Latke Week: Saint Dinette

I‘ve lived in Minnesota for 15 years, and I hadn’t found a latke that I like more than making it at home. That search has come to an end, not at a Jewish deli, but from an urban café, cooked by a Jew who loves to cook deli-style.

Adam Eaton, executive chef at the Lowertown St. Paul gem Saint Dinette, serves up a potato latke that makes others obsolete.

So what makes a good latke to Eaton?

“The ratio of filler needs to be even with the potato,” he said. “Egg and matzah meal need to be 1-to-1. If it’s too much filler, it gets super cake-y.”

Eaton mixes his raw potato shreds with a little bit of vitamin C powder to keep the tubers from getting oxidized. And they should always be fried.

“They don’t get crispy enough,” if you bake them, he said.

For me, here’s what works:

  1. They are thick. Just because potato pancake has the word “pancake” in it, doesn’t mean it has to be as flat as one. At more than an inch thick, it holds up well.
  2. So my favorite latke to this point is the Zingerman’s Deli latke in Ann Arbor, which is very similar to Eaton’s – if a tad bit bigger. At Zingerman’s they used to use two latkes in lieu of bread in a sandwich with either corned beef or pastrami. If Eaton wanted to add something to the menu where the latke was a bun, if would work. That’s how well it holds up. Because it’s crispy on the outside and soft-but-cooked on the inside it has all sorts of textures going on in the best possible way.
  3. The toppings. Sour cream and applesauce are so yesterday. Eaton dishes his up with crème Fraiche and apple butter. I may or may not have eaten a forkful of apple butter, just to make sure I got out all the little crispy bits of the latke. You can’t prove anything. But those toppings are the surprising twist that elevated the latkes to another level. “We want the elements of fine dining but it needs to be approachable and accessible,” Eaton said.

Here’s what doesn’t work:

  1. There aren’t enough in the order. There were two. I could have sat there at the bar and eaten them all day.

Eaton said that they go through about five gallons of latkes per week, although they are the hash browns they serve at brunch.

It’s the best latke that I’ve had, but don’t take my word for it. It’s the best Eaton has had, too.

“It wouldn’t be on the menu if it wasn’t,” he said.

Want to try and make them at home? Here’s Eaton’s recipe for the Saint Dinette Latke:

1 pound potato, grated, soaked

2 eggs

¼ cup onion, grated

1 teaspoon white pepper, ground

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon salt

¼ cup matzo meal

1 teaspoon citric acid (to prevent oxidation of the potatoes).

  1. Grate potatoes and place in a colander under running water until water runs clear.
  2. Dry potatoes on kitchen towels to remove as much moisture as possible. Place in large mixing bowl, add remaining ingredients and combine thoroughly using your hands.
  3. Divide mixture in 2-ounce portions and flatten into patties.
  4. Heat oil in a dutch oven to 350-degrees. Fry two patties at a time until golden brown, flipping patties halfway through. (About 2 minutes per side.)
  5. Let cool on paper towels.
  6. Garnish with fresh chopped chives and your choice of sauces. Chef Adam prefers crème Fraiche and apple butter.