"The only real stumbling block is the fear of failure. In cooking, you have got to have a what-the-hell attitude." ~ Julia Child

Deep Fried Socks (Or How I Managed Home-Made Latkes)

by Julie Tilsner on December 20, 2011

in Holiday Hell

latke recipe

Next year at Trader Joe's...

This post originally appeared on Bad Home Cooking Dec. 23, 2008
I had it all. The russet potatoes, the onion, the oil, the matzo. I almost forgot the apple sauce, but they held my place in line at Trader Joe’s so I could run back and retrieve.

This year, damnit, there would be latkes. I printed this recipe out from last year’s blog post and taped it, once again, to my counter.

Marisa wandered in as I stooped over my sink, violently grating a potato. She’s my neighbor. Her daughter and my son are in the same third-grade class. She often drops by to pick up her daughter, who we all call “Nutella,” and stays for some wine and chatter.

“What are you making?” she asked, picking up the matzo meal. “Those matzo ball things?”

“It’s Hanukkah,” I said. “And I’m grating potatoes. What else might I be making?”

“I dunno! I’m Mexican!”

“You never heard of latkes?”


“They’re potato pancakes. They’re traditional on Hanukkah.”

At this point we were both in tears, as I grated an onion and tried to press the water out of it. This latke making was a lot of work.

“So you’re making hash browns.”

“Kind of.” I wiped my eyes.

“What do you eat them with?”

“Sour cream and/or apple sauce.”

“Eww. I’ve never tried hash browns with apple sauce.”

I looked at her. “You want some wine?”

We toasted the holidays as my latke mix “melded,” which is what it told me to do on the back of the box.

Then it came time to fry. I remember my friend E.J. telling me I had to squeeze every last ounce of liquid out of my latkes before frying them or there’d be trouble. I scooped up a handful of grated potato and onion and squeezed into the sink. The liquid was brown. Gross.

Grosser still was the uncooked pancake itself. “That looks like an old sock,” observed Marisa.

“They tell me the nice-looking ones don’t taste as good as the ones that look like old socks,” I said, keeping a straight face, even though yes, she was totally right. The patty in my hand looked very much like an old baby sock discovered after a year in the garden.

I fried the first one up. A couple of minutes on each side. I let it rest on some paper towels and dished it up for Marisa to try. I included a generous portion of apple sauce.

“Me first?”


The ugly truth

“You’re gonna have to take the first bullet for that old sock remark.”

“Dang.” She took a bite. Chewed.

There was no bad reaction; no twitching, clutching of throat. I had seasoned the HELL out of the latke glop, so how bad could it be?

Marisa looked thoughtful. “Not bad,” she said. “It would be even better with a little bell pepper. Or some ham and cheese.”

We drank some more, toasting the holiday season and my not bad latkes.

The kids fell on theirs. The boy ate four, but commented, “I’d like them better if they were lighter, and crunchier.” I told him he’d need a different mom for that feat.

In the end, the latkes were pleasing to everyone. Next year, however, I buy the frozen ones at Trader Joes.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Nancy December 24, 2008 at 2:20 pm

…they can be simpler. May I refer you to my attempt (see At First Glass)? Cheers and happy frying.


kelli January 4, 2009 at 12:58 pm

Classic suggestion, the ham latke!


Sara December 21, 2011 at 9:05 am

That made me laugh too!


Haylo December 20, 2011 at 3:48 pm

My mother makes them every year. Burned to a crisp on the oustide while raw on the inside. Oh, how I wish I had wine to wash it down! 🙂


Bonnie McCarthy December 21, 2011 at 9:16 am

Cheers! And Happy Hannukah! See you at Trader Joes!


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