Friday, December 30, 2016

Two Shiksas Making Latkes

My 5-year-old daughter came home from school last week all excited because her class had made latkes as part of learning about Hanukkah, and she LOVED them. She's been begging to make some every day since then, and today was finally the right day for our latke project.

Although I have a number of friends who are wonderful Jewish cooks and who make amazing latkes, since my daughter had brought home her own recipe from school, I decided that we would follow her homemade recipe book.

As we usually do when cooking, we began by washing our hands and then collecting our ingredients. For latkes, this list is simple: six large potatoes (I added an extra small one since a few of mine weren't that big), an onion,two eggs, flour, salt, pepper, and vegetable oil for frying.

We started heating the oil before we began our ingredient prep, since it takes a while to get to the proper temperature. (Also because we underestimated how much time it takes to shred half a dozen potatoes and an onion! If you use a food processor to shred the potatoes, you should probably start the oil right away; otherwise, it can wait a while.)

We opted to grate the onions and potatoes by hand, but a lot of people use a food processor. If you use a hand grater, having an assistant is a big help. Grating half a dozen potatoes is hard work! I peeled the potatoes and my assistant did most of the grating.

(I know, I should have tied her hair back. Sorry for the hideous lapse in food prep protocol. I promise I checked carefully that no hair got in the latkes!)

I was surprised at how wet the shredded potatoes were. A friend had recommended putting the potatoes in cheesecloth and squeezing out the liquid, but I didn't have any cheesecloth on hand. However, I discovered that just squeezing it in one hand, or between both palms, drained a significant amount of liquid. I then put the shreds on a few layers of paper towels and pressed them with a few more layers. I could tell when they were dry enough because they stopped sticking to the towels.

Shredding the onion was even wetter. It was hard to hand squeeze, so I just spread it thinly on the paper towels with a spoon and pressed. I think next time I'd mix little batches of the onion with some potatoes and squeeze them together.

The next step was to add two eggs. My assistant happily volunteered for this task.

Finally, we added 2-1/2 tablespoons of flour, 1-1/2 teaspoons of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and mixed it all together. My assistant preferred using a spoon, but I took off my rings and got right in there with my hands.

By now, the oil should be hot enough (I set it on medium-high on my highest burner). Time to make the patties and fry up the latkes!

I discovered that the latkes held their shape best if I pressed them together quite hard (removing a bit more liquid) and making sure they were evenly thin across the middle. Patties that were a bit too chubby tended to be slightly underdone in the center. I used a slotted spatula to flip them when the edges looked crispy and golden brown. Be careful of spattering oil!

Allow to drain on a paper towel.

Of course, eating the latkes is the best part! I liked them with sour cream and applesauce, but my assistant and another random child who conveniently wandered through the kitchen just as they finished cooking (OK, he wasn't random; he lives here, too) preferred theirs au naturale.

Yum! Proof that latkes are so fabulous that even two shiksas who don't know what they're doing can make them. And if WE can, so can YOU! Enjoy, and happy Hanukkah to all those who are celebrating!

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