As a kid in mid-December, I would sit in the kitchen, absorbing the wafting scent of onions sizzling in a pan of oil, mouth watering in anticipation of crispy, golden potato fried treats on my plate. It’s permissible on Hanukah, almost a blessing according to most Bubbies, to partake in the guilty pleasure of fried potato latkes (pancakes) for the eight long nights of this Jewish holiday. Do you have to celebrate Hanukah to eat latkes, you ask? Nuh-uh! You definitely don’t have to be Jewish to impress your friends and enjoy the potato latke, a simple, sumptuous, crispy treat that can be prepared all year round, in a variety of shapes and forms.
The straight potato (yields 24 latkes…or more. I lost count.):
* 2 lb. russet potatoes
* 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
* 2 large eggs
* 1 tsp. salt
* ½ cup flour (or matzo meal)
* Pure olive oil for frying (not extra virgin)
* Secret ingredient: a dash of cinnamon
Peel your potatoes and then grate them using a box grater (to get those nice, long, fine shreds of potato). Place the shreds in a bowl of cold water for approximately five minutes, then drain the water, place the shreds on a kitchen towel, and twist out the juices.
Combine potato shreds, eggs, onions, salt, and flour, and mix them well. Use your hands if you want a “sensual experience”, according to my mother.
Heat a ½ cup olive oil in a skillet, and use a spoon to drop your goopy mixture in small circles around the pan [hint: if your mixture is TOO goopy, add a bit more flour]. It’s probably safe to fry 5-6 latkes at a time. Cook them until they are brown on the bottom side, then flip them and cook the other side brown. Remove latke from pan and place on paper towel to drain.
Eat with caution. They are hot and irresistible.
My plans to share them with coworkers were dashed when I woke up this morning and discovered an empty plate on the kitchen counter. Sigh.
My friends will tell you that I am a potato’s biggest fan; I would eat a strict diet of potatoes all day every day if my hips could keep it a secret. But my love for potatoes doesn’t mean I won’t invite some of its earthy siblings to this year’s latke party. Eight nights offer eight opportunities to shake things up this holiday season. Try a variation on this basic potato latke recipe, by tossing in some grated carrot and squash to the mix, or adding a dash of sweet Ontario apples. A little bit of imagination goes a long way with these little wonders. Plop a bit of homemade applesauce and sour cream on top, and you’ll be counting down the days until Hanukah 2010. Make sure you share with all of your friends, and have a happy holiday season!