Mini Bougie Latkes
What’s your favorite potato dish? It sounds like a weird question but there are so many different incarnations of potatoes– whether they’re roasted, baked, fried there are just so many options. One of my favorite uses of potatoes is in making latkes. I love perfectly golden brown latkes with a crunchy exterior and the soft inside, similar to hash browns, served with a dollop of sour cream and/or applesauce on top. I make mine mini size to get the optimal crispy outside to fluffy inside ratio! (Of course you could always use this recipe to make normal size latkes as well). I opted to make these ones extra fancy with crème fraîche, caviar and chives but you can always top it with the traditional sour cream and applesauce if you prefer.
People are very particular about their latkes. It’s just one of those dishes that people pride themselves on and prepare it the way their family always did. The dish comes down to 4 components: the base (the potato), the binder (eggs and flour, matzo, or potato starch etc.), the seasoning (lots of salt) and then the frying oil. My recipe uses russet potatoes, matzo meal, egg, and onion, seasoned with salt and pepper, which are then fried to crispy perfection. It may seem like a lot of salt in this recipe but you have to be heavy handed with it – the starchy potatoes eat up all the salt so to keep them perfectly seasoned you have to add more than you think you need.
While I love frying things in chicken fat (schmaltz) it can be hard to find large amounts of it if you aren’t roasting like 10 chickens. Instead I opt to use a combination of both schmaltz and canola oil since it has a higher smoke point and can be easily bought in larger batches. In a pinch using only canola oil will do, I just love the added flavor you get from the chicken fat.
2½ pounds large Russet potatoes (about 3 large potatoes)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
¼ cup matzo meal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup schmaltz*
Canola oil, as needed, for frying
½ cup crème fraîche
2 tablespoon diced chives
1 ounce white sturgeon caviar
Peel the potatoes into cold water so they don’t oxidize. Fit a food processor with a grater attachment. Grate the potatoes and onions and place into a large mixing bowl.
Wrap the mixture in cheesecloth and squeeze all the excess liquid from the potatoes and onions then return them to the mixing bowl. Add the eggs, matzo meal, baking powder, salt and pepper and use a wooden spoon to combine. The mixture should be wet and thick.
Add the schmaltz and enough oil to fill a large cast iron skillet 1/8” of the way up and heat over medium heat until the oil is hot and shiny. Working in batches to not overcrowd the pan, scoop the latke batter in heaping spoonfuls and use your hands to shape into a disc.
Add to the pan and fry until golden brown on both sides and the edges are crispy, about 3 to 4 minutes total. Use a spatula to remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Repeat with the remaining batter.
Serve latkes hot topped with crème fraîche, chives and caviar.
Makes about 25 to 30 small latkes.