For those who didn't know, it's customary to eat something fried in oil on Hanukkah, to commemorate the miracle of the oil lighting the eternal flame that was only supposed to last for one day but somehow lasted for eight days. Usually that "something fried in oil" is potato pancakes, or latkes. (Or lapkes, if you're my cousin Susie.)
The problem is that these delicious fried treats thoroughly destroy your kitchen and your person, coating everything and everyone in splattered oil. Even worse, someone (Hi!) is trapped at the stove frying while everyone else is gathered 'round the table dunking their latkes in applesauce.
Until ... the lovely folks at King Arthur Flour came up with a solution! I should first mention that if you don't either subscribe to the KA blog or get their email newsletter, you are really missing out. Every recipe is a standout, and the descriptions and photos are excellent companions when you're trying something new. So, someone in the KA test kitchen had the brilliant idea to fry latkes in the oven—which means that your house and hair and clothing don't smell of oil for a week and you get to enjoy them piping hot with the rest of the family! Yay!
So it's really the same old recipe, but instead of heating up your skillet, you flood a couple of baking sheets with vegetable oil and pop them in the oven for a minute or two, until they're hot but not dangerous. Then you plop the latkes down and bake them, flip them, and then devour them. Honestly, these were every bit as good as any skillet-fried latke I've ever eaten, but so much less of a pain in the tuchas. The recipe is as follows (but also see the KA blog here, which adds even more details).
1 1/2 pounds baking potatoes, about 3 medium potatoes (I doubled this recipe and subbed in one big, beautiful dark-orange sweet potato for color—and beta carotene!)
1 medium onion
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
vegetable oil, for frying
Preheat the oven to 400°. Lightly grease two large cookie sheets with rims. (I don't know why you need to grease pans that you're going to flood with oil, but I do as I'm told.)
Grate or shred the potatoes fine, or medium-fine. (I wish I had a finer shredding disk on my Cuisinart. My coarse shredding disk made these a little coarser than I would've liked, but it was still better than doing it by hand.)
Shred or grate the onion, not too fine or it will turn to mush.
Wrap the grated potatoes and onion in a cotton dish towel (a flour sack towel works well), and twist the towel closed at the top. Bring the potatoes to the sink and squeeze them for all you're worth, wringing as much liquid as possible from them. You won't believe how much liquid will come out. (If you're using a sweet potato, there's no need to wring it out—there's very little liquid there.)
Combine the drained potatoes and onion, egg, salt, and flour in a bowl, stirring till everything is thoroughly mixed.
Pour a thin layer of vegetable oil into each baking pan. It should be deep enough that when you tilt the pan, you can see it move; 1/8" to 3/16" is about right.
Heat the pans in the oven briefly, to warm the oil. (KA says that you can skip this step if dealing with a pan of hot oil makes you nervous, but I would worry that the latkes would absorb too much oil.)
Drop the pancake batter onto the sheets by the 1/4-cupful. (I let mine get kind of straggly, and those stragglers burned, so take a minute to make them nice and compact.) Space them far enough apart that you can easily get a spatula between them to flip them over, when the time comes.
Bake the pancakes for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the bottoms are golden brown. (Mine were starting to burn at 20 minutes with convection, so do check them if you're unsure.) Remove the pans from the oven, turn the latkes over, and bake for an additional 10 minutes, until golden brown on the bottom.
Remove from the oven, and drain on paper towels. Serve immediately, with homemade magenta applesauce.