Mini Parsnip-Potato Latkes
Call them what you will. Potato pancakes. Latkes. I love them. And I’ve loved them ever since my Grandma first taught my then-14-year-old sister how to make them. Good thing too. Everyone else was working and by the following year, my Grandma would begin her journey with dementia. I was a 4-year-old at the time and I still remember the sound of the potatoes being quickly grated, the pungent aroma of the onion, the sizzle in the pan.
No matter how busy my sister gets (and believe me, we are talking about a perennially busy woman) she always finds time to whip up few batches of latkes over Chanukah. These days, she uses her food processor to grate the potatoes rather than the box grater she used to use. In either case, you have to work quickly so the potatoes don’t turn that pinky-brown color. That’s why latke-making is tailor-made for Annie. I don’t know anyone who works as quickly as she does.
I’m a bit different. I like to admire, taste, and take my time. I also like to tinker around with techniques and ingredients. Well, latke-making was on the agenda for me this season. Novio had a big birthday and the clan was all coming by to celebrate.
Yes, I had my family’s traditional grated (that’s small holes on the box grater) in store.
But I also wanted to mix things up a bit. I’d heard of throwing parsnips into the mix. Parsnips are one of the underdogs in the vegetable kingdom. Looks like a carrot, but it’s white, thrown into chicken soups a lot, but beyond that, a lot of people don’t really know what to do with them. If you get parsnips, you know they’re delicious roasted and mashed, and just may be terrific in latkes.
I used the large holes of the box grater for these parsnip-potato latkes. I didn’t want to use the food processor shredding disc, because I was making little babies, and didn’t want them to fall apart.
My family never uses baking powder and this is also where I strayed from longstanding tradition. These mini-latkes needed a little height, and baking powder would do the job nicely.
Using a teaspoon rather than a tablespoon, delivers the right size. I was after a 2-inch-wide latke.
These were good enough to pass around on a platter with a tiny bowl of sour cream and another of homemade applesauce*.
My latke-making experience this year helped me develop a few latke-making tips that I happily will share with you following the recipe.
MINI PARSNIP-POTATO LATKES
Ingredients:2 large potatoes 2 medium parsnips 1 small onion (or 1/2 large), grated 1/4 c. flour 1 t. baking powder 3 eggs, lightly beaten salt and pepper canola or safflower oil for frying
Peel vegetables and grate them on the large holes of a box grater. Or, use the shredding blade of a food processor. In either case, squeeze the water out of the vegetables. Hands do a really good job for wringing the water out.
Transfer squeezed-out potatoes. parsnip and onion to a fresh bowl. Add baking powder, salt, pepper and lightly beaten eggs.
Add flour (or matzoh meal, if using) one tablespoon at a time, until mixture is just held together.
If eating the little ones that day, have the oven pre-heated to 250°. Line one or two baking sheets with foil and leave latkes to keep warm in the oven, once they are done, until needed. If you are making them ahead, disregard the previous two sentences and proceed to heating a large skillet (next line).
Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Once skillet is hot, add one to two tablespoons of oil and heat until oil is shimmering.
With a teaspoon, spoon batter into the hot oil and flatten each spoonful with the back of the spoon to make small latkes.
Cook for about 2 minutes a side, turning only once, until golden brown. Drain well on paper towels.
If preparing latkes in advance, place drained latkes on wax paper/lined baking sheets. Place in freezer for 20-30 minutes until hardened. Carefully place latkes in a large ziploc bag. When ready to use, take latkes out of bag and line them up in a single layer on a foil-covered baking sheet and bake in a very hot oven (425 or 450°) for 10 minutes.
Makes about 4-5 dozen mini-latkes.
*Bonus: Do you want to know how ridiculously easy homemade applesauce is? Peel and cut 4 sweet apples, by cutting 4 sections around the core, then dicing them into small chunks. Place in medium saucepan and add 2 tablespoons of water, with a bit of sugar(2-3 teaspoons). Depending on the sweetness of the apple, you may or may not need more sugar. You may not even need any sugar. Taste the apple and you’ll know. Trust. Cook apples in the saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes or until apples or tender. When the apples cool a bit, mash with potato masher to desired consistency. I like it a bit chunky. If using with latkes, keep the flavor pure. If making applesauce as a dessert, stick a cinnamon stick into the applesauce while it cooks.
LATKE-MAKING TIPS or A Latke De-Briefing:
- The general ratio for latke-making is one egg to one large potato. If using other veggies, consider the size of the veggies. For example, two medium parsnips to one egg.
- For thinner, crisper latkes, use a 3 egg:4 potato ratio.
- There are those, among them my grandma and my sister, who separate the eggs, beat the egg whites until stiff and fold them into the potato mixture. This produces a raised potato latke.
- The best way to keep your latkes warm is to place on a foil-lined baking sheet in a 200 or 250° oven until serving.
- Some people like their latkes from potatoes grated on a box grater, some shredded on a box grater. Some like them grated in a food processor, while others go for the shredding disc of a food processor. I generally like grated potatoes, but I have no problem with shredded potatoes, especially sweet potatoes.
- A little baking powder added to the potato batter will help keep the potatoes white and will help give the latkes a little rise.
- Flour or matzoh meal is used to bind the batter, matzoh meal being the heavier choice, but, hey, it works for Passover.
- Always pre-heat the pan and get your oil very hot. This will yield a crisp latke.
- Another crispy tip: turn your latkes only once. Refrain from being flippant, or flip-happy (flappy). You will have soggy latkes on your hands and not know why. But now you do.
- Freezing latkes: this was the first year I did it and had excellent results. Fry latkes until just barely done, drain well on paper towels, place them in single layers on a foil-wrapped baking sheet(s) and freeze for a half-hour. Place in plastic zip-loc bags and store in freezer. To serve the latkes, take them directly from freezer to foil-lined baking sheets and bake in a very hot oven (425-450°) for 5-10 minutes, or until crisp.