No, that’s not the secret.
In years past, we had a small crowd for our yearly Hanukah party, and that meant making latkes.
I have a trusted recipe for latkes. It’s not hard, and I’ve shared it here. This recipe makes very good latkes for a small family. The grating and squeezing of the potatoes is part of the dues we pay for eating them, and the tears shed grating the onions must stand for any penitential feeling we have about taking in so much oil then, and for eight days to come.
But for a party, (that is, more than twenty latkes gobblers) it’s different. Not only will the cook be grating until there’s no strength left to eat, but the onion-tears will make more than a puddle. You are liable to drawn before anyone arrives.
My kids attended a Jewish preschool, where I volunteered to be part of the latke-making crew. The teacher in charge of the kitchen was a legendary cook. I mean it literally; as the rumor persisted she’d been a real chef in some fancy shmanzy three-star restaurant in France in her younger days. She most certainly had a French accent, so it was not impossible.
She taught us a thing or two about child rearing. She was wise that way. But her lasting contribution for me was her latkes-for-a-crowd secret. I’m paying it forward on to you, which is my Hanukah gift this year.
So here goes: For half the amount, use your favorite traditional “from scratch” latkes recipe. The second half you will make with potato pancake mix. Yup, the kind you buy in small boxes in the “ethnic” section of the supermarket. Then use one half cup less water for each boxed mix. Make the mix first, and add to it the hand grated traditional ingredients as you grate them.
A. You will not need to squeeze the potato water as much.
B. You will have more time to play with the dreidel, because you will not need to grate as much
C. The Monoglycerides and Sulfite to Maintain color in the mix will keep the whole batter nice and yellow before the potatoes oxidize into an unappetizing gray, and you won’t have to hurry as much
D. This combination absorbs just enough oil to make it the miracle of the oil, but not quite as much
Finally, this half-and-half recipe actually makes the best large-batch latkes.