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Potato Pancakes with Sour Cream and Applesauce

Potato pancakes are traditionally served to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, but they can be enjoyed year-round. For the best result, use starchy russet potatoes and be sure to shred them on the biggest holes of a box grater or with the medium or coarse shredding blade of a food processor to ensure large shreds that will cook up into crisp pancakes.

Ingredients:

For the applesauce: 

  • 4 or 5 large, sweet apples, such as Rome Beauty or Baldwin, 2 to 3 lb. total, peeled, quartered and cored 
  • 3/4 cup apple cider or water 
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon 
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar 
  • Fresh lemon juice, to taste 
  •   
  • 2 lb. russet potatoes 
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely grated 
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten 
  • 2 Tbs. sour cream 
  • 3/4 tsp. salt  
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper 
  • Canola or corn oil for frying 
  • 1 cup sour cream 

Directions:

To make the applesauce, in a large, heavy nonreactive saucepan over low heat, combine the apples and cider. Cook, stirring once or twice, until the apples are very tender, 20 to 30 minutes.

Drain the apples, reserving the liquid. Pass the apples through a food mill into a bowl. Alternatively, puree the apples in a food processor and transfer to a bowl. Stir in the cinnamon, sugar, lemon juice and about 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid, or as needed to achieve a good consistency. The applesauce can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Preheat an oven to 250°F.

Peel the potatoes and then shred them on the coarsest holes of a box grater. Enclose half of the grated potatoes in a clean dish towel and twist the towel to press out as much liquid as possible. Repeat with the remaining grated potatoes. Place the potatoes in a large bowl and add the onion, eggs, sour cream, salt and pepper. Using a wooden spoon, stir to blend.

Line an ovenproof platter with paper towels. In a heavy fry pan over medium heat, pour oil to a depth of 1/4 inch and heat to 365°F on a deep-frying thermometer.

For each pancake, ladle 1/4 cup of the potato mixture onto the hot surface. Cook the pancakes until brown and crisp, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, carefully turn the pancakes over and cook until brown and crisp on the other side, about 2 minutes. Using the slotted spoon, transfer the pancakes to the paper towel-lined platter and place in the oven to keep warm; do not cover the pancakes or they will get soggy. Repeat with the remaining potato mixture to make about 18 pancakes. The pancakes can be kept warm in the oven for 20 minutes.

Serve immediately, accompanied by the sour cream and applesauce. Serves 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Breakfast and Brunch, by Georgeanne Brennan, Elinor Klivans, Jordan Mackay and Charles Pierce (Oxmoor House, 2007).