Beginning at sunset Sunday, Dec. 18, the Festival of Lights begins.
The eight-day Jewish Festival of Lights, also known as Hanukkah, is celebrated by lighting the menorah, playing the game of dreidel and eating special holiday foods.
Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after it was defiled by the Seleucids in 164 B.C. During the rededication, a miracle happened. A small quantity of oil that was sufficient only for one day continued to burn for eight days. Therefore, Hanukkah is one of the happiest Jewish holidays of the year. The roots of this holiday include liberation from oppression, religious freedom, divine miracles, and courage.
Of all the traditional foods eaten on Hanukkah, the potato latke is always a favorite. This is a potato pancake fried in oil, which references the miracle of the oil in the temple.
Even if you don’t celebrate Hanukkah, you’ll love having this delicious and inexpensive recipe in your rotation. Latkes are crispy on the outside, light, soft and tender on the inside, and full of flavor.
There are lots of ways to make latkes, and each family loves the ones their “bubbe” makes. I don’t want to step on any bubbe’s toes, but this recipe is a classic.
Traditional toppings are applesauce and sour cream, but you can top them with many other delectable goodies. To stay somewhat traditional, try smoked salmon with sour cream and chives, or pastrami with brown mustard.
CLASSIC POTATO LATKES
Yield: about 20 latkes
Total Time: 1 hour
5 large russet potatoes, peeled
1 large onion
1/3 cup matzah meal, cracker meal or dry breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup vegetable oil + more as needed
Using a good old-fashioned box grater, grate the potatoes and onion together. The onion juice slows the potatoes from oxidizing and turning brown. You could use a food processor with a grating blade, but you won’t get that beautiful rustic look of hand grating.
Transfer the mixture to a clean dish towel and squeeze, then squeeze some more to wring out as much of the liquid as possible. This is the secret to crispy latkes. Place the mixture into a large bowl. Add the matzah or breadcrumbs, salt and pepper, and distribute through the potato mixture. Add the eggs and mix well. After this is mixed, transfer the mixture to a colander and place it back in the bowl. This is to keep the mixture from sitting in liquid, making sure there are no soggy latkes at the end of cooking.
Pour about 1/2 inch of the oil in a medium heavy-bottomed pan and place over medium-high heat. Once the oil is at 350 F (a drop of mixture placed in the pan should sizzle), drop heaping tablespoons of the mixture into the hot oil, flattening with a spatula and cooking in batches. When the edges of the latkes are brown and crispy, flip. Cook until the second side is golden brown. Transfer the latkes to a paper towel-lined plate to drain, and sprinkle with salt while still warm. Add oil as needed. Repeat, then eat!
Current trends show people adding all kinds of ingredients into the latke, like sweet potato, zucchini, cilantro, cheese, apple and such. Also, some air-fry them. Although we usually like to use less oil, the symbolism of the oil is really the point of latkes for Hanukkah.
Variety is fun, but for Hanukkah, it’s best to be a purist.
In this holiday season, let’s say thanks a lot, for lots and lots of latkes.
Lifestyle expert Patti Diamond is the penny-pinching, party-planning, recipe developer and content creator of the website Divas On A Dime — Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous! Visit Patti at www.divasonadime.com and join the conversation on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom. Email Patti at email@example.com
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