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Saturday, December 8, 2012

Mmmm . . . Fried and Delicious

Used with permission.

Tonight at sundown signals the beginning
of the Eight Days of Hanukkah.

Lights, or candles, are integral to this holiday.
We'll light our Menorah, which we bought at the Judaica shop
in Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh, 34 years ago.

Memo to self: run to Shop Rite and get Hanukkah candles!

Antique menorahs, some from the 12th century.

Like many holidays, Hanukkah is not geared toward the "let's eat light" crowd.  "Eat Heavy," which believe it or not
is the motto of the Tick Tock Diner in Clifton, New Jersey,
might also be Hanukkah's rallying cry.

Blame it on the oil.
Traditional Hanukkah foods are mostly fried in oil.
Which, of course, makes them crazy delicious.

So tonight, we'll have six people around the
dining table, which will be set with blue and white dishes,
for brisket, potato latkes, and a vegetable to be named later.

I make goofy looking shredded potato pancakes,
but they are my family's favorites.

My mother-in-law taught me that I could make them
ahead of time, and keep them hot in a 250-degree oven,
on brown paper-lined cookie sheets.  Brilliant.

She also gave me the brisket recipe, which you can find here.
It involves cranberries and onions and . . . well, it's good.
I may try a variation on it this year.

Our daughter Alida, in Los Angeles, is having a Hanukkah party
on Sunday evening, and she wants to know how I make my latkes.

So, here goes; this is for you, Alida Rose!

Russett (Baking) Potatoes 
Peanut Oil for frying (gets smokin' hot without losing its cool)
(Some people add finely chopped onion, but my kids didn't like
that, so I still leave it out.  Even though my kids are now ancient.)

Quantities are not exact.  This is cooking, not baking, so you've
got some wiggle room in what you do.  It ain't science class.
It's potatoes, hot oil, and sour cream.  You can't lose.


1)  Peel your potatoes, and shred them.  I count on about 1-1/2 potato per person, if there is going to be other food.  2 per otherwise.  Shred in food processor using shredding blade, or
grate by hand.  Squeeze out moisture, but don't make a career out of it.  That's why God made flour.

2)  Put your taters in a big bowl, and sprinkle in some flour.  Add a few shakes of salt, too.  Mix it up, and see if the flour has absorbed the excess wet stuff.  Don't use too much flour -- you can always add.  Sprinkle some, mix, sprinkle again if needed.  Better too little than too much.

3)  Break a couple of eggs (if you've done 8 good-sized taters, use 3 eggs) into a smaller bowl, and ter-klop them, which is Howard's family's term for a quick whisk with a fork.  Pour the eggs into the potatoes and flour mix, and stir it all up.  

By now your taters may be taking on a distinctly red-brown-pink look.  Don't worry.
It's just some starch.  They'll go all pale and interesting again when they are fried.
(Don't we all?)

4)  Pour peanut oil into a heavy frying pan -- enough to cover the bottom comfortably.  You don't deep fry the latkes, but you need enough oil for them to sizzle satisfyingly, and not to stick.  Let the oil get hot, till a drop of water tossed onto the surface goes FIZZZZ really nicely.

5)  Let the frying begin.  I use a big fork to scoop up the shredded potatoes, which by now should be holding together pretty well from the egg and flour mixed with them.  I use a fork, so excess wetness will drip off back into the bowl and not make ick in the frying pan.  Put the lump into the oil -- carefully! -- and squash it into the size, shape, and depth you want.  Repeat till your frying pan is pretty much full of latkes, merrily sizzling away.

6)  Watch your temperature in the pan; too low a heat, and they just sort of poach.  Too high and they -- duh -- burn.  

7)  Keep an eye on them.  This is not the time to cruise Etsy or Ebay for earrings (I'm talking to you, Alida).  The beauty of shredded potato pancakes is you can see when they are browning on their little bottoms.  When they are, flip 'em.  Carefully.  Hot peanut oil burns.  IF a latke is resisting being flipped, it might not be done on its backside.  Give it another moment.

8)  When you take them out, drain them on paper towel OR even better -- brown paper bags.  Yeah, I know . . . those food store bags, who knows where they've been?  Heck, you are eating potato pancakes fried in peanut oil and topped with sour cream . . . how much more danger can you be in?  

9)  If you want to hold them till your company arrives, then line cookie sheets with paper, and put the latkes, single layer, on them, and into a 250-degree oven.  They'll do just fine.

10)  It's time for the payoff.  Eat them!  With sour cream and a sprinkle of salt or (gasp!) sugar, or (for the faint of heart) applesauce.  Preferably homemade.

Mazel Tov.  You've made latkes!

Happy Hanukkah! -- Cass


  1. Happy Hanukkah Cass!

    This sounds delish! Applesauce would be my favorite topping. I will definitely try these.

    Cassandra from Renaissance Women

  2. Yum yum! Those latkes look delicious!

    Happy Hanukkah to you and yours!

  3. Happy Hanukkah to you and your family. Blessings Catherine

  4. Happy Hanukkah, Cass!

  5. Happy Hanukkah! And am I glad I slid backwards to see your cauliflower pizza (or your daughter's). We loved mashed cauliflower but this looks amazing and begging to be tried. Trust eggs to hold things together!

  6. Happy Hanukkah to your family, Cass. May Alida's latkes be just as delicious as yours :-)

  7. Jalapeno jelly....

  8. Happy Hanukkah my Dear friend..Hugs and smiles Gloria

  9. Happy Hanukkah- I am drooling into my keyboard now! xo Diana

  10. My son has tried to make them a couple times without much luck. Now I can point him here and he can have success ... and latkes.
    Happy Hanukkah to you and your family Cass. I hope your holiday season is filled with love and family and friends.

  11. Have a great time with your party.

    M :)

  12. Happy Hannukah! We are not Jewish but do love potato pancakes. Yum! I do like to use onion at times and sour cream and applesauce, too!! Usually as a side dish. But with a dash of sugar? Never heard of that. Which reminds me...I haven't made them in a while ;)


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