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Chef Ric Orlando's Perfect Latke Recipe

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Chef Ric Orlando's famous latkes served with chipotle applesauce.
  • Chef Ric Orlando's famous latkes served with chipotle applesauce.
Lord knows you don't have to be Jewish to appreciate a good latke. 'Tis the season of these little potato pancake wonder, and with just a few days of Hanukkah left, we thought we'd share a recipe. Who better to ask that local celebrity chef Ric Orlando, of New World Home Cooking, which for 25 years was a trend-setting Hudson Valley culinary destination.

Seemingly simple, latkes can actually go wrong a lot of ways—greasy, rubbery, rock hard, or flacid, it is hard to nail the perfect potato pancake that your Bubby would be proud of. "One of my secrets is grating the potatoes two ways," Orlando says. "The classic regular box-grated potatoes give you the creaminess and the French-style mandolined potatoes add a lacy, crisp component that makes them addictive."

If you needed more convincing, Orlando's latkes beat out celebrity chef Bobby Flay's on the Food Network. Orlando serves his latkes with a chiptole apple sauce (YUM). Read on, or find both recipes in their original format on his blog. And if you're not in the mood for cooking, you can always make the trek up to New World Bistro Bar in Albany, where they are a permanent staple on the brunch menu.

Ric Orlando's Latke Recipe

Yield: 12 nice-sized latkes

Ingredients

  • 8 medium-large russet potatoes, peeled
  • 1-2 medium onions, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons horseradish
  • 3 eggs
  • about ¾ cup cornstarch or potato starch as needed (for gluten-free latkes) or matzoh meal
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • neutral-flavored, heat-holding vegetable oil like grapeseed, sunflower or safflower oil, or get real and use schmaltz or duck fat for frying (not olive oil) as needed

Instructions

  • Take 6 of the potatoes and grate on the coarse side of a box grater or on the grater wheel with the larger holes of a food processor.
  • Grate the onions the same way.
  • Mix those potatoes and onions together in a bowl. Now, using a mandolin or by hand, julienne the last two potatoes into thin strips. Add to the previously grated onions-potato mix. Then add the horseradish and season with salt and pepper to taste, leaning a bit towards salty.
  • In a separate bowl, scramble the eggs and pour over the potato-onion mixture.
  • Now add the starch of choice. (We use potato starch or cornstarch to keep them gluten free.) Mix well with one hand.
  • Fill a large heavy skillet one half-inch deep with your cooking oil and bring up to a shimmer. You want your oil hot enough to brown, but not so hot that it cooks too fast. Test for heat by dropping a small drop of the mix in the oil. If it sizzles, it is ready.
  • Take a handful of mixture, about the size of a small tomato, in your hand. Toss it gently and carefully up and down like you're a pitcher getting ready to pitch. After five or six tosses it will begin to get rounder and rounder. When it is round and tight, place it carefully in the oil. Repeat with a few more, being careful not to crowd the pan.
  • Allow the latkes to cook on one side, still round, until you notice that they are getting bronze around the edges, about 2-3 minutes. Using a spatula flip each latke and NOW press them down until they are about ½ inch thick. Monitor your heat, making sure the oil is not too hot but hot enough to keep the pan frying going nicely.
  • When the latkes are fully golden on each side, remove to a cooling sheet. Repeat this process until your mix is used up. They can easily be reheated in a 350 F oven for 5 minutes.

Chipotle Apple Sauce

"I was taught very early in my career to make apple sauce simple and plain first, and to spice it later," Orlando says. "If you spice it too early, you may end up with overly spiced sauce. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove have no place in potato pancakes. However, a little smokey chipotle heat adds a modern twist."

Yield: About 2 cups

Ingredients

  • 6 big sweet apples or about 2 pounds
  • Water
  • Sugar or maple syrup if needed
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon or more chipotle chili powder

Instructions

  • Wash the apples and try to remove the stems, but do not cut or peel them. Put the apples in a non reactive pot. Cover with water by about one inch. Add a pinch of salt. Cover pot snugly.
  • Bring to a rolling boil and cook for at least 30 minutes or until the apples begin to collapse and get mushy. Using a slotted spoon, remove in batches to a food mill and process into a bowl. Repeat until you have run all of the pulp through the mill. Discard the cooking liquid.
  • If the sauce is too thin, return it to the pot and gently cook for a few minutes to cook out some of the water. Taste for sweetness and add sweetener if you choose.
  • Add the chipotle powder and stir it in well. Cool. Store refrigerated or use a canning process to preserve.


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