You don’t have to celebrate Hanukkah to appreciate the goodness that is a good latke (otherwise known as a potato pancake). Whatever you call them, their crisp exterior and savory flavor are irresistible just the same. And while we’re talking latkes, let’s get one thing straight: Sour cream and applesauce are the traditional accompaniments. You might think you could serve them with mango chutney or hot salsa instead, but you’d be wrong. At least appease us and try them with the applesauce and sour cream first—it really does work.
What to buy: Look for matzoh meal in the kosher section of the supermarket, or substitute very fine dried breadcrumbs or all-purpose flour.
Line a large baking sheet with two layers of paper towels; set aside.
Using the coarse holes on a hand-held box grater or the medium-coarse shredding disk of a food processor, shred the potatoes and onion together. Transfer potato-onion mixture to a large colander set over a bowl.
Using both your hands, squeeze the potato mixture vigorously, as if you’re wringing out a pair of wet socks. Squeeze as much liquid as possible out of the potatoes, letting the moisture drip through the holes of the colander. Once you have finished squeezing, let mixture stand for a minute or two.
Lift colander out of the bowl. Pour off the watery brown liquid in the bowl, but save the layer of pale beige paste at the bottom. (This chalky-looking stuff is potato starch, and you need it to help your latkes stick together.) Scrape up the paste, dump in the potato mixture, and mix together with a large spoon.
Mix in egg yolks, matzoh meal, 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt, and a good amount of freshly ground pepper with your hands until it is evenly incorporated.
Pour egg whites into a clean, dry bowl. Using a balloon whisk or a hand-held electric mixer, beat egg whites until they hold stiff, shiny peaks. Using a rubber spatula or large spoon, gently fold the egg whites into the potato mixture.
Pour oil into a large, heavy skillet (preferably cast iron) to a depth of 1/2 inch. (You can also try it outside.) Over medium-high heat, heat oil until a shred of potato mixture instantly sizzles when dropped in. Fry a quarter-sized “test latke” first to check for seasoning, and add more salt or pepper as needed. Then, without crowding, spoon potato mixture into the oil, flattening each generous spoonful into a flat disk.
Let fry until deep golden brown, about 5 minutes, then flip over and continue frying until both sides are well browned, about 8 to 10 minutes for each batch. (You may need to add additional oil to fry subsequent batches.) Using a spatula, transfer latkes to the paper-towel-lined baking sheet. Blot any excess oil with additional towels. Serve immediately with sour cream and applesauce.