Sweet Potato and Leek Latkes

Happy Hanukkah, everyone!

Ok, ok, so I didn’t actually know that Hanukkah has already started until my friend Noah told me about it yesterday. Being non-Jewish, I feel like maybe it’s ok. But then again, I do have a lot of Jewish friends, so you would think I would pay attention to stuff like that. I guess I’m just a terrible friend.

To make up for my ignorance, I tried my hands at making latkes. I have to preface this by admitting that I wasn’t too hopeful since I’ve attempted latkes twice before and both times, they ended up as soggy messes that failed to hold together. But I refuse to let latkes defeat me! So in Battle of Latkes III: The Reckoning, I decided to cheat just a little and use sweet potatoes instead of regular potatoes.

Not only did a semi-sweet latke sounded lovely to me, but sweet potatoes are also much drier than regular potatoes, so I might be saved from the cursed sogginess. Since they are drier than regular potatoes, though, I actually had to throw an extra egg into the mix to get the latkes to bind. I also threw in a little bit of cornstarch as extra binding insurance in addition to the flour that’s usually in latke recipes. Finally, I up-ed the cooking time since sweet potatoes require slightly longer to cook through.

The result, as you can see above, was not too bad and definitely my best and proudest attempt to date. I might even go so far as to say I’ve defeated the latke this time around: Angi 1/Latkes 2. The latkes held up relatively well and tasted quite yummy, especially with a horseradish yogurt I whipped up last minute. Basically, we had some yogurt in the fridge and some horseradish leftover from a Bloody-Marys morning long ago. Also, I was too cheap to splurge on creme fraiche or even a tub of sour cream that I’m only going to use a little bit of (welcome to the life of a grad student!). I still think I have some playing around to do in order to get the latkes to be crispy without being too burnt, but perhaps that battle can be saved for next Hanukkah.

2 large sweet potatoes, coarsely grated
3 leeks (bottom white parts only), cleaned thoroughly and chopped finely
2 eggs
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp of corn starch
2-3 pinches of salt
a few turns of the pepper mill
vegetable or olive oil for frying
1/2 cup of whole-milk yogurt (or sour cream or creme fraiche)
1/2 tsp (or more, to taste) of horseradish (optional)
chopped parsley, to garnish

Preheat oven to 250F with a baking sheet in there to prewarm.

In a mixing bowl, combine sweet potatoes, leeks, eggs, flour, cornstarch, salt and pepper. Mix until well incorporated.

In a large skillet, heat enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. (I used a non-stick, but looking back, I think a cast-iron may have been a better choice, so that might be worth a try.)

Once oil is heated, use a large spoon to drop dollops of the latke mix into the pan. They should sizzle right away, if the oil is hot enough. Quickly and gently use the back of spoon to press down on each dollop and flatten them slightly.

Don’t touch the latkes for 7-8 minutes!!! Turn down the heat a bit if you think the bottoms are getting too burnt. You basically want the bottom side to get crispy and cooked through before attempting to flip them over. Otherwise, they’ll fall apart. (I know, because that’s what happened to my first batch since I’m the world’s most impatient person and always want to poke at stuff on the stove.)

While you’re idling away, why not make the horseradish yogurt? Just combine the yogurt with the horseradish and stir to combine. Add salt to taste. You can also add more horseradish if you want it more pungent.

Flip latkes over and cook for another 5 minutes or so.

When you finish a batch, drain them for a few minutes on paper towels, then transfer to the oven to keep warm. You’ll probably need to add oil to the pan before throwing on the next batch. Once you’re done with all of them, serve each latke topped with some yogurt and parsley.

(Makes enough for dinner for 2)