Top Chef alum Ilan Hall has the type of touch that can make familiar items taste extraordinary. That's what he's done with his grandmother's potato pancakes (no disrespect to hers), making an accompanying Granny Smith applesauce that's smoked using applewood chips. He purées the soft apples with brown sugar, lemon juice and more salt than you would expect. It's smoky, it's addictive and it's downright delicious.
Note: To build an indoor smoker, all you need is a pot with a lid, some foil, a steam basket and wood chips. Line the bottom of the pot with a piece of foil and spread the wood chips on top. Layer another piece of foil on top of the wood chips. Then, insert the steam basket over the wood chips and place the apples (or any item you plan to smoke, for that matter) on top of the steam basket and cover with the pot's lid. Smoke over medium heat. If you see any smoke escaping, encase the lid with foil.
To learn more, read "Sooner or Tater."
This article was originally published on 4/2/15 and updated with additional information on 3/29/2018.
Potato Pancakes with Smoked Applesauce
Recipe adapted from Ilan Hall, The Gorbals, Brooklyn, NY
Yield: 16 latkes
Prep Time: 30 minutes, plus chilling time
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes, plus chilling time
For the Smoked Applesauce:
½ cup applewood chips
4 Granny Smith apples, quartered, seeds removed
½ cup light brown sugar
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
2½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
For the Potato Pancakes:
2 russet potatoes
2 sweet onions, peeled and left whole
Canola oil, for frying
1. Make the smoked applesauce: Place a piece of foil on the bottom of a large pot. Place the wood chips on the foil and layer another piece of foil loosely on top. Place the steamer insert over the wood chips. Place the apples directly onto the steam basket, flesh side down. Cover and smoke over medium heat for 30 to 40 minutes or until the apples are very soft. Remove from the heat and set aside.
2. In a blender, purée the warm apples, brown sugar, salt and lemon juice on high speed until smooth. Remove and set aside. Makes 2 cups.
3. Make the potato pancakes: Using a food processor or a box grater, shred the potatoes and the onions, and season generously with salt. Transfer the potatoes and onions to a fine-mesh strainer or a kitchen towel and squeeze or wring out all of the liquid over a large bowl. Discard the liquid.
4. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a 2-inch ring mold, form 16 potato pancakes using large spoonfuls. Place the potato pancakes onto the baking sheet and chill in the freezer for 30 minutes.
5. In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, warm 3 tablespoons of canola oil. Working in batches, fry the potato pancakes until they turn light golden brown and hold their shape, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove from the heat and set aside.
6. Set a wire rack inside a paper towel-lined rimmed baking sheet and set aside.
7. Wipe the skillet clean and place it back onto the stove over medium heat. Pour in enough oil until it reaches a depth of half an inch.
8. Working in batches, fry the potato pancakes, flipping occasionally, until crisp and golden brown, 10 to 14 minutes. Transfer the potato pancakes to the wire rack and season with salt while still warm. Serve with the smoked applesauce.