Larry’s Firecracker Latkes (with Maine Potatoes, naturally)

Friday, May 31st, 2013

This I first made this recipe from Saveur two years ago.  Take note: much like Little Lad’s Popcorn, it’s addictive stuff.  I finally learned to cut the recipe in half.  Not having these jalapeno popper potato pancakes around in the first place was the only way I could stop eating them.  These are best fresh out of the frying pan.

The original recipe is here.  What follows is my variation, which involves fewer steps:

1⁄2 cup grated cheese, your choice (cheddar, jack, or something that melts similarly)

3⁄4 cup queso fresco.  Smiling Hill Farm’s Queso Verano is perfect.  If you don’t have queso verano, substitute 1/2 cup cream cheese or ricotta and 1/4 cup cheddar.

4 medium Maine potatoes
2-3 eggs, beaten
2-3 jalapeno peppers, stemmed and seeded
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil

2 tablespoons matzo meal or bread crumbs (optional)

1. Put cheese and peppers in a food processor or blender and process until the pepper is finely chopped and mixed in the cheese.  Set cheese aside in fridge until ready to use.

2. Grate potatoes on the large holes of a box grater. Working with small handfuls at a time, squeeze out moisture from potatoes into a vessel and transfer potatoes to a large bowl. Add 2 eggs and  matzo meal.  Stir well.

You may want to dig out the starch at the bottom of the vessel used to contain the potato squeezing liquid and add that to your potato mixture bowl.  It will help the pancakes stick together better.  I sometimes find that I need to add another egg as well.

I use my food processor to grate the potatoes, but these pancakes stick together better if you use the box grater.   I don’t know why.  It must have something to do with starch?  There are threads on chowhound devoted to this topic, if you’re interested 🙂

3. Pour oil into a large deep skillet to a depth of 1 inch and heat over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches, take 1-2 tablespoons of cheese mixture and roll it into a ball.  The ball should be about an inch in diameter.

4. Take 1⁄4 cup of the potato mixture and smash it flat into the palm of your hand into a disk that’s about 1/2 inch thick and 3 inches diameter.

5. Put the cheese ball into the disk and gently flatten it a bit.

6. Cover the exposed side of the cheese ball with the potato mixture.  The cheese should be completely covered.  If you need to add some more potato, go for it.

7.  Gently flatten the potato ball a bit.

8.  Add your potato ball to the hot oil.  When the bottom turns just a bit darker than golden brown, flip.  If you want to skip the flipping, use more oil.  I deep fry in olive oil and generally use just enough to cover one side of whatever I am cooking.

When done, transfer the latkes to a paper towel covered plate to drain.  Season with salt to taste.


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