IF YOU’RE AN ARDENT ADMIRER of the potato pancake, well hello, friend. And if you’ve messed with various recipes and still never felt like you got them quite right, I’m with you on that, too. Enter Seattle’s newish Dacha Diner, serving very delicious “Eastern European & Jewish cuisine” inside that funny triangle-shaped building on Olive Way.
Dacha’s latkes are paragons of the form: lacy-golden-brown-crisped outside, almost melty-tender inside, just salty enough, served nice and hot. A side of them, for just $5, can make your day. But because Dacha Diner is a tiny friends-and-family operation, and because its owners also run Seattle’s also-great Independent Pizzeria, their hours are limited — check online before you go. I’d hate for you to be disappointed!
Or you could always make your own. If you sense a generosity of spirit inside Dacha Diner — nice portions, good prices, just a feeling of heart-in-right-place — you are correct. Meet Tom Siegel — he, Joe Heffernan and Tora B. Hennessey are the friends-and-family founders of Dacha, and he agreed to share his recipe for latkes with us all. He also shared his thoughts about different kinds of potato pancakes. Warning: You will become hungry.
“So many of my fondest memories were from holiday dinners at my Aunt Ellen’s in Rochester, New York. … Nobody threw a Jewish feast like Aunt Ellen. One delight that stood out were the latkes. They were golden and crispy on the outside, and soft, savory and oniony in the center. They were served with cold applesauce and sour cream, which was the perfect foil. Then, in the early ’90s, living as an expat in Prague, existing on $5 a day, bramborák were a staple. This 25-cent street treat consisted of finely ground potato, onion and marjoram, deep-fried and tossed into a paper bag. I consumed a mountain of these — they, too, hold a special place in my heart and reminded me of home. Then there’s the shredded hash brown cakes that I always order when I go to West Coast delicatessens. Those are more satisfying with catsup. However, latkes will always be my potato pancake of choice — mostly because of my memories tied to them, but also because I love the juxtaposition of all the textures and flavors of the trio of latkes, applesauce and sour cream.” — Tom Siegel
Dacha Diner Latkes
Makes about 8 latkes
½ small onion
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 egg (beaten)
2 large russet potatoes (peeled and soaked in cold, salty water)
¼ cup matzo meal
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
Salt to taste
Peanut oil (or another frying oil)
1. Grate onion, then pulse in a food processor until it reaches the consistency of a coarse pulp. Do not puree.
2. Mix oil and onion into beaten egg.
3. Grate potatoes, then pulse them in a food processor until they reach the consistency of a coarse pulp. Do not puree.
4. Add potatoes to egg mixture, and mix.
5. Add matzo meal, pepper and salt to potato and egg mixture, and stir well.
6. Heat 1/8 inch of peanut oil (or any frying oil) in a large skillet over medium heat. Please be careful — we love you.
7. Using a large tablespoon, lay batter in frying oil. Latkes should be about 4 inches in diameter and 1/3-inch thick. Fry 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Briefly set on butcher paper or hearty paper towels to drain excess oil.
8. Serve with sour cream and applesauce.