Happy Chanukkah, y'all! Tonight begins the 8 day Jewish holiday of Chanukkah, and despite my brave words about healthful holiday treats there is one indulgent dish my family always prepares during the holiday season: Latkes, also known as potato pancakes! Latkes are traditionally deep fried, but we do try to make them a bit healthier by simply pan crisping them in a little bit of olive oil. Nonetheless, I have to admit that this is a treat we only fix once a year... and latkes are totally worth the moment of indulgence!
This year, for the first time, my parents came to visit us for Chanukkah, and yesterday, in preparation for the start of the holiday, our kitchen was transformed into a latke factory!
My dad, washing the potatoes...
My mom, getting the olive oil ready...
Zach grating the potatoes...
Our family takes latke making very seriously, converting somewhere between 10 to 50 pounds of potatoes into crispy, oniony, savory, pancake goodness. During my senior year of college my parents threw a legendary Chanukkah party, magically fitting 75 people into their tiny farmhouse, and my father brought home two 50-pound sacks of potatoes, which, I do believe, took 13 hours to be metamorphosed, by my mother and I, into mountains of latkes.
This year, we settled for a mere 20 pounds of potatoes... Lest you think we've gone completely bonkers, cooking 20 pounds of potatoes for only 4 people, let me assure you that latkes freeze beautifully, and thus we decided to make extra so that Zach and I would be able to bring latkes to Zach's whole family over Christmas!
Zach grating still more potatoes... :-)
Our family's latkes recipe is very casual, and has never consisted of actual measurements. The technique is completely uncomplicated - simply place all the components together in a big bowl and mix, adding more of each ingredient until you achieve the right texture to form a nice round patty. Then, coat a skillet with a bit of olive oil, let your potato pancakes become golden and crispy, and... Enjoy the magic that emerges from the humblest of ingredients!
Astra's Family's Latkes (Potato Pancakes)
Matzah meal (or breadcrumbs, if matzah meal is hard to find)
Dried minced onion
Salt and fresh ground pepper
~ Using a food processor or other automated device, finely shred the potatoes.
~ In a large bowl, combine the potatoes with dried minced onion to taste (we like ours with lots of onion!).
~ Stir in enough matzah meal to hold the mixture firmly together when you try to form a patty in your hands.
~ Season to taste with salt and fresh ground pepper.
~ Pour 1/4" of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Begin forming 1/2" think patties from the potato mixture, pressing them firmly with your hands, and when the oil begins to shimmer, carefully slide the patties into the frying pan. Cook them until golden brown on each side, turning once, then transfer the patties to paper-towel lined plates. Serve immediately, nice and hot, with the two traditional toppings - sour cream and applesauce!
~ If you'd like to freeze some latkes, let them cool completely, then transfer to zip-top plastic bags and pop them in the freezer. To serve, thaw them in the fridge, then reheat in the oven at 350 degrees F. Ta da!
Zach and Dad, enjoying some well deserved down-time after all the latke-making!