Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Gourmet Potato Pancake Festival and Esther's favorite Latke Recipe from Cleo Coyle

Potato pancakes (latkes) are the favorite Chanukah food of my beloved Village Blend barista Esther, and I think she would have thoroughly enjoyed Brooklyn's 3rd Annual Latke Festival, where 15 chefs from around the world recently battled each other in a gourmet potato pancake cook-off.

Cleo Coyle, latke lover, 
is author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries
To see a short, fun video shot at this festival for New York's Channel 1, click here. Attendees got their fill of an astounding global mashup of flavors with toppings that included figs, goat cheese, duck confit, caviar, quail eggs, cured meats, pickled vegetables, chiles, and even chocolate sprinkles.

Inspired by Brooklyn's Lakte Festival, and the last night of Chanukah, I am delighted to share two latke recipes with you today. The first recipe is a reprise from last year, when one of our followers, Nancy Phillips, informed us that her teenage son Connor (an aspiring Iron chef) came up with an amazing latke recipe based on my Autumn Potatoes post. Wouldn't Connor's recipe have made a wonderful entry in the Brooklyn Festival?!  

To see the original teen Iron Chef post, click here.

To download a PDF of Connor's Garlic Carrot-Potato Latkes with Dill, click here.

As for the second recipe, well...let's just say it's Esther's best. :)

Esther's Roasted Garlic 
and Herb Latkes (Potato Pancakes!)

Below is my barista Esther's own unique spin on her mom’s traditional latke recipe. To the classic pancake, she adds the sweet and pungent flavor of roasted garlic along with the aromatic notes of rosemary and scallion. Serve these babies plain or with sour cream on the side. Delicious!

This recipe was featured in my Coffeehouse Mystery Holiday Grind...

If you're new to me or this blog, the Coffeehouse Mysteries are culinary mysteries set in a landmark Greenwich Village coffeehouse, and each of the ten titles includes the added bonus of recipes. Holiday Grind includes an extra-large recipe section with holiday treats, a glossary of coffeehouse terms, and instructions on making your own specialty coffee drinks at home. To learn more about my Coffeehouse series, click here.


To download this recipe in a PDF document that you can print, save, or share, click here.

Makes 2 servings or about nine 3- to 4-inch latkes; for family-size meals, you’ll want to double, triple, or quadruple this recipe and have two frying pans working at the same time.


10 garlic cloves, roasted and smashed (See “How to Roast Garlic”
     at the end of this recipe.)

¾ cup finely grated onions (2 to 3 medium size onions)

2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary or ½ teaspoon dried rosemary

2 teaspoons salt

1½ pounds Idaho baking potatoes (about 3 medium russet potatoes; yes,
     russets are the best type to use here)

1 large egg, beaten with a fork

Canola or light olive oil

Sour cream (optional topping)


Step 1—­Prepare aromatics: First, preheat the oven to 250°F. In a large bowl, combine the garlic with the onions, scallions, rosemary, and salt.

Step 2—­Grate potatoes: Do not peel your potatoes. Grate by hand 
with a simple box grater, or use a food processor. Add the grated potatoes to the bowl of aromatics and stir well.

Step 3—­Press out moisture: Place the potato mixture in a large sieve and press down to strain out moisture. Esther notes that getting rid of excess moisture will help you cre­ate latkes that are crisp and golden brown.  

Step 4—Add egg: Now return the mixture to the bowl and stir in the egg to finish your latke batter. Cook immediately.

Step 5—­Fry pancakes:
Place a heavy frying pan over me­dium heat and add oil, at least ½ inch deep. As Esther says, “Don’t freak over the amount of oil. It’s the temperature of the oil that makes for greasy latkes, not the amount of oil. Besides, the mitzvah is the oil!” When the oil is hot enough, begin cooking. (See note below on judging when the oil is hot enough.)

NOTE: If your oil is too hot, you’ll burn the latkes. If your oil is too cool, your latkes will be greasy. Test the oil with a drop of water. When it dances or bounces on top of the oil, it’s ready. If the oil begins to smoke, it’s too hot! Also keep in mind that if you crowd the pan with too many latkes, the oil temperature will drop dramatically, so don’t fry too many at once—­for big batches, have two pans going at the same time. 

To fry: Pack potato mixture into a ¼ cup measuring cup. Turn out onto a plate in a little mound. Do this four times. 

Place the four mounds in quick succession into the hot oil and immediately flatten each mound into a 3- to 4-inch pancake. (Flattening is important or you may have latkes that are cooked on the edges but raw in the mid­dle!) Cook each pancake for about 3 minutes on the first side, until the bottom is golden brown. 

Now flip and cook the other side 1–3 minutes until it’s golden brown, too. Do not flip more than once, but Esther suggests lightly press­ing the pancakes a few times with your spatula during the cooking process to make sure the centers cook. Drain in a single layer on paper towels. Keep finished latkes warm in the 250-degree F. oven while you’re cooking the rest of the batter... 

Serve warm with sour cream.

* * * * * * * * * * *

How to Roast Garlic 

Roasted garlic is delicious smashed on crusty French or Italian bread and (of course) mixed with mashed potatoes. Now that’s how to eat with joy! ~ Cleo

Using peeled cloves: Place your peeled cloves into a small ovenproof dish, drizzle with a bit of oil (olive is best), and add a splash of water. Cover with foil and bake at 350°F for 30–40 minutes or until the garlic is soft.

Using a whole head: 
Cut the top off the head (the pointed end), and wrap in aluminum foil and bake at 350°F for 30– 40 minutes or until the garlic is soft. Remove from the oven. Let the foil-wrapped garlic cool down enough to handle. Pop the warm, roasted garlic pieces out of their skins and you’re good to go. 

