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Recipe: Forget standing over a skillet to make individual latkes. Try these, size XL, the best yet. |

Recipe: Forget standing over a skillet to make individual latkes. Try these, size XL, the best yet.

I have tried potato latkes every imaginable way. For Hanukkah, which begins on Dec. 2 and lasts for eight days, the important ingredient is oil. Only a little oil lasted for eight days in Jerusalem’s ancient Temple, the story goes. American Jews fry latkes in oil and the tradition — which involves someone grating raw potatoes and frying the batter, often two skillets at a time — is ridiculously labor intensive. And raw potatoes turn a nasty brown color in the batter. Did I mention that the cook smells like frying oil?

So I set about to find a way to make latkes more manageable. I cooked the potatoes first and mashed them (this is what many delis do), I made half-mashed and half-raw-grated latkes, I made sweet potatoes latkes (wonderful, but not classic). I’ve grated the potatoes on a box grater like my grandmother’s, on a fancy modern grater, on a brass grater I bought in a Chinese restaurant supply store years ago, and in a food processor. The potatoes browned the minute they hit the air no matter what I did.

Then last year I made what I call cheaters’ latkes. They’re like individual rosti (ROOSH-tee), a Swiss potato cake fried in a large round. Rosti uses cooked, grated potatoes without the grated onion or egg in a classic latke recipe. You still have to stand over the skillet and make the latkes individually, but the potatoes don’t turn brown in the batter.

I thought I had found the solution, but I still don’t want to babysit the skillet. I’m back to the rosti potatoes, now mixed with a little grated onion, a necessary ingredient. Instead of small fritters, the batter is fried in a large round in a nonstick pan. Each round serves three. I’m through with individual latkes.

You have to steam large baking potatoes, chill them overnight so they’re really cold, grate them, mix them with a little flour and some grated onion, and fry. These are the best latkes yet. They take minutes, everyone shares the rounds, and no one is tethered to the stove.

I think I’m through experimenting. But ask me next year.

Latkes, size XL

Makes two thick 8-inch rounds, or enough to serve 6

1. Have on hand an 8-inch nonstick skillet and a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

2. Cut the potatoes in half horizontally. In a large saucepan fitted with a steamer insert, add enough water to come up to the level of the steamer. Add the potatoes, cover, and bring to a boil. Let the potatoes steam for 30 minutes, or until they are tender. Watch the level of the water after 15 minutes to make sure it has not boiled away. Add more boiling water to the pan, if necessary.

3. Transfer the potatoes to a bowl; cool. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

4. Use a paring knife to scrape off the potato skins. Grate the potatoes onto the parchment paper. Sprinkle with flour, salt, pepper, and onion. With your hands, toss gently.

5. In the skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. When it is hot, spoon half the potato mixture into the skillet. With a heatproof rubber spatula, press the top of the cake to flatten it slightly and scrape down the sides of the skillet so the edges are smooth. Cook for 3 minutes, or until the underside is golden when lifted at the edge.

6. Set a large plate upside down on the skillet. Holding the skillet handle with a potholder, turn both so the skillet is upside down on top. Lift it off. Return the skillet to the burner set on medium heat and add enough additional oil to the pan to make a very thin layer. When it is hot, slide the cake off the plate into the oil. Cook 3 minutes more.

7. Slide the cake onto a plate and cut into wedges. Serve with sour cream or applesauce or plain, sprinkled with a little salt. Fry the remaining potatoes in the same way.

Sheryl Julian can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @sheryljulian.

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