Potato Latkes



We’ve all played the old party game where someone asks “what one food would you pick if you were stranded on a desert island?” 

ONE dish. Do you pick your favorite? Something nourishing that will keep you healthy until the next cruise ship comes along? Something plain or fancy? Hot or cold?

I made the rounds recently. 

Some of the answers I got were predictable. It didn’t surprise me, for example, that a friend’s husband, one of those shoot-first-aim-later type, had an immediate answer. Of course. (He wanted Memphis Dry Rubbed Ribs). And another man I know, who always second-guesses his decisions, decided on a Meatball Hero, but only after agonizing about it.

Then there was the long-married couple who do everything together and have even begun to look alike. Neither could pick just one dish. She asked for Sushi plus Bagels with Cream Cheese and Smoked Salmon. He assumed that the “ONE” food meant an entire meal (Minestrone Soup, grilled steak, baked potato, salad and apple pie).

Lots of people asked questions before they could answer.

Questions about time: “How long am I on this island?” from Robbie, a personal trainer who knows all about nutrition so he chose meatball pizza (“it has protein, carbs, fat and vegetables”).

About health (“does cholesterol count?”) from a friend who said he could be happy with old fashioned chopped liver (made with schmaltz) on rye. 

About practical matters such as “do I have to cook?” from a friend who wanted Chinese Chicken with Cashews and Hoisin Sauce if it could be served to her as if by magic but picked peanut butter and jelly if she had to prepare the meals herself.

My very practical friend Jack said: “I’ll catch fish and have sushi.” His wife, my friend Val, who is always on one kind of diet or another, said she’d have grilled fish and salad because she’d probably still be on a diet.

For some reason that I can’t explain, everyone assumes that the island will be some tropical paradise. Someone wanted ice cream but said it would melt in the hot sun, so she picked French bread with cheese because that’s even better when it’s warm and runny.

I guess I could tell them the desert is Deception Bay in Antarctica, but why stress them out?

Most people also think they will be all alone, like Tom Hanks in Castaway, except for the few who think they’ll be someplace like Gilligan’s Island and wonder if they can share everyone else’s food.

One thing I find fascinating is that no one ever asks me what my choice would be.

Well, now that you ask ….. I’ve spent so many years posing this question to others that I am at a loss to answer it myself. Hmm. Is it hot there? (a whole grain salad). Or cold? (Bean Soup). Is there an oven? (baked potato). Can I switch on my birthday? (fried chicken). Do I get dessert with it? (Fried chicken and apple pie). Is it a whole meal? (Add corn fritters to that fried chicken and apple pie). Is Ed there and if so, can we share? (Chinese egg rolls and fried rice).

I can’t decide right now. But I’m leaning towards potato latkes because it combines two of my most favorite food things: fried (anything) plus potato. 

If I can have more than one item I’d like some smoked salmon to drape over those latkes and also a dollop of real, full-fat dairy sour cream because I’m not worried about the cholesterol on this island. If money’s no object I’d like a blob of caviar on top too. Maybe a scattering of chopped chives. Sprinkle of lemon juice.


Mmmmm. Nice for brunch, don’t you think? Hanukkah. Whenever. Why wait to be stranded on a desert island!?

Potato Latkes

  • 4 large peeled baking (Idaho, russet) potatoes
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 tablespoons matzo meal, breadcrumbs or potato starch
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • vegetable oil for frying

Grate the potatoes and onion into a bowl or, if using a food processor, shred the potatoes and onion together, then replace the shredding disk with the S-blade and process the vegetables to a fine consistency. Either squeeze the vegetables in a kitchen towel over a bowl or place the mixture in a rigid strainer set over a bowl and press out as much liquid as possible. Place the vegetables in a large bowl. Add the matzoh meal or breadcrumbs or use the solid potato starch that remains at the bottom of the bowl containing the squeezed liquid. Stir in the eggs, salt, pepper and baking powder. Heat about 1/4” vegetable oil in a cast iron or other heavy heat retaining skillet over medium-high heat. Drop some of the potato mixture into the pan, using equal amounts to make each pancake. Fry for 2-3 minutes per side or until the pancakes are golden brown and crispy. Drain on paper towels.

Makes about 12

Reheat: preheated 450 degree oven on a baking sheet (single layer)



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