Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Brad's Hanukkah Latkes

We look forward to eating Brad's latkes every year. He usually only makes them once or twice during Hanukkah, so it's a special meal we all love. All five of us agree that of all the many ways to cook and eat potatoes, latkes top our list.

We've been using a recipe originally from the New York Times, but I can't trace down the recipe online. I copied it onto a recipe card that's now spattered with grease stains and has been photocopied a few times. Brad's modified it over the years with some of his steps for making and handling the mixture, but it's still basically the classic latke recipe enjoyed by us for over ten years and by Jews and gentiles for centuries.

Best Latkes

2 medium russet potatoes
1/2 onion
1/4 cup flour
1 t salt
1 egg
vegetable oil

1. Peel and grate the potatoes by hand. Brad uses a hand grater to get bigger pieces of potato than if he used a Cuisinart. This way the texture ends up more like hash browns.
2. Grate the onions into the same bowl as the potatoes, alternating onions and potatoes so they're mixed up together. The acid in the onions stops the potatoes from turning brown.
3. Squeeze the water out of the grated mixture of potatoes and onions and pour into a glass measuring cup.  Wait about five minutes for the potato starch to sink to the bottom of the measuring cup.  Pour off the liquid on top and then add the starch back into the grated mixture. Mix together well. The starch creates a firmer body to the pancakes.
4. Add in flour, salt, and egg, mixing everything together in the bowl.
5. Heat vegetable oil (we use canola oil) in a saute pan on the stove on medium high heat.  Brad uses two pans at once to cook the latkes faster.
6. Carefully place scoops of mixture into the pan and press into a round shape. Brad uses a 1/4 cup measuring cup to scoop the mixture and makes his latkes about 3" in diameter. Fry on each side until a nice golden brown color.  Be sure to turn on the stove top fan.
7. Place cooked latkes in a single layer on a plate with paper towels to soak up the extra oil. Keep stacking paper towels in between layers of cooked latkes.

Brad tripled the recipe this year using six potatoes, which resulted in thirty-three latkes. We had six left over to enjoy the next day.  Serve with applesauce of your choosing.

These latkes truly deserve their place of honor at this festive holiday meal. Crisp and crunchy on the outside, soft and creamy on the inside, the flavor and scent of onion hovering just under the potato's earthiness, dipped in applesauce that brings a light sweetness, tartness, and pureed feel to the tongue. We don't speak much while eating, mostly making moaning and grunting noises, swiftly reaching for the next latke and scooping out more applesauce to put on top. Amanda eats hers with her hands, the rest of us use forks. The crispy morsels of crumbs on the plate get eaten too, too yummy to leave. How a humble potato can turn into this luscious latke exemplifies the transformational power of cooking, and reveals the miracle of the oil which we celebrate this time of year.


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