“Latkes is a word for pancakes, particularly those served on Chanukah, and is derived from the Greek for “olive oil,” or elaion.
Originally, latkes were made from cheese, again focusing on dairy foods fried in oil. But in Eastern Europe, cheese was a luxury item during the winter months. For centuries, the potato was considered poisonous, and potatoes did not become inexpensive, respectable or readily available until about 1840, after a series of crop failures in Russia and Poland.
Since then, potatoes have made the most popular form of a Chanukah latke. You may make this recipe ahead of time and refrigerate the batter for several hours before use. If you want, you can make these in batches and keep them warm in the oven before serving. This recipe comes from Sheilah Kaufman’s friend Sherron Goldstein, an author and cooking teacher.
Combine sweet potatoes, ginger and scallions, and set aside. Combine flour, salt and pepper in separate bowl. Drain liquid from potatoes, and if needed, place potatoes in dish towel and wring out excess moisture. Return to mixing bowl, and combine slowly with flour mixture. Fold eggs into potato mixture. Line baking sheet with 3 layers of paper towels.
Heat about 1 cup oil in large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Using 1/4 cup measure, scoop latke batter onto skillet to form cakes about 1/4- to 1/2-inch high and 3 inches round. Flatten with back of spatula, taking care not to crowd skillet.
Cook until golden brown on one side, about 4 minutes, and turn to cook on second side, about 3 minutes more. Using spatula, transfer latkes to baking sheet lined with layers of paper towel. Keep in 225F oven if serving later, or serve immediately with sour cream or drained yogurt, if desired.