Sunday, Dec. 2nd at sunset, Hanukkah, “The Festival of Lights,” begins.
While Hanukkah is a time for celebrating with family, friends and food, it also celebrates the miracle that happened during the rededication of the temple in ancient Jerusalem. Although there was only enough oil to fuel the lights of the Menorah for one day, it burned for eight days and nights.
Of all the traditional foods eaten on Hanukkah, the potato latke is a favorite. This is a potato pancake fried in oil. The oil represents the miracle of the oil in the temple.
Even if you don’t celebrate Hanukkah, you’ll love having this inexpensive recipe in your rotation. They’re crispy on the outside, light, soft and tender on the inside and full of flavor. Traditional toppings are applesauce and sour cream, but you can top them with many other delectable goodies. To stay relatively traditional, try smoked salmon with sour cream and chives or pastrami with brown mustard.
CLASSIC POTATO LATKES
What you’ll need:
5 large russet potatoes, peeled
1 medium onion
1/3 cup matzah meal, cracker meal or dried breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Using a good old-fashioned box grater, grate the potatoes and onion together. The onion juice slows the potatoes from oxidizing and turning brown. You could use a food processor with a grating blade, but I prefer the rustic look of hand grating. Transfer the mixture to a clean dishtowel and squeeze, then squeeze some more to wring out as much of the liquid as possible. This is the secret to crispy latkes. Place the mixture into a large bowl. Add the matza or bread crumbs, salt and pepper, and distribute through the potato mixture. Add the eggs and mix well. After this is mixed, transfer the mixture to a colander and place the colander back in the bowl. By doing this, there are no soggy latkes at the end.
Pour about ¼ inch of the oil in a medium heavy-bottomed pan and place over medium-high heat. Once the oil is at 350°F (a drop of mixture placed in the pan should sizzle), drop heaping tablespoons of the mixture into the hot oil, flattening with a spatula, cooking in batches. When the edges of the latkes are brown and crispy, flip. Cook until the second side is golden brown. Transfer the latkes to a paper towel-lined plate to drain and sprinkle with salt while still warm. Add oil as needed. Repeat, then eat!
There are lots of ways to make latkes and each family loves the ones their bubbe makes. I don’t want to step on any bubbe’s toes, but this recipe is classic. As much as we would like to use less oil, the symbolism of the oil is really the point of latkes for Hanukkah. Current trends have us adding all kinds of ingredients into the latke, like sweet potato, zucchini, cilantro, cheese, apple and such. Variety is fun but for Hanukkah, be a purist.
In this holiday season, we say thanks a lot, for lots of latkes.
Frugal and festive food by Patti Diamond from “Divas On A Dime – Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous!” – www.divasonadime.com Join the conversation on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom.