Tuesday, December 28, 2010

KK: Latkes by Special Guest Alli Borson

Alli in her element! Photo by Lance Sabbag
I'm very fortunate to have many friends who cook and every one of them has a specialty. Alli Borson, in addition to being a costumer, is also a fancier of traditional Jewish recipes such as challah (which I'm sure if we ask nicely, she will also share) and latkes- or potato pancakes. These delightful creations are perfect for dipping into a variety of sweet and savory sauces and aren't -just- for Hanukkah. Latkes have their origins in Eastern Europe around the 18th century with that darned Columbian exchange of the potato, but caught on as Hanukkah fare because of the symbolism of the oil they're fried in. In the 19th century they made their way over to the United States with thousands of Jewish immigrants. But enough history- without further ado, here's Alli:

I made myself hungry rambling about latkes.

Hello everyone! Alli here, friend of Miss Kagashi and Mac over at the Steampunk Cookery blog, and I'm here to tell you all about latkes! I recently hosted a Hanukkah dinner at my house, and I made both brisket and latkes! A lotta latkes! Latkes have been something that I have made with my parents for years and years, ever since I was old enough to know that it would be very painful if I stuck my hand in the oil with the latkes. In college, I have been known to simply say to some friends, "I'm making latkes", and they will show up and devour them.

My method, as well as my Mom's, is basically a "little bit of this, little bit of that" and "until it looks right" kind of recipe. This is one of the few dishes I can and will cook like this and so should you! But I'll be nice and give you some exact measurements.

Ingredients
-2 large Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and shredded
-1 medium grated onion
-1/4 - 1/2 cup (70-140 mL) Matzo meal (You can use flour instead of matzo meal if you don't want to go to the store and find the kosher aisle (or don't have one), but matzo meal is preferable.)
-Salt and Pepper to taste
-Canola Oil (for frying)

Hardware

-Bowls
-Colander (if you have one)
-Large heavy-bottomed skillet

You want to make sure that while your potatoes are being peeled and shredded (I used my Mom's food processor with a shredding disc) that they have been placed in a bowl with water until all of your potatoes are done. Then you want to dump out as much of the water as possible, use the colander if you have one.

Soaking the potatoes
In a bowl (however big enough for everything), mix everything together. Sometimes I use my hands to get it all together, but a spoon works just as well. For the matzo meal, it's a "however much you think is right", though it's usually between 1/4 - 1/2 cup. You need that and the eggs to bind together the potatoes and onions or else it will fall apart in the oil and you'll just have crispy potato shreds. Once you mix that up, it's time to get the oil ready!

In the skillet over medium-high heat, heat about 1/2 cup of canola oil until hot. When it's hot, take large spoonfuls of your mix and carefully place them into the oil.

I've learned to mostly avoid getting burned by the oil. Unless you've done this before, please try to use a spatula or something that can gently plop them into the oil.

INTO THE POOL! Photo by Mark Moore
Let them fry on one side until nice and crispy brown on the bottom, then turn them over with a fork or a spatula until they are the same on the other side. Let them drain on paper towels and watch them disappear into everyone's mouths, still hot! Though you can make them in advance. Just set them in the oven on warm on a cookie sheet covered with paper towels.

Behold the crispy bounty! Photo by Mark Moore
Traditionally, they are served with applesauce and sour cream. And, of course, the cook is allowed to get the latke scraps left over on the paper towels and plates! Latke crunchies are the best part!

(Editor's note: Crunchies are also fantastic after a long evening of over-imbibing, not that Miss Kagashi knows. Also latkes are delicious with malt vinegar or corned beef hash on top.)

If you have questions for Alli, or have other ways of serving your latkes, feel free to comment below.

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