It's the holiday season, which means it's time to gain (even more) weight! But what's a Jew to do, if all you see are recipes for Christmas cookies and cakes and roasts and all sorts of other festively fattening foods? Don't let it leave you feeling like this:
For fear not! There are plenty of delicious holiday themed foods to delight your tongue and strain your waistband that have nothing to do with Christmas. Tonight, I humbly present you with my recipe for latkes. As one of the world's more dispassionate Jews, it took me years to find the energy to develop, yet alone hone, this recipe to its current glory. Growing up, my mom who was always drowning in work, would usually only have time to buy pre-made latkes, if she would buy anything at all. In college, I'd make latkes with my friends using frozen hashbrowns and we'd usually fill them with all sorts of random fun things like feta cheese (pro-tip: that one's a winner).
After my mom passed away, I felt a longing to re-connect with her culture and I figure there's no better place to start than with the food. I've said it before and I'll say it again and again and again, food is one of the greatest ways to connect with a culture. You learn so much about its history. In Jewish foods, you can find food traditions from all over the world thanks to the repeated diasporas of the people. In addition to food drawing from Eastern European, Middle Eastern and even African cultures, a lot of the food is symbolically related to the holiday its meant for.
Hanukkah, for example, as the Rugrats and the Hebrew Hammer do such a good job of teaching us, is a celebration of the Jews victory over the Greek Empire and their reclamation of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. When the Maccabees entered the temple, they found a small jar of oil to light their Menorah, barely enough to burn for one night, and the oil burned for eight nights. Hence, Hanukkah is an eight night holiday and we eat a heck of a lot of fried foods! All hail oil-based holidays!
Latkes are one of the many fantastic fried foods that we feast upon during this holiday, and now you, yes you! can learn how to make this amazing artery clogging discs of joy.
5 lbs Russet Gold Potatoes
2 large onions
1 3/4 cups Matzoh meal
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp herbs of your choice (I used an Herbes de Provence mix, you could also exclude herbs all together if you're being super traditional)
2 Tbsp corn starch
1. If you have a food processor, (which for your sake in dealing with this recipe, I hope that you do) use the shredder disc attachment. If you don't, a box grater will do just fine. I hear that a pinch of knuckle skin is the key ingredient to making a tasty latke but I'm lazy and that's gross so I recommend to just use the food processor. Grate all the potatoes, skins and all.
2. Place the grated potatoes in a big bowl and cover with cold water.
3. Skin the onions and grate them as well. You can use yellow onions if you want to be traditional, I tend to use whatever is on hand. This time I used purple, as you can see in the slideshow below. Plate the grated onion in cold water too.
4. Drain the gratings, try to get out as much water as possible. If you have a cheesecloth, you can put all the onion and potato inside and squeeze out as much liquid as you can. I don't have one, so I used a large colander and I pressed as much liquid out as I could, repeatedly stirring the potatoes to change up their distribution in the colander and maximize liquid removal. The less liquid there is, the better your latkes will be. Excess liquid leads to sogginess and sogginess totally sucks.
5. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and stir in all over the other ingredients. It's going to be tough to evenly mix all these ingredients with the potato shreds so really spend a lot of time thoroughly mixing it up so that you can really homogenize the latke batter.
6. Pour peanut oil into a large cast-iron pan to a depth of about 1/2 inch. Heat the oil until its reached a consistent and stable temperature of 360 - 370*F. This is optimal frying temperature. A candy/oil thermometer works very well for this but if you don't have one, you can carefully add small dollops of batter to the oil to see how its frying.
7. Scoop latke batter up with a 1/4 cup, loosely filling the cup, and then flatten the batter into a disc. Gently lower the disc into the oil. A frying spoon is useful here, but if you don't have one (neither do I, no judgments), a spatula works as well. Depending on your pan size, you can simultaneously fry 3-5 latkes at a time. Overcrowding can be dangerous as you may accidentally splash yourself with hot oil while trying to maneuver a crowded pan. Undercrowding can be annoying because it will extend the length of time you are working. Find the best balance for your pot!
8. Let the latkes fry for 3-4 minutes on each slide, only flipping once. The latkes should be a delicious golden brown, not a light tan (oil's too cold) or a burnt black (oil's too hot). Adjust your oil temperature accordingly
9. Serve with apple sauce, sour cream and plenty of good friends!
This recipe makes about 32 latkes. You can have a big party and eat them all in one go, or you can save the extras to reheat in the oven for each night of Hanukkah. These reheat super well at 350*F for about 10 minutes, flip them halfway through.