Latkes are deceptively simple: all you really need is onion, potato, and oil. But for the perfect latke–that light, crispy, golden-brown pillow of potatoey goodness–you’ll need to keep a few things in mind.
To achieve that subtle but essential savory flavor that the onion imparts, use a nice fresh onion and make sure to chop it finely and evenly (learn how here). Your latkes will hold together better, and you’ll avoid getting a bit old bite of onion when you chomp into the final product. I advise against grating your onion, as this often leads to a soggy pile of onion meal, rather than small, in-tact bits that lend themselves well to crisping.
The most important thing to remember when it comes to the potato is to wait until the last minute to grate it in order to avoid discoloration. Box graters work great, but a food processor fitted with a grater blade can save you a ton of time, especially if you’re making large quantities of latkes. In terms of potato type, russet potatoes are the traditional variety used, but you can easily substitute sweet potatoes, yukon golds, purple potatoes, or practically any variety.
Once you’ve combined the onion and potato, the next key step is to remove any excess liquid. This will help your latkes hold together when they hit the fryer. To get your onion-potato mixture nice and dry, wrap it in a clean kitchen cloth and wring tightly to squeeze out any extra liquid.
There are a few important points to remember here. The first is the oil type. You’ll want to use an oil with a high smoking point so you can crispify your latkes at a nice high temperature without setting off your fire alarm. You also probably want to use a neutral-tasting oil that won’t impart much flavor on the latke. Vegetable oil and safflower oil are both good bets, as is clarified butter.
Next is the amount of oil. Make sure to fill your fry pan with at least 1/2 inch of oil to avoid uneven cooking, but don’t overfill the pan either, as this will make it harder to maintain your latkes’ perfect pancake shape.
Last but certainly not least is temperature. If possible, use a deep fry or candy thermometer to monitor the temperature of the oil. The ideal temperature for latkes is between 360 and 375 degrees F. If you don’t have access to a thermometer, here are a few ways you can test the oil: 1 – Drop a small piece of bread into the oil. If it takes 60 seconds to brown, the oil temperature is perfect for frying. 2 – Place a kernel of unpopped popcorn into the oil. When the kernel pops, the oil is hot enough to fry.
Now that you have the technique down pat, here are a few awesome recipes to try out!
Sources: https://www.yahoo.com/food/5-rules-to-follow-so-you-dont-screw-up-your-141918745.html, http://toriavey.com/how-to/2013/11/how-to-make-crispy-latkes/