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L.A. Chef Micah Wexler’s Latke Secrets Revealed!

Image by Jonathan Hyla

We pried potato pancake preferences from a few of our favorite chefs around the country — and compiled them into a tell-all to help you make the best latkes of your life.

Image by Anya Ulinich

Chef
Micah Wexler

Restaurant Wexler’s Deli, Los Angeles.

Secret ingredient?
Shred the potatoes and the onions, then blanche them in boiling water for about a minute — just that little bit of pre-cook adds a nice creaminess to the latke. I also do multiple textures of potato in my latke, chop some of it very fine and some of it as a coarser grate, then mix them all together so you get some crispiness and some creaminess.

Type of oil used for frying?
Any neutral vegetable oil, canola or grapeseed, works well for latkes.

What’s the one thing home cooks should not do?
First, don’t flatten the latkes too much because they get too thin. You need to have some volume to them. Second, you don’t want the oil too hot. A medium-high heat is best. When people make latkes at home, some people get the oil so hot that the latkes cook for 2 minutes and they’re done, but then you eat them and they’re soggy. So, you really want to take the time to let the latkes crisp up to a deep golden brown in a medium-heat oil, and give it time to cook the potatoes. A light golden brown will be nice for a minute, but then two bites into it, it’s going to get kinda soggy and that crust isn’t going to be there anymore. So it’s important to take that time to develop that nice golden brown.

Preferred potato?
Yukon Gold. Yukons are readily available and nice and creamy.

Applesauce, sour cream or other?
I’m a sour cream guy, or even a crème fraîche guy. To really step it up, add some caviar. And if you’re feeling really adventurous, have it with some pastrami and mustard. I like the apple sauce, and I like the crème fraîche, but if I have to choose between the two, I will choose crème fraîche over apple sauce.

Main components of your recipe? Yukon Gold potatoes, egg, flour, onion, salt and pepper.

Best latkes you ever had?
I grew up with two different kinds of recipes: On my mom’s side of the family, there was a thicker shred, hash-brown like, with crispiness around the edges, and on my dad’s side was more of a blended-pancake style. So my favorite is somewhere in between. That’s the way I like to make it.

More Chefs’ Latke Secrets

Michael Kaminer is a contributing editor at the Forward. Contact him at kaminer@forward.com

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