08 December 2010

Latkes, Alias "Grated Potato Pancakes"

On Chanukah we Jews sing a song, a song about latkes. My favorite verses go like this:
(to the tune of O Chanukah)

The Syrians said how can it be that old Mattathias,
whose years are more than 83 would dare to defy us,
But they didn't know his secret, you see.
Mattathias dined on latkes and tea.

One latke, two latkes,
And so on into the night.
You may not guess
but it was the latkes
That gave him the courage to fight. (2x)

Now these little latkes, brown and delicious,
Must have hit the spot 'cause with appetites vicious
All our heroes downed them after their toil
Causing in our Temple a shortage of oil!

One latke, two latkes
And so on into the night.
You may not guess,
but it was the latkes
that gave us the Chankuah lights! (2x)

Oy, oy, oy! A good alternate history, in my opinion. So now I suppose you want my latke recipe. Well, most of my life my mom and I ate Mrs. Manischevitz box mix latkes. Those cook up sort of salty and a little mushy, but boy are they easy. Then not too long ago my friend Gillian had me and George over for her made-from-scratch latkes, and I almost fell out of my chair they were so amazing. Here was the sort of latke to which (Jewish) bards had penned their timeless odes! I returned home that night, pensive, and then issued an ultimatum to George: invent an equally delicious latke recipe. Then I said please.

One problem Gillian had with her latkes was that the potatoes turned her towels purple. I'm not sure how George fixed this issue, but he did. Furthermore, in his recipe there's NO PEELING which means—thanks to our handy food processor—he can turn 5 pounds of potatoes into crispy latkes in no time at all.

A lot of people like to mix other root vegetables into their latkes, should you have extra turnips on hand. I noticed that Ari of Ari Cooks is using celeriac in her recipe this year—probably tastes spectacular. Chef/Goddess Myra Kornfeld likes her latkes half grated and half finely chopped, and then she mixes them with carrots and scallions. So that's probably texture-y. Mollie Katzen mixes onion into hers; that's pretty traditional. Mark Bittman's grandma used matzo meal, also traditional. As you can no doubt tell, I'm no latke expert, but I like the clean simplicity of plain potato latkes—it reminds me of the best French fries: hot, fresh, crisp, and the subtle taste of potato shines through. Mark Bittman has a recipe for that, which I bet would be my favorite, but it requires you to peel the potatoes, and I'm just not gonna! I'm a lazy git.

The tradition is to cook the latkes in olive oil, but we realized that we should use canola oil instead because olive oil burns at a way lower temperature than you need for cooking latkes. That's why olive oil was used to light the Temple Menorah, after all!

You should serve these with sour cream and my homemade applesauce, still warm. Then you can play the dreidel game! Instructions at the end.


1 5-lb. bag russet potatoes, washed and funky spots dug out (don't peel)
all-purpose flour

  1. Grate the potatoes in a food processor.
  2. Immediately plunge them into a bowl of cold water.
  3. Drain them. Press out the moisture with a bunch of clean towels.
  4. Mix them in a large, large bowl with some eggs, flour, salt and pepper, until the consistency seems like it will stick together. (If you do this with your hands, it's fun and gross!)
  5. Heat up 2 large frypans with canola oil, sort of deep.
  6. Fry those little latkes until they're brown, crisp, and delicious.
  7. Drain them on paper towels.
  8. Serve them immediately hot! hot! hot! with sides of sour cream and homemade applesauce.
Lacking side dishes, this serves 6 extremely ravenous people.

Sarah's Version of the Dreidel Game

You need a lot of edible pieces, preferably Hershey's kisses or m&ms. My friend Jhoanna and I used to freeze 3 humongous chocolate chip cookies and then break them into tiny little pieces. You can play with 2 or a whole bunch of people. Make sure everybody gets about 20 pieces, and then put about 40 in the pot. Whenever the pot is completely emptied, everyone has to put in 2 pieces. You can change these numbers around to make the game faster or slower. If someone spins a Hey and there are an odd number of pieces in the pot, they have to eat the extra piece. People are also allowed to eat as many of their own pieces as they wish. A major sugar high is expected, and welcomed.

No matter how the dreidel stops spinning, whether someone blows on it or it falls off the table or the cat pounces on it, it doesn't matter. That's the call they get. If you can't see it, it's a Nun. Sooner or later, someone is going to realize that this game isn't fair. At this point, I always shrug in a very Eastern European Jewish world-weary way and tell them, "So? Life isn't fair." People respect that.

Gimel = you get the whole pot
Hey = you get half the pot
Nun = nothing happens
Shin or Pey = you put four into the pot

You are out of the game once you owe pieces that you can't pay up. You win once you own every single piece on the table. Happy playing!

No comments:

Goofy Gourmet, The - Blogged Cultu UR Technologie Directory Site Meter