Hound's top picks for potato pancakes

December 9, 2009 (CHICAGO) The eight-day celebration - called the Festival Of Lights - focuses on the significance of oil.

Potato latkes are the main attraction during the eight days of Hanukah. But so are sufganiyot - or, fried jelly donuts. That's because the miracle of the holiday centers on a few drops of oil that magically lasted eight days. There are several places frying up tasty starches in oil- but ABC7's Hungry Hound found two that manage to take the old-school approach.

The skillets will be busy this week, all over the North Shore--especially at popular delis like Max & Benny's in Northbrook. They grind potatoes and onions, adding eggs to help bind them together. The key - and the most symbolic part of the dish as it relates to the holiday - is the oil they're fried in. Since demand is so great this time of year, the kitchen actually cooks them twice: once to sear the outside, the second time to cook them through.

In Lincolnwood, the legendary Myron & Phil has always been known for its burnt onion-covered skirt steak and silky smooth chopped liver.. but the potato pancakes have become a tasty menu addition as well.

"It's grandma's recipe; even though it wasn't on the menu in the beginning, we always had it. It was always given to customers that were special. Just finally everybody started asking for them, and we have them all day long," said Mark Freedman, owner of Myron & Phil.

Giant Idaho russets are peeled and then sliced - along with white onions - and both are fed into the mouth of a giant grinder. They fall into a large strainer, which reduces the moisture and will keep them crisp. The strained mixture is then combined with eggs, salt, pepper and flour. Everything is incorporated well, and then it's transferred to the kitchen, where a dose of hot corn oil awaits. Once browned on both sides, the pancakes are ready to serve; old school accompaniments haven't changed a bit.

"Standard is sour cream and apple sauce but if someone just puts a little salt or ketchup on the side, it's a hash brown by another name," Freedman said.

Other good bets for potato pancakes include The Bagel, which has locations at Old Orchard Mall and in Lakeview, and Manny's in the South Loop.

Max & Benny's
461 Waukegan Rd., Northbrook

Myron & Phil
3900 W. Devon Ave., Lincolnwood

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