Hanukkah Recipes: Potato Latkes and Matzo Ball Soup

Crispy potato pancakes prepared and photographed by food stylist Marcia Raker.

Potato Latkes recipe submitted by Heidi Raker Goldstein

Who doesn’t love a crispy potato latke, that fragrant, mouth-wateringly delicious fritter that is for many the symbol of Hanukkah, the Jewish holiday commemorating how one day of oil miraculously lasted eight days for the Macabbean rededication of the Second Temple in 200 B.C.

Growing up, there were many schools of thought on potato pancakes, as my New England family referred to them. We grated potatoes by hand (until processors came along), added eggs and flour, salt and pepper and fried them only in Mazola pure corn oil. They were served with freshly made apple sauce or sour cream. Period. Perfection.

When I moved to New York City after college, potato pancakes took on a new meaning. They were not just a cultural icon, they were a celebration any time of year and mingled sweet potato, zucchini, carrot or simply potato and onion, the latter I learned helped keep the potatoes from oxidizing and turning brown, in addition to adding a jolt of depth and flavor.

Latkes take on a very personal quality and how we marry the ingredient we make them with often says much about our ancestry, approach to cooking and relationship with the holidays. Some folks swear by the Manischewitz potato mix, others don’t get past the scorched freezer variety. But for me, I stay true to my somewhat updated potato pancake recipe, an amalgamation of my mother Marcia Raker and her aunt Frances Fine of West Hartford, CT. Enjoy!


1 bag Idaho Potatoes, peeled and run through fine grater (on processor or by hand grating)
6 large fresh eggs, slightly beaten
1 medium Spanish onion, finely grated
1/2 cup AP flour
Mazola corn oil, enough to read a depth of 1″ in your fryer or dutch oven

Heat 1″ of corn oil in fryer or dutch oven to 350 degrees, about 10 minutes at medium high.

Set aside a jelly roll pan with a cookie rack set into it to work as your draining/drying surface.

Upon completion of grating potatoes, pour them into the center of a flour sack towel, saving the potato starch in the bottom of the bowl. Squeeze out all excess liquid from the potatoes through the bunched up towel. Add beaten eggs to the bowl with the starch along with grated onion. Season generously with kosher salt and black pepper. Return potatoes to bowl, mix well and taste for proper seasoning.

When oil is hot (test it by placing small amount of batter in to center; it should come to a rapid sizzle), prepare to begin frying. I like to use two table spoons to scoop, press together and shape each latke so sizes are uniform. Don’t overcrowd the pan and turn only once when edges are nicely browned. Remove from pan to cookie rack, sprinkle with more kosher salt and keep warm in 200 degree oven until ready to serve. Continue until all batter is used, being careful not to remove as much liquid from each latke before placing in the pan. Remove excess bits of stray potato that float in the oil between pan reloading.

Serve with sour cream, apple sauce or your favorite topping. These freeze nicely for a few months in a freezer bag.

Matzo Ball Soup submitted by Victoria Hurley-Schubert

Nothing says “feel better” like matzo ball soup, the Jewish penicillin, especially on a chilly winter day. At home with a cold, I was motivated to brew a batch for myself, since it requires minimal work and I had stock frozen in my freezer.

If you don’t have stock on hand, it’s very easy to make and once it’s on the stove, does the work itself.

For the stock, start with some poultry bones, I usually use chicken leg quarters or a small whole chicken. I also use the turkey carcass after a holiday dinner or the carcass of a store-bought rotisserie chicken.

Shove said parts into a pot; I usually use one with a strainer insert to make the end easier. Use three or four good size carrots, the more soup, the more carrots you need. Same goes for celery; but with celery I like to use the leafy tops, those little leaves pack a good flavor punch. I add one large onion, peeled and halved.

Add cold water to cover and leave at least a couple inches from the lip of the pot. Trust me on this, I always make a mess when the pot overflows when it comes to a boil. Using cold water allows the most flavor extraction from all ingredients.

When the pot begins to boil, add a tablespoon Kosher salt, its less salty tasting than table salt. You don’t add salt at the beginning because as it sits in the cold water it can damage some pots. Add a few grinds of pepper as well.

Let simmer on stove at least 90 minutes, the longer the better. Tip the lid for liquid reduction, the longer the liquid evaporates, the stronger the stock flavor will be.

When done simmering, remove the cooked vegetables and bones. If desired, strip meat off bones and put back in pot. If stock is a bit greasy for your liking, refrigerate and the fat will harden at the top and can be easily removed.

When you want soup, cut up some new carrots, celery and onions and toss in pot with stock. Turn on and when it warms, taste for seasoning. Add salt if necessary; if it seems too salty for your liking, no worries, the vegetables will help absorb it and the matzo balls will need some salt to balance their inherent blandness. Let simmer until ready to serve. Add parsley if desired.

To make matzo balls:

Fill large pot with a tight-fitting lid with water and put on stove to boil.

2 large eggs, slightly beaten
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
2 tablespoons water or stock (cold)

Blend together with fork to mix. If you have dry chicken base, add a 1/2 teaspoon.

Add 1/2 cup matzo meal and a couple pinches of baking powder to egg-oil-water mix and stir to combine and put in fridge to chill. Omit baking powder for Passover.

When water boils, add copious amounts of kosher salt to help flavor matzo balls. Take matzo mixture out of refrigerator, wet hands with cold water and scoop a teaspoon of the mix into the palm of your hand and roll like a meatball to get a uniform round shape. A small cookie scoop works well for this. The balls will sink when they fall into the boiling water and then bob to the surface.

When all matzo balls are in the water, rinse hands and put lid on pot and set timer for 45 minutes. Then, walk away, forget about the stove. NO PEEKING! Do not lift the lid of the pot until five minutes after the timer beeps.

Fish out matzo balls with a slotted spoon.

Pair matzo balls with soup and some fine egg noodles, if desired, and enjoy!

Happy Hanukkah!