Happy Chanukah!
Merry Christmas!


Happy New Year!


~ Cleo Coyle, author of  

To get more of my recipes,
enter to win free coffee, or
learn about my books,
including my bestselling
Haunted Bookshop series,
visit my online coffeehouse:

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are national bestselling
culinary mysteries set in a landmark Greenwich Village 
coffeehouse, and each of the ten titles includes the 
added bonus of recipes. 


The Ghost and
Mrs. McClure

Book #1 of 

The Haunted Bookshop
, which Cleo writes
under the name Alice Kimberly
To learn more, click here.


  1. I loved Connor's recipe and I can't wait to try this one! Garlic is a favorite of mine. :) Thanks for this, Cleo, and Happy New Year!

  2. Beautiful latkes, Cleo. With all that garlic, they must be delicious!

    ~ Krista

  3. Happy Chanukkah/Hannukah/Hanukkah! I've seen as many spellings of that word as there are recipes for latkes. All spellings work fine, but all the recipes have just one deficit: You cannot possibly make enough of them!

    I do have one secret: I crush two Vitamin C tablets, mix with 2 T. water, and toss the shredded potatoes in this mixture before adding the other ingredients. This keeps the potatoes from browning throughout the shaping/frying process.

    In our house, we put out a bowl of homemade applesauce beside the sour cream. Both toppings are delicious. But I think I'll blow my family away tomorrow, when I make this year's last batch, by adding roasted garlic! I predict they're going to ask me why I never thought of this before? I'll give all the credit to you, Cleo. Thank you, my friend!

    May this beautiful season fill you with the warm certainty of the reality of miracles.


  4. Wow, Cleo, the pictures are amazingly helpful. Question - your latkes don't have any flour in them? None? Other than the egg, how do they hold together? I can't wait to try this recipe. My latkes (served on the combo Christmas Eve/Hannukah night) this year didn't turn out as well as in years past. Harumph!


  5. Reply to...

    @Elizabeth/Riley - Isn't Connor's recipe creative? He even put ginger in the sour cream to complement the carrot in the latke. Wonderful!

    Thanks so much for dropping in today, Elizabeth. I hope you're enjoying the holiday week with your family. Happy New Year!

    ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  6. Chef Connor is once again beaming with pride!!! He will be 18 (wahhhhhh!!!) on Valentine's Day and is looking forward to shadowing a dear family friend at the P.F. Chang's where is is lead chef. The best way to know if it is your passion is to try, right??

    His recipe is a staple in our family recipe book...this summer he even tried it with zucchini...let's just say we won't be having those again ;-)

    Esther is a wonderful teacher and I will print this recipe for his recipe book...thanks, Cleo for always keeping my Iron Chef on your radar!!

    Wishing everyone a blessed holiday filled with never ending light and love!!!


  7. Reply to...

    Krista - Thx so much for the nice words. Potato pancakes are delicious any time of year, not just Chanukah -- and I do love how creative cooks have become in their approaches. It's inspiring and I'm sure many of our followers would have fun throwing down with their own creative versions, too.

    Cheers and I hope you're enjoying this holiday week!

    ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  8. Reply to...

    @Laineshots - Happy Chanukkah/Hannukah/Hanukkah (and, yes, even Chanukah) to you, too, my dear. Brings to mind the old Groucho-ism. "You can call me anything. Just don't call me late for dinner" (especially when latkes are on the table).

    The Vitamin C tablet is an excellent tip for keeping the grated potatoes from turning a fugly shade of brown/gray, and I'm glad you brought it up. Lemon juice will work, as well, but crushing up the Vitamin C tablet is so much smarter and won't alter the flavor.

    Applesauce is another wonderful classic latke topping along with the sour cream -- a great addition to be sure.

    Thx so much for stopping by today, Laine. Blessings to you and your family. May your holiday be joyous and your New Year be bright!

    ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  9. Reply to...

    @Avery - That's right, no flour in this recipe and here's why - in this particular recipe, I squeeze out most of the moisture from the potatoes and onions before adding the egg. Then, as you see, I pack the mixture into measuring cups, place the packed mounds in the HOT oil (it must be hot enough) and flatten. I have never had a problem with the pancakes falling apart using this method.

    I've tried other methods -- certainly adding flour (or matzo meal) to the potatoes is a classic recipe and many people swear by it. Those recipes, however, usually do not stress squeezing liquid out of the potatoes.

    My point is this: I'm fairly sure the flour (or matzo meal) is there to soak up the liquid in the potatoes (and onions if you're using) and not so much for binding. The egg is there for that. I'd say that the oil really needs to be hot, the grated potatoes need to be dry (whether by squeezing or adding enough flour), and the latke mixture packed together as it drops in...those things should keep the pancakes from breaking apart. I hope that's helpful - and I hope, most of all, that you're enjoying your holiday week with your family!

    Happy New Year!
    ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  10. Reply to...

    @Nanc - Thank you so much (and Connor, your Valentine gift) for contributing such a lovely recipe to our MLK archives! I'm sure I'll be bringing it back again and again -- and, if we're lucky, Chef Connor will continue to share recipes with us, whether cooking becomes his occupation or just remains his lifelong passion. We'll always be thrilled to hear from him -- and you.

    Enjoy the holiday week, Nanc! May your New Year bring blessings to you, Connor, and your entire family.

    ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  11. SHARON BAKER (slpetera@yahoo.comJanuary 1, 2012 at 4:13 PM

    I love latkes and can't wait to try these. They sound delicious.