Friday, December 23, 2011

My Mom's “Secret Ingredient” Latkes

It is Hanukkah this week.  The first candle was on Tuesday and this festival of lights lasts for eight nights.  It is traditional to cook foods in oil on this holiday and not because just about anything fried is yummy.  The oil used in the cooking is symbolic of the drop of oil from the Hanukkah story that kept the Second Temple of ancient Israel lit with a long-lasting flame that is celebrated as a miracle.  We eat latkes, in Israel every bakery if full of jelly donuts.  In the days of low fat, low carb, low everything, it is a miracle that we can even discuss latkes in such an open fashion.

When my Mom is cooking the yummiest latkes in the world, you can smell them frying three blocks away.  Now that being said, I think when anyone is making latkes you can smell them miles away because they have got to be one of the smelliest things to cook.  Here are a few tricks to minimize the smell: boil cinnamon sticks, burn a pure beeswax candle and throw EVERYTHING you are wearing into the laundry right after cooking. 

Latkes are a labour of love.  If you are opening your heart and your kitchen to frying latkes, it means you must really love the people you are cooking for.  My Mom has made hundreds of pounds of potatoes over the many years of cooking latkes – she really loves us, not to mention sharing her recipe and method.  I really think my Mom’s latkes are extra special.  They are solid and fluffy at the same time.

Now I know this blog is really about baking but it is Hanukkah so I thought I would throw in this recipe to see if anyone would notice.

2 cups grated raw potatoes – she likes red potatoes best for latkes
2 – 4 tbsp grated onion
2 eggs
2 tbsp pancake mix – THE secret ingredient
salt & pepper to taste
This recipe can be doubled, tripled or quadrupled depending on the number of latkes you need.

Peel potatoes -- if you are not using right away put in ice water so they potatoes don't turn grey.

Grate potatoes – my Mom likes them quite mushy but if you prefer a bit more stringy, go for it a lot of people like the stringy edges which end up being quite crispy.

In a clean tea towel or cheese cloth, press excess moisture until potatoes are quite dry.

Potatoes before being pressed
Pressed or "dry" potatoes

Combine potatoes, eggs, pancake mix, salt and pepper.

Drop by tablespoons onto a hot, well greased skillet – if you are making lots use two fry pans.  Please remember to never leave the hot oil unattended.

Cook over moderate heat for about 5 minutes on each side, until golden brown.

Drain on paper towel.

I think they are best served straight out of the fry pan but I also know that this is not always realistic.  If you are serving them the same day, put on a parchment lined cookie sheet and heat up when you need them.  If you are making them in advance, freeze them on a parchment lined cookie sheet, and once frozen put in a freezer bag or container.  To re-heat frozen latkes place on parchment lined cookie sheet and put in 400-425 hot oven for 30-40 minutes.

Serve with sour cream or apple sauce or whatever you can think of.

My Dad ate his latkes with vinegar.  I have an uncle who uses sugar and another who uses ketchup. 

Let me know if you have a favorite topping.


1 comment: