In our house, Chanukah means latkes, potato pancakes. All five of us love latkes. What's not to like about potatoes fried in oil? We always have them at least once on Chanukah; often more, as our kids clamor for them. Over the past decade, my husband, Jeffrey, became our household's chief latkemaker, in part, I think, in response to my tendency to try to make them a little healthier. "Lots of oil is key," he'll declare as I attempt to demonstrate that you can make "perfectly good" latkes with only a thin film of oil or, even worse, with cooking spray instead of oil. I have to admit that, while a minimal amount of oil does make "perfectly good" latkes, a substantial amount of oil makes perfect latkes.
After all, frying is the point on Chanukah. The holiday commemorates the miracle of the oil in the Holy Temple, so we celebrate by eating foods fried in oil.
When we make latkes, we don't mess around. Sure, you can have them as a side dish. But since they are an infrequent treat, for at least one night of Chanukah (more often two), our family has a latke supper, with maybe a salad on the side. We enjoy them as a dairy meal, topped with sour cream (or yogurt, for those of us who are fat-conscious), as well as homemade applesauce. We also tend to have extended family over during Chanukah, so this recipe makes a lot. Leftovers (and there are not a lot) can be reheated in the toaster oven.
While latkes taste best fresh out of the pan, we all like to eat together as a family. Jeffrey will make several batches, keeping them warm in the oven, separated by paper towels. Then we bring out the platters and dig in.
Note: You may not use the entire bottle of vegetable oil, but it's a good idea to have enough around just in case.
One 32-ounce bottle safflower or canola oil
10 pounds potatoes (we use a mix of Russet and Yukon Gold)
6 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon salt or to taste
1/4 cup flour or matzo meal
1. Heat two large frying pans over medium heat. Add oil to a depth of 1/4 inch. Let the oil heat over low heat as you make the latkes.
2. Wash and scrub the potatoes if you want to keep the skins on, or peel them. Grate the potatoes. This is easiest to do in a food processor, but can also be done with a hand grater. Grate the onions, and mix with the potatoes in a large bowl. In a separate bowl lightly beat the eggs and salt. Add to the potatoes and mix thoroughly. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and mix in.
3. Turn the heat under the oil to medium. The oil is ready when a bit of potato dropped in it sizzles. Use a 1/3-cup measuring cup to scoop up the batter. Drop it into the hot oil and flatten with the back of a spatula.
4. Cook the latkes until golden brown on one side, about 4 to 5 minutes, then flip over and cook the second side until golden, another 3 to 4 minutes. When ready, remove to a plate covered with a layer of paper towels to absorb the oil. Serve immediately or keep warm in a low oven (200°F) until ready to serve.
5. Serve with bowls of sour cream (or plain yogurt) and applesauce.
Excerpted from How to Keep Kosher: A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding Jewish Dietary Laws by Lisë Stern (William Morrow, 2004). © 2004 by Lisë Stern.
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