Latkes: Beyond the Potato

Latkes: Beyond the Potato

Several years ago we wrote this article about latkes and have added updates every year. We hear from many of you each year and know you enjoy it but we would like to add some other recipes to spice up your Chanukah dinners. We’ll continue to add new items and hope you’ll share your favorite recipes with us, too.

What recipe are you trying this year? Tell us your Latke Adventures by sending an email to Beth.

Latkes: Beyond the Potato by Laurie Gore

When Beth Klareich and I were discussing posting a latke recipe on the web or including it in The Shofar, she suggested this classic:

Latkes with sour cream and apple sauce, just like Mama used to makeNana’s Latkes

2 pounds Idaho potatoes
2 pounds Yukon new potatoes
5 eggs, beaten
1 cup flour
Salt
Vegetable oil for frying
Sour Cream
Apple sauce

  1. Peel potatoes, and keep in cold water until you are ready to grate them.
  2. Grate the potatoes coarsely by hand (or with a Cuisinart using first the shredding blade then the blending blade). The mixture should be slightly lumpy and not too blended. Add the beaten eggs. Mix in up to one cup of flour. Add a little salt. The batter should be fairly liquid and not too thick.
  3. Heat about a half-inch of vegetable oil in a frying pan. When the oil is very hot, use a soup spoon as a measure to put small amounts of the batter in the oil. Fry the pancakes on one side, then the other, until they have turned brown on both sides and are crispy around the edges.
  4. Drain the pancakes on paper towels that have been placed on a platter atop a saucepan of simmering hot water or keep warm in the oven.

Yield: About 80 3-inch latkes.

This recipe was published in The New York Times with an article by Suzanne Slesin telling how she inherited not only the recipe from her mother but also the mantle of latke maker for the Chanukah season.

With these two articles in mind, I have been thinking about how certain recipes are more about a measure of history than the actual ingredients. For Chanukah, the significance of latkes comes not from the potato but the act of frying it in oil to recall the miracle that happened when the Maccabees reclaimed and rededicated the Temple. Around the world, the actual food that became the celebrated Chanukah dish varied widely. Sufganiot, or jelly doughnuts, are most common in Israel today and gaining popularity in the Diaspora. But fritto misto, or tempura-style vegetables and fruits, are favored in Rome while a deep-fried pastry, dipped in honey or sugar, is preferred in Greece and Iran. In Spain, they serve bimuelos, a fritter-like treat. Another variation is loukoumade, known in English as fried honey puffs.

But these sweet alternatives don’t really satisfy my desire for a savory dish to serve after lighting our chanukiah. The hunt was on: what recipe would I try on my husband Frank this year?

Some sources believe that the potato latke was a poor man’s substitute for the more elegant and costly cheese latke. Chabad’s website has a straight up Cheese Latke recipe (and variations) but I liked the cheese latkes I found on My Jewish Learning because it called for different cheeses. And they also offer two versions of sweet potato latkes.

Taters, taters, white, red, yellow and moreI decided to see what the Idaho Potato Commission said about the subject and they had not only Sweet Potato and Ricotta Latkes but Curried Potato Latkes.

Epicurious gussies up the simple potato latke with these recipes:

That last variation reminded me that some people forgo potatoes altogether. The Food Network offers a Fresh Salmon Latke and potatoes certainly take a back seat in Tea Smoked Salmon with Wasabi Latkes

One of my favorite places for recipes from “just plain folk” is Recipezaar.com and there I found

The Corn Latkes sounded suspiciously like corn fritters to my southern roots but differ by omitting the milk or cream typical of the fritter and fritters are usually deep-fried, not pan-fried. But I might be leaning toward other regional variations.

Despite my purist attitude in pursuit of a savory latke, I was not unmoved by the dessert potential of Apple Brandy Latkes on the Chabad site or Cinnamon-Apple Latkes from the Specific Carbohydrate Diet site. Honestly, though, I don’t really think too much about the nutritional value of seasonal foods.

So what will Frank eat this Chanukah? Eight nights, eight dinners… There might be an abundance of latkes in our house this year.

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