holidays & recipes: hanukkah a latke recipe
Hanukkah starts on the Hebrew calendar date of 25 Kislev, and lasts for eight days. This year Hanukkah begins on December 20th and lasts until December 28th. Our family celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas. We are a dual-faith family and there are many of us out there. Neither my husband nor I are particularly religious by text book standards. We don’t attend services and we do not belong to a church or synagogue. Our approach to religion and how we incorporate it in our lives is very specific to our family and, as religion should be, a personal choice.
Despite the pleading from our children in years gone by (they’ve given up now) we do not give gifts on Hanukkah and Christmas. We leave the gift giving for Christmas. Traditionally, gift giving was not a big part of Hanukkah and has become more popular in the United States. We celebrate Hanukkah, which in the world of Jewish holidays, is a minor holiday, in a low key, but festive manner. Hanukkah is not mentioned in Jewish scripture; the story is related in the book of Maccabees, which is not accepted as scripture.
Naturally, we light our menorahs (we have one for each family member) each night. It is always with great pleasure that we shut the lights, open our blinds and look at the menorahs glowing on the last night, when all candles are lit. Each night we’ll read a little from the book of Maccabees, relearning the story behind the holiday. And, on one night we will have a small party, inviting friends of both Christian and Jewish faith.
It has recently become popular to have parties in which you create a “bar” of one particular item that has many serving options. For example, the baked potato “bar” with many toppings to choose from is quite popular. We put our own spin on this and created a latke bar. We serve the latkes with their traditional toppings, sour cream and applesauce. But, we also create other options such as salsa, cheese sauce, sour cream and chives, dill mayonnaise, brown gravy and more. The toppings will vary from year to year according to new suggestions.
Potato Latkes (Potato Pancakes)
2 pounds russet (baking) potatoes, peeled and placed in a bowl of cold water
1 medium onion, grated
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt, plus additional to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
canola oil for frying
1. Line a large baking sheet with paper towels. If not serving the latkes immediately—out of the frying pan into the dining room—preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Have a large bowl of cold water ready.
2. Grate the potatoes, using a hand grater or food processor fitted with the medium shredding disc. As potatoes are grated, transfer them to the bowl of water. When all of the potatoes are grated, set aside for 5 minutes. Drain the shredded potatoes in a large colander, rinsing with cold water. Transfer to a clean bowl.
3. Add the onion, the eggs, flour, salt, and pepper. Thoroughly combine the mixture.
4. In a large pan, add oil to a depth of ¼ to ⅓ inch. Heat oil until a shred of potato dropped in the oil sizzles immediately.
5. Form pancakes, using 2 tablespoons from a regular silverware set. Scoop up a generous spoonful of the potato mixture with one spoon; flatten the mixture with the other spoon. Slide the latke into the oil. Repeat until the pan is full, but not crowded. Cook the latkes until browned. Turn the latkes over and cook until fully browned. Transfer the finished latkes to the lined baking sheet to drain excess oil. Repeat with the remaining mixture.
6. If not serving the latkes immediately, transfer the latkes onto a foil lined baking sheet; place sheet into the preheated oven to keep warm. DO NOT PUT IN THE OVEN ON PAPER TOWEL LINED SHEET.
7. If serving even later, set the latkes aside to cool to room temperature, and then freeze until ready to serve. Reheat the latkes in a 350-degree oven, and drain again on paper towels because reheating will release more oil.
8. Serve with sour cream or applesauce. Add salt to taste.