Monday, December 18, 2006

A Hanukkah Must Eat

Who would have ever imagined we would be outside on the deck frying potato latkes in mid-December? It was probably a good thing since they ordinarily leave behind that stale fried smell that lingers in your house for days.

My plan for making latkes this season got scuttled when my husband went out of town and my good friend and I couldn't get together as planned. But then a neighbor took pity on me and invited me to share a typical Hanukkah dinner with her family last night.

In joining someone else, I realized it was not my choice as to what kind of potatoes we used or how we grated them. I just showed up with my electric skillet to help fry.

It was an unseasonably warm Sunday, so she had the brilliant idea of frying latkes on the deck. The house already had enough smell of slowly cooked brisket that it didn't need the additional fried potato smell.

By the time I arrived, she had made the batter, which looked like mushed potato glop. She admitted to having forgotten to squeeze out the grated potatoes before adding the eggs, so it was somewhat watery. That was OK. I just asked for a slotted spoon to allow the liquid to drain off. Then I started to fry the latkes in the hot oil, noticing just how much "aroma" was wafting into the open sky.

We called it quits after frying about 3 dozen or so. Everyone declared them the best ever as we ate them with sour cream and apple sauce. It is hard to go too far wrong with fried potatoes.

But they weren't my style of latkes. Instead of being big and heavy, I like latkes that are thin and crispy, sort of like fried birds' nests. I use some combination of the following ingredients:

Grated Yukon gold potatoes
Grated onions
A few scallions with the green part cut into small pieces
Matzo meal
A little baking powder

The idea is to take a small amount of the grated potatoes and onions and fully process it, but leave the rest in its grated form. The potato-onion mixture should be put in cheese cloth and squeezed to remove the liquid before adding the other ingredients. You then drop large spoonfuls of batter into (canola) oil at 375 degrees in an electric skillet. When they are brown and crispy, they should be drained on paper towels and then eaten while they are still hot.

I was grateful to share this annual treat with people I have known forever and with whom I have shared many meals and significant life events. But I did miss my kind of latkes...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Latkes are good. I had some from Whole Food once...mmmmmmmmm!

3:18 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

I've never had them..why can't you make your own anyway some night? Is there a special day only?

7:47 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

GoldenSilence -- It's a lot easier to buy them at Whole Foods and they're really not bad for store-bought!

MOI -- I could make latkes any old time, but I don't eat too much fried foods these days, so I ration myself to one night of Hanukkah most years. But I'm tempted now that David is back from Detroit...

8:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm going to get a chance to make latkes with friends on Christmas Eve--sounds fun, no?

I might try your recipe.

11:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We've been celebrating various traditions around the world in the 2nd grade classroom. One enterprising fellow brought his mom in for his "tradition presentation" assignment and they made latkes for the class. He served us each a plate with a latke and some homemade applesauce. My French Memere often made a version of these potato pancakes. I still have her little Mouli Mill for grating the potatoes. Scuse me, I have some frying to do :)

7:23 AM  
Blogger Kristin said...

I LOVE latkes. Your Sunday sounds lovely.

11:52 AM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

Oh, go for it! You wouldn't want to deprive David would you?!!

2:49 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

I love latke, especially with apple sauce.

I once forgot to squeeze the water out and just kept adding flour to absorb it ... erm ... they ended up incredibly heavy not in the least bit tasty.

I have never added baking poweder or soda to it.

6:23 PM  
Blogger steve said...

I just finished writing about Gaspar who made the best potato pancakes ever...all potato and scallion and just a little egg and Flour to bind...oh and the Nutmeg, can't forget the nutmeg. I think I'll be having some this weekend noew thwt you have reminded me of how good they are with Applesauce and Sour Cream.
What's the dish called that has cornflakes and egg?

12:23 PM  

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