“These little potato cakes called latkes are quick, simple, and versatile. I serve them as a side dish to roasted birds or as a brunch dish topped with eggs and smoked salmon. There are plenty of other uses, but for me the best is the way I had them as a kid. I remember watching my grandmother patiently and lovingly grate potatoes then onions by hand into a bowl. She would crack a few eggs, season with salt and pepper and stir gently so the mixture would just barely assemble. Using a spoon, she would scoop a little batter out and in a well-rehearsed manner, then she would drop them carefully one by one into a hot skillet generously slicked with duck fat. As the cakes sizzled, the intoxicating aromas filled our tiny kitchen. I stood by her side like an untrained puppy panting for his treat. She would give me the very first one, hot, straight out of the pan, unadorned. She would blow on it lovingly so it would not burn my lips and as I took a bite, I didn’t care if it did. The pleasure of eating this crispy, fluffy and rich potato cloud would make it all worthwhile. As more of these cakes got done, my grandmother quickly whisked them to the table where a bowl of rich and cooling sour cream awaited. On a very special occasion there would also be a beautiful crystal bowl filled with pearly bright red salmon caviar. I can’t think of a better way to honor our family heirloom by sharing it with you. I invite you to try making these potato cakes and serving them as I grew up eating them with sour cream and salmon roe. I know you too will find them irresistible.
I prefer to cook these latkes in duck or goose fat, as my grandmother did. If I don’t have it available, I substitute with olive oil.”
Recipe Yield: 12 cakes
4 tbsp duck fat, plus more if needed
2 large Dutch yellow or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, ¼-inch dice
1 large shallot, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 large egg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ c good quality organic sour cream
½ c wild Alaska salmon roe
Several large dill sprigs
Preheat oven to 250 ºF. In the bowl of a food processor place potatoes, shallot, garlic and egg. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Pulse 10- to 12 times until mixture is just pureed and no potato chunks are remaining. Scrape down insides of food processor bowl every few pulses. (Do not over blend; it will make cakes gluey and tough.) Heat 12-inch non-stick or cast-iron skillet over high heat for 5 minutes. Lower heat to medium then melt 3 tbsp duck fat. Using large soup spoon, carefully drop 6 spoonfuls of potato batter, one at a time, into pan, being careful not to crowd cakes. Cook cakes until edges are all slightly browned, 3- to 4 minutes. Carefully flip cakes over; cook an additional 3- to 4 minutes. When done, transfer to sheet pan; keep warm in oven. Add more duck fat to pan as needed, repeating process with remainder of batter.
Serve hot with sour cream, Alaska salmon roe and dill.
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