Potato pancakes, just like grandma never made them

LOTSA LATKES

December 09, 1992|By Robin Silverman-Denker | Robin Silverman-Denker,Copley News Service

Hanukkah traditionally means eight nights of candles, gift-giving and lots of my favorite comfort foods. It has always been my favorite Jewish holiday. Especially now, since I share the tradition of Hanukkah with my husband and our children.

The most memorable parties were spent with my family at my grandmother's house. Of course, when I was a child, my eyes would light up at the sight of the gifts. I can still remember the piles and piles of freshly fried latkes, the giant bowls of applesauce and sour cream and lots of gold-wrapped chocolate coins, otherwise known as Hanukkah gelt. Glorious aromas filled the air; as I walked through my grandmother's front door, I knew it was going to be a great day.

Some of us are lucky enough to have our grandmother's or even great-grandmother's favorite recipes. Although I am sure every family has its own favorite latke recipe, you might want to experiment by adding a grated vegetable, shredded leftovers, chopped dried fruits and a favorite spice.

One cold day last December I was in my kitchen experimenting, as I usually do an hour or so before dinner. It was the sixth night of Hanukkah, and my refrigerator was overflowing with potatoes, bean sprouts and leftover lox (smoked salmon) from the preceding Sunday brunch.

I gathered up the fresh spuds, some green onions, the lox and sprouts and went to work. In 15 minutes we had dinner: latkes with flavors of the Orient.

There are many varieties of potatoes to choose from. I prefer white potatoes; there is no need to peel them, and they do not become brown and mushy. Russets or reds should be peeled.

Since I love timesaving techniques, I use the food processor to grate the potatoes and the vegetables. However, this method produces a slightly gummier potato. Therefore, it is necessary to gently rinse the grated potatoes under cold running water, then pat dry with a paper towel.

Latkes are best fried in a non-stick pan and turned over only once. Use a good quality canola or safflower oil, and heat the oil until it is hot before frying.

Plan to do all of your prep work and cooking ahead of time. Latkes can be prepared in advance and frozen in a single layer. Once frozen, they can be stacked and transferred to plastic freezer bags. When ready to serve, heat the oven to 375 degrees, transfer the pancakes to a cookie sheet in a single layer and reheat for 20 minutes.

These recipes reflect the theory that less is more -- the less time in the kitchen, the more time at the dining room table. The following dishes are designed to make the most of the versatile and wonderful potato. They're homespun in feel, bursting with flavor and plain old-fashioned fun at the table.* These latkes are wonderful as an entree. You can use leftover cooked salmon; increase quantity to 1/2 pound. If your budget allows, use more lox.

Pacific rim salmon latkes Yields 12 to 14 latkes.

2 eggs

1 teaspoon sherry or dry vermouth (optional)

1 pound white potatoes, grated, rinsed, blotted dry

1/4 pound lox, diced

1 teaspoon sesame oil

2 green onions, chopped

1 cup fresh bean sprouts, chopped

2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

2 tablespoons matzo meal

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger

salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

oil for frying

Beat eggs and sherry in large bowl. By hand, fold in remaining ingredients.

Heat oil in large, non-stick skillet over medium heat. Using 1/4 -cup measure, spoon mixture into hot oil; smooth top. Fry on both sides until golden-brown and crisp, turning only once. Drain on paper towels.

*

These latkes are an incredible dessert. They can be made ahead and frozen. To reheat, put frozen latkes onto a cookie sheet in a 400-degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Sprinkle with sifted powdered sugar just before serving.

The reason I chose Golden Delicious apples is that they do not become brown after grating. However, if you prefer, you can use Granny Smith or Pippin apples; Red Delicious are too mushy.

Apple latke fritters Yields 20 fritters.

4 Golden Delicious apples (about 3 cups), peeled and grated

1 white potato, grated, rinsed, patted dry

1 egg

1/4 cup water

1 cup tempura mix (pancake or biscuit mix)

1/4 cup matzo meal

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup ground toasted almonds

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon almond extract or vanilla

oil for frying

powdered sugar

Grate apples and potato using food processor. Remove; insert steel blade. Chop apples and potato using a few on and off pulses; do not over-process.

In large bowl, beat egg with remaining ingredients. By hand, stir apple and potato into mixture; blend well to combine. Refrigerate 1 hour.

Heat oil in large, non-stick skillet over medium heat. Using 1/4 -cup measure or heaping tablespoon, spoon in mixture, smooth top. Cook until golden-brown and crisp. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with powdered sugar just before serving. Serve warm with your favorite applesauce.

Old-fashioned potato latkes Yields 24 latkes.

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