We threw a little party this weekend, just a casual excuse to get together with all those people you love but somehow never get a chance to see enough of. And an excuse to make latkes.
Ah, the humble latke. Harbinger of the Hanukkah holiday, holder of my heart, heavy with … apple sauce and sour cream. Some things just can’t be alliterated.
You certainly don’t have to celebrate Hanukkah to enjoy the traditional foods: those of the fried variety. The central message of the Festival of Lights, too, is apt regardless of your beliefs: it’s a time to celebrate the way that sometimes, despite all indications that you have less-than-enough, it turns out that you’re able to make it last until better times.
Tomorrow night is the first night of Hanukkah this year; if you aren’t sure what to make for dinner, may I suggest the latke?
There are as many different ways to make latkes as there are ways to make chicken soup. I’m going to tell you my way, but please chime in in the comments with your own tips, tricks, and preferences. Beware when eating latkes out or in someone else’s home: many recipes call for a bit of flour or matzo meal, but they’re very easy to convert to gluten-free.
- Peel your potatoes. It can be tough to judge the right amount, but probably one good-sized potato per person will do.
- Grate your potatoes. I like a thicker grate, like what you would use to shred pizza cheese, but some people like to do this in a food processor.
- Sprinkle a little bit of salt on them and give them a turn with your hand to mix everything up.
- Leave them in a bowl with a damp towel over top to keep them from oxidizing while you go to the next step:
- Dice an onion as finely as you possibly can. Tiny, eensy-weensy pieces. If your knife-skills are sub-par, use a food processor. I like about 1 part onion to every 4 parts potato.
- Heat between ¼ and ½ inch of vegetable oil (not olive oil!) in a wide-bottomed pan, electric frying pan, whatever you’ve got. You want the oil around 350° F, or medium-high heat.
- Go back to your potatoes. Take a clean dishcloth or piece of cheesecloth and place a good heap of potatoes in it. Use the cloth to squeeze as much moisture as possible out of the potatoes. Repeat until potatoes are as dry as possible.
- Note: if you squeeze the potatoes over another, empty container, you’ll notice that they give off a cloudy liquid. You’ll also notice that when this liquid settles, you’ll have some potato starch at the bottom of your container.
- Mix the dry-as-possible potatoes with the onion, and with approximately 1 beaten egg per 2 cups of shredded potato. If you aren’t sure how many eggs to use, start with one and remember that you can always add more but you can’t take away. If you’re using egg-replacer, I recommend also adding a teaspoon of vegan mayonnaise per egg — it’ll make up for some of the taste difference.
- Add in a few teaspoons of your preferred gluten-free flour, or the potato starch from the bottom of your liquid, to help everything bind together.
- Add in another pinch of salt and also a few cracks of pepper. Mix with your hands.
- You’ll know the oil is hot enough when a droplet of water (or a sliver of potato) hisses and dances around. At that time:
- Form a patty as best you can with your hands. Try to make it of uniform thickness, and try to make it as thin as you can.
- Slide the patty into the oil. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Depending on your pan you might get between 2-6 cooking at once.
- Take a peek after a few minutes; when the latke is golden brown on both sides it’s time to take it out of the oil.
- Place latkes on a bed of paper towels to get some of the grease off, and serve them as quickly as you can: no one wants a cold latke!
- Sour cream and apple sauce are the traditional accompaniments, but let’s be real: these are fried potatoes. You can serve them with whatever you want — bacon, ketchup, a fried egg, salsa — and they’ll be delicious.
What are your favorite holiday recipes?