When it comes to traditional Jewish food, people love to grouse about how it's really only worth eating when it's made traditionally. These are the same people who wax poetic about how it's impossible to find a good bagel outside of New York. "It's the water," they'll tell you. "You can't replicate New York City water."
Well I live in San Francisco and my water comes from the Hetch Hetchy dam, and it somehow produces Marla Bakery's bagels, which are the best I've ever had, in or outside of New York City. And speaking of defying tradition, I also happen to prefer sweet potato latkes to traditional potato ones.
I have no problem with traditional potato latkes, lest you accuse me of betraying my Eastern European roots. But if you follow my blog, you know that just about any time I can replace a regular potato with a sweet potato I'll do it without shame. And while I love the idea of a crispy potato, I love the idea of the crispy sweet, earthy depth of a sweet potato even more.
And of course, because I can't just shred sweet potatoes, fry them in oil, and call it a day, I have to add a little flavor, and, yes, a little heat. I'm bring the heat to these latkes with straight up sriracha (though you could use your favorite hot sauce), and my new favorite ingredient, sweet-hot chilies, also known as peppadews. I buy them where I buy almost everything else, Trader Joe's, but they can usually be found in jars or at the olive bar of well-stocked grocery stores.
I hand-shred (feel free to use a food processor, but I think hand-grated potatoes get crispier) my sweet potatoes (and one Russet potato, to give it some starch, which helps make for crispy latkes), right onto a clean dish towel. I salt them to release their moisture (essential), and then gather up the corners of the dish towel and squeeze the daylights out of it.
Then I add sriracha for more spice (I eyeball it, but start with one tablespoon and go from there) green onions for freshness, pepper, the sweet-hot chilies, eggs, and flour. And yes, you may use gluten-free flour. Either GF all-purpose, or coconut flour, which adds a nice background flavor which complements the sweet potato.
It's important to mix well between each step. I use my hands or a wooden spoon. Then, once the mixture is well incorporated, I form nice little patties.
It's important to fry the latkes in a decent amount of oil. Like, more oil than you think you need. It's not deep-frying, exactly, but it's not...not deep-frying. Remember, we're celebrating the miracle of the oil, here.
It's tempting to crank up the heat and really sear them, but medium-heat oil is best. It cooks the latkes evenly and thoroughly. It's important to let time do the work.
Draining the latkes well helps make for an even crispier exterior.
Keeping them warm in the oven encourages even more crispness, so these can even be made ahead. Just make sure you don't stack them--stacking leads to sogginess, and that is the antithesis of what we're looking for here.
Then just plate 'em up, put out bowls of applesauce and sour cream (see recipe for details), and crank up your favorite Hanukkah tunes (this year it's this song by Rachel Bloom, on repeat). Happy Hanukkah!
- 2 medium orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, shredded (leave the skin on) $1.50
- 1 medium Russet potato, shredded (leave the skin on) $0.50
- 1 teaspoon salt Pantry
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper Pantry
- 1 tablespoon sriracha (or more to taste) Pantry
- 5 green onions, chopped (green and white parts) $1 for a bunch
- about 8 sweet-hot chilies (also known as peppadews), chopped $2.50 for a jar
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten $1.50 for 6
- 2/3 cup all-purpose flour Pantry
- vegetable, peanut, grapeseed, or coconut oil, for frying Pantry
Recipe Serves 6-8
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F.
- Spread the shredded potato and sweet potato on a clean dish towel.
- Sprinkle with the salt, and let sit for 10 minutes (this helps release the moisture in the potatoes, which yields a crisper latke).
- Gather up the corners of the dish towel, hold over a sink, and twist to squeeze as much liquid as possible out of the potatoes.
- Transfer the potatoes to a mixing bowl.
- Add the pepper, sriracha, green onions, and chilies and mix well with your hands or a wooden spoon.
- Stir in the eggs and mix well
- Stir in the flour and mix well.
- Cover a couple of large baking sheets with paper towels, newspaper, or parchment paper. Set near the stove.
- Pour 1/2 inch of oil into a large non-stick or cast iron frying pan (or 2, if you are cooking a large batch and want to speed things up). I know it seems like a lot, but you'll need it.
- Heat the oil over medium heat until it reaches 350 degrees (if you don't have a thermometer, let the oil heat up until you think it's hot enough, then make a little test latke. If it browns nicely, it's ready).
- Wet your hands with cool water, then form a little patty, using about 1/4 cup latke batter. Press it together in your palm to make sure it's cohesive.
- Carefully slide the patty into the bubbling oil.
- Working in small batches (you really don't want to overcrowd the pan), repeat with the remaining batter. Depending on the size of your pan, you'll likely cook 5-6 latkes at a time.
- Cook the latkes for 2-3 minutes per side, or until they are golden-brown and crispy. Don't be tempted to turn up the heat and rush the process--you'll get latkes that are burnt on the outside and raw inside. Add more oil as necesary.
- Once the latkes have finished cooking, transfer them with a spatula to the prepared baking sheets. Once the sheets have filled up, transfer them to the oven to keep them hot.
- Serve the latkes hot with applesauce (my go-to is my Orange-Cardamom one) and sour cream (I added a touch of lime juice to my sour cream and it was lovely).