Potato and celery-root latkes

I woke up this morning feeling incredibly lazy. Happily, I don’t need to cook today, as I have plenty of food in the fridge and freezer from more motivated days. Including potato and celery-root latkes from a couple of weeks ago, which I made as part of a menu that included the cranberry beans with garlic, sage, and olive oil that I posted about yesterday. The latkes freeze beautifully. And, as I found this week, they transform a leftover dinner (ahem, cabbage rolls, cabbage rolls, and more cabbage rolls) into something special. So even though my latkes don’t contain beans, I decided to share the recipe for today’s post. Because you need something to go with all those beans!

My latkes were originally inspired by this recipe from Gourmet magazine. But this particularly batch was part of dinner I made for a friend who, in addition to a list of other foods (corn, dairy, peanuts, sugar, and soy), is not eating eggs or gluten, both of which are part of my go-to recipe. What to do? Why, search the internet, of course. To my great relief, I found an answer in minutes: according to Murry Shohat, who provides a wonderful history as well as his grandmother’s latke recipe here, “[e]ggs were a luxury in the peasant shtetls and rarely were they available in sufficient numbers to find their way into latkes.” Whew! Not only was I relieved, I was totally enlightened. So interesting.

Of course, I still had to figure out the gluten issue. But I remembered that in the past I’ve used potato starch directly from the grated potatoes, as in this recipe from Martha Stewart.  Potato starch is a binder. Maybe that would work? It was worth a try. And, because I’m writing this after the fact, I can report that it worked out perfectly. Here’s the recipe.

1 celery root, trimmed
3-4 russet potatoes
1 vidalia (or other sweet) onion
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
canola or grapeseed oil

1. Peel the potatoes and grate, using either a box grater or the grating attachment of a food processor. Transfer to a mesh strainer set over a bowl and squeeze to extract liquid.

2. Grate the celery root and onion. Combine with drained potatoes in a large bowl.

3. Pour off the liquid that drained from the potatoes. Scrape the potato starch, which is the milky white paste at the bottom, into the potato, celery root, and onion mixture. Mix it all together, gently. Then add salt and pepper to taste. I generally add quite a bit of coarsely-ground pepper. And probably too much salt. (Next time I will start with 1-1/4 teaspoon of Kosher salt, tasting the first batch and adding more as needed. Martha Stewart’s recipe calls for 1 tablespoon.)

4. Heat 1/4″ oil at in a large cast iron or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, until hot but not smoking. Drop the mixture into the skillet by rounded tablespoons or a 1/4-cup measure. Fry on each side anywhere from 2-5 minutes, until brown and crispy, but not too brown. Transfer to a paper-towel lined baking sheet to drain.

If you’re serving immediately, the latkes can be kept in the oven at 200 degrees. But I prefer to make ahead and freeze. That way I can clear the air–and the kitchen!–before guests arrive. When you’re ready to serve, just remove from the freezer and reheat at 300 for 10 minutes or so.

2 comments on “Potato and celery-root latkes

  1. Karen says:

    Do the latkes hold together without the egg? Seems like they would fall apart while cooking.

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