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Hanukkah Latkes, Hold the Eggs

 How do I make potato latkes without eggs? My son is allergic to egg and I want to be able to cook our traditional latkes for Hanukkah. I want to fry them, but I could bake them, if necessary. I just don't want them to be mushy. I like them crunchy around the edges.

 In the broad scheme of things, latkes (Yiddish for pancakes) are not all that traditional. The potato had to make its way from its native South America to Europe in the 1500s, before being embraced by Ashkenazi (Central European) Jews. Of course the sixteenth century is not exactly recent, but there were a good 15 or 16 centuries without potato latkes at Hanukkah.

They are traditional in your household, however, and happily the potato will cooperate with the needs of both your family and your religion. Potato cakes without egg are as common as those with egg. We make Rösti, a Swiss fried potato pancake, now and then, and don't even consider adding egg.

For egg-free latkes, simply shred potatoes in the food processor or manually. We put them in a colander over a pan to let excess water drain out of them (if you leave them for more than a few minutes, however, they'll start to turn an unsightly brown/black, so we suggest not shredding the potatoes until you are nearly ready to cook.)

Also shred a modest amount of onion (one recipe we looked at uses two medium onions for 2-1/2 pounds of potatoes). Some people will partially cook the onions before mixing them with the potatoes; others are happy with onions that are less cooked. Mix the onions with the potatoes. Heat a quarter-inch or so of oil in a skillet over medium heat or set an electric fry pan to 325°F (160°C), put a quarter cup or so of the potato mixture in the fry pan and smoosh it into a pancake shape with the back of a spoon. You're probably aiming for 2-1/2 to 3 inches in diameter. Obviously the number of latkes you can cook at one time will be determined by the size of your frying pan.

Fry the latkes on one side until browned nicely on the bottom, carefully turn them over, and cook until the second side is nicely browned. Remove them from the heat, drain them on paper towels, add salt and freshly ground black pepper as desired, and serve.

You want to keep a balance between the temperature of the oil and the thickness of the latkes, so that they cook through before getting too dark on either side. You may also have to add oil as you cook more and more latkes, and you will need to give that oil time to come to temperature.

Some recipes call for a little baking powder (for lightness), lemon juice (to prevent browning), matzo meal or flour (for filler), and/or a little zucchini (for color), but none are required. As far as we know, most latkes are served with applesauce and/or sour cream on the side, but we came across one recipe where the latke was served with a "rich meaty gravy on the side," plus applesauce, and sour cream was never included!

Eggs help bind the ingredients in many latkes, but they can just be left out if necessary.

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