(The Nosher via JTA) — Growing up, my mom always made the best latkes. And while I know everyone probably says this about their mom, I maintain her latkes really were the best.
She would stand over the sink shredding and shredding potatoes until night’s end. Then she would insist on squeezing as much water out of the vegetables as possible. And when she thought they were dry, she would squeeze some more. A labor of love, for sure.
Though I get inspired from my mother’s method, I have updated my own latke recipes and techniques with some modern twists. Instead of standing over the sink shredding potatoes till sunlight, my hefty powerhouse food processor does all the work for me. My mom was shocked when I told her I don’t grate them by hand anymore, and I still hear stories of her battle wounds to prove her latke love.
One of the most important tricks for successful latke frying is about prepping. Frying latkes is a messy job. You don’t want to walk away from hot oil, but instead be in control of it.
I always like to have a cookie sheet ready with a cooling rack and then two layers of paper towels. That way I can transfer the latkes directly from the pan to the cooling rack after they come out of the hot oil.
And no overcrowding the pan – there should be no more than three or four latkes in the pan at one time. This ensures the temperature remains even and cooks up perfectly crispy latkes.
For a fun modern twist, these Indian-spiced cauliflower latkes are a spinoff of one of my favorite Indian dishes, Aloo Gobi. Potatoes and cauliflower are braised with spicy flavors of jalapeno, turmeric and curry. The sauce is a bright cilantro and mint chutney, also easily made in the food processor, and pairs perfectly with the crispy spiced latke.
Indian Spiced Cauliflower Latkes with Cilantro Chutney
For the latkes:
2 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters (if using a food processor)
¼ large white onion
2 cups cauliflower florets, hard stems removed
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
¼ teaspoon coriander
½ teaspoon curry powder
3 tablespoons matzah meal
2 green onions, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
For the cilantro and mint chutney:
1 bunch cilantro, large stems removed (about 1½-2 cups, loosely packed)
1 small bunch fresh mint, stems removed (about 1 cup, loosely packed)
2 tablespoons yogurt (for non-dairy, you can use full fat coconut milk)
½ lemon, zested and juiced
1 teaspoon honey
½ jalapeno, roughly chopped (seeds removed if you prefer less heat)
½ inch ginger root, peeled and grated
1 garlic clove
Salt and pepper, to taste
canola or vegetable oil for frying
To make the latkes, first add the cauliflower florets in a food processor and pulse until they are fine and even pieces, then transfer to a large bowl. Add the small shred blade attachment to your food processor and shred the potatoes and onion, but do NOT add to the bowl yet.
Place the onions and potatoes in a clean dish towel and wrap around potatoes, only a handful at a time. Then use your mighty strength and squeeze out as much moisture as you can. Then squeeze a little more. Once they are dry, add them to the cauliflower bowl. Repeat until all potatoes and onions are dry.
Then add the rest of the spices, eggs, matzah meal and green onion. Mix everything together until well incorporated.
Heat a large skillet with about ½ inch oil to about 350 degrees F. I like to test the oil with a small piece of potato. If it sizzles, it’s ready.
Use 2 tablespoons to form latke and place in hot oil. Then use the back of the spoon to gently flatten it out.
Fry latkes for about 3-4 minutes until golden brown; turn over and finish frying for another 3 minutes.
Remove latkes with a slotted spatula onto a paper towel-lined baking sheet and season with a sprinkle of salt if you’d like.
To make the chutney: Add all the chutney ingredients to a food processor and pulse until incorporated. Scrape it down after every few pulses. Pulse until desired consistency and until there are no large leaves left.
Serve latkes with chutney and garnish with fresh cilantro leaves.
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