Hanukkah 2014 begins Tuesday, Dec. 16, at sundown, with not a thread of a stain from last year's spotlight-stealing "Thanksgivukkah." Hybrid holidays. Very 2013.
This year, celebrate the Jewish Festival of Lights with your own oil-based miracle: The Potato Latke.
You need six ingredients to make the perfect latke — potato, onion, flour, egg, salt, and oil — but how they come together is a bit of a journey. Latkes are not difficult to make, but they are a bit labor intensive. These are the hand shredded, no food processor version for people who like doing things the hard way. It's tradition.
This Bubby-inspired recipe is also a great excuse for experimentation because there are no measurements here, only technique. Real latkes are made by feel. You have to follow your kishkes.
Q: What's the difference between a potato latke and a potato pancake?
A: Nothing. They have many aliases.
Q: How can I minimize the risk of losing a knuckle on the grater?
A: Stay calm. And no matter how exciting that game of dreidel in the next room sounds, do not take your eyes off the spud.
Q: What's the significance of eating latkes on Hanukkah?
A: The significance is tied to the story of Hanukkah and the "miracle" of lamp oil lasting a week longer than it should have. To commemorate, candles are lit for 8 days, and fried foods, like jelly donuts and potatoes, are consumed. If you deep fry anything this week, you may be unintentionally celebrating Hanukkah.
Q: I've had mashed potato-type pancakes. Is this the same thing?
A: Not exactly, but many people still consider them legitimate. There's a very strong faction of from-the-box latke lovers who grew up on the matzo meal mix or a potato puree/mash version.
RECIPE: POTATO LATKES
- Shred Russet potatoes (washed and unpeeled) using the large holes on a box grater.
- Rinse shreds until water runs clear and they're not slippery.
- Place cleaned shreds into a large pot of ice water as you work.
- Repeat for each potato.
- Shred a few large yellow onions with the same grater.
- Drain potato shreds and press out all water with a towel.
- Mix together with shredded onion, beaten eggs and flour until the mixture "holds together" and is "not too wet, not too dry," according to my Bubby, who insisted those were the measurements.
- Fry large, pressed tablespoonfuls in a deep pan filled with HOT Canola oil. Corn oil, also good.
- Brown, flip, brown.
- Remove latke, blot on paper towels, sprinkle with kosher or sea salt.
- Remove rogue potato shreds from oil to reduce burning.
- Repeat until the bowl is empty. Ideally have two pans going at once.
- Serve with cranberry apple sauce and Sriracha sour cream.
How do you make your latkes?