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Saturday, April 19, 2014

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Lots of latkes

Tags: Food
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Chanukah without those crispy fried potato pancakes known as latkes would be like… Purim without hamantaschen –unthinkable!

Fried foods commemorate the Chanukah miracle of the oil that lasted eight days, and the Hasmoneans' victory over the Greeks. And somehow, latkes became the star of the eight-day Chanukah show. Even the sound of the sizzling, bubbling oil – not to mention the smell – evokes memories of holidays gone by and is exciting for the kiddies.

Yes, you can buy ready-made frozen latkes, and some of them aren’t bad at all, but making them yourself is a time-honoured tradition worth the effort.

The following important decisions are up to the hostess. Do you want to serve your latkes topped with applesauce alongside the traditional brisket for a meaty meal? Or in line with the Chanukah tradition of serving dairy foods, do you prefer the just-as-traditional sour cream toppings? Maybe a spin of a dreidel can help you decide.  Not to worry: Chanukah lasts eight days, so you can have it both ways. And even try some potato alternatives, like zucchini latkes.

Here are some latke tips:

Be sure to use russet, also known as Idaho potatoes. They have lower moisture content than other potatoes and will fry up better.

Grating the onion along with the potatoes helps keep the potato mixture white.

Keep the oil hot. When oil is kept very hot (around 350 degrees F), foods tend to absorb less of the oil. Make sure to adjust the heat to ensure the oil stays hot but does not burn.

Latkes can be browned first in a small amount of oil, and then baked at a high temperature to finish off the cooking process. Baking at around 425 can produce a crispy pancake.

Latkes falling apart? Be sure to squeeze out the excess moisture from the shredded potato mixture very well. Add a bit of flour, if necessary.

POTATO LATKES

2 lb. russet potatoes, peeled

1 large onion

1/4 cup flour

3/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/3 cup vegetable oil

Shred or grate about half the potatoes using a hand grater or food processor fitted with the medium shredding disc.

As the potatoes are shredded, transfer them a bowl of ice water. Grate the onion and add it to the potatoes. Shred remaining potatoes. Set aside for 5 minutes and then drain the potatoes in a large colander, rinsing under cold water. Squeeze or press out excess water.

Place the potatoes in a large mixing bowl. Stir in flour, salt and pepper. Add the onion and egg; mix well.

In a large, heavy, non-stick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Using a tablespoon, spoon potato mixture into skillet, using about 2 tablespoons per pancake. (Skillet should hold about 4 pancakes at a time.) Flatten mixture slightly with a spatula. Cook the latkes until browned at the edges, about 4 minutes. Then flip and cook another 4 minutes or until golden brown, crisp and cooked through.

Remove latkes from the skillet. Drain on paper towels and then transfer them to a serving platter. Keep warm in a 250-degreee F oven until serving.

Cook remaining pancakes in batches, using 1 tablespoon oil in the skillet for each batch. Makes about 16 latkes.

 

ZUCCHINI LATKES

2 pounds zucchini

1 medium russet potato

1 tbsp. lemon juice

1 cup finely chopped scallions

1/2 cup grated yellow cheese

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 egg, slightly beaten

1 cup flour, sifted

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1 tsp. granulated garlic

1 tsp. sugar

oil as needed

Peel zucchini, if desired. Peel potato. Grate or grind both finely. Place in a colander and rinse with running water. Drain very well and squeeze out excess water with your hands.

Toss vegetable mixture with lemon juice, scallions, cheese and egg. Stir together flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder and sugar. Combine well with vegetable mixture.

Heat 1/4 inch of oil in a large skillet. Drop mixture by tablespoonfuls into oil. Fry on both sides until golden brown. Drain well on paper towels. Serve hot. Makes 10-12 latkes

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