each, for a total of 3 lb of potatoes)
1 large leek or 2 small leeks, sliced in half lengthwise, then chopped into half moons and separated (2 cups of chopped leeks)
1/3 cup flour
3 tbsp flaxseed meal
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
High heat oil for frying (vegetable oil, peanut oil, sunflower seed oil) - enough to fill your pan or pot to about 1 inch deep)
Grate all of the potatoes. I do this using my food processor with the grater attachment, but if you have the patience, you can do it by hand. As I grate the potatoes, I like to place them in a colander in the sink so that any excess moisture leaks out, but this is optional - the flour and flax seed meal will absorb much of the excess moisture.
Add the potatoes, leeks, flour, flaxseed meal, salt, and pepper to a large bowl. Mix well.
Heat about 1 inch of oil in a frying pan or dutch oven over medium high heat. My mom always used a high-walled stainless steel frying pan, but I prefer to use a dutch oven, since it keeps the oil from splattering as much. It is best to fry the latkes at about 360 to 375 degrees F. I use an infrared thermometer (awesome kitchen tool) to monitor the temperature as I'm frying, but you can use a candy thermometer, or if you don't have a thermometer: heat the oil over medium high heat for about 7-8 minutes. Add one small piece of potato/latke mix to the oil. If the oil is hot enough, it should immediately start to bubble all over and start to turn golden. This is how you know the oil is hot enough. If your latkes start to burn quickly, you need to turn down the heat.
Use your hands to shape a latke. I use my hands as the measurement tool - you should be able to easily press the latke together between your two cupped hands. Squeeze each latke together between your hands, and add to the oil one at a time. I was able to fit about 3 latkes at a time to fry. Do not overcrowd the pan.
Cook each batch for about 5-6 minutes total, until dark golden brown, flipping halfway through. If the color is not right on the first flip, flip again until it reaches golden brown on both sides. Remove the latke with a slotted spatula and place on a paper towel lined plate to drain and cool slightly.
Repeat until all of the latke mix is used. Serve immediately.
Alternatively: I have baked these latkes before for some of my more health conscious family members. In this case, line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Coat with a thin layer of oil. Shape the latkes and place on the sheet pan. They will need to cook at about 450 F for at least 1 hour, flipping about halfway through. This is also a good way to use leftovers if you don't fry all of the latkes on the first night. Just save the grated potato mixture in the refrigerator and bake them the next day.
Cashew sour cream
I can promise you won't miss the real thing with this recipe. I have always loved sour cream with my latkes and this does not disappoint me whatsoever.
3/4 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 8 hours
1/3 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp lemon juice (juice of about half a lemon)
Chives to garnish
Drain the soaked cashews. Add all ingredients to a high power blender or food processor and blend/process until very smooth. Refrigerate overnight for slightly thicker texture. Serve with chives.