a little late, but Happy New Year
Like a lot of people, I indulged to
excess over the holidays, and am
starting 2006 by swearing off rich food
and wine ó well, for a week or two,
Nevertheless, the holiday binge was
worth it. At one point or another, I
managed to consume just about every good
thing I associate with the holidays:
wine, chocolate, rib roast, tamales,
posole, cocoa and potato latkes.
Most of those I enjoy on a fairly
regular basis year-round. But I was
surprised to realize that I hadnít had
latkes since last Hanukkah ó surprised,
because these classic potato pancakes
are cheap, easy and delicious.
So thatís one of my New Yearís
resolutions: to eat more latkes.
Generally itís my husband, whoís Jewish,
who makes our latkes at home.
Heís not much up on the history of
Hanukkah, however, so I turned to Joan
Nathanís terrific cookbook, ďThe Jewish
Holiday Kitchen,Ē for some background on
this holiday and the latkeís place in
Hanukkah celebrates the Maccabean
victory over Antiochus of Syria in 165
B.C., and in particular the miracle that
occurred at the Hebrew Temple in
Jerusalem, which the Syrians had seized
and dedicated to the worship of Zeus.
When the victorious Maccabees came to
the temple to rededicate it to the God
of Israel, they found only enough sacred
oil to light the ever-burning menorah
for a single night.
But the oil miraculously lasted for
eight nights, long enough for the
Maccabees to procure a new supply. Thus
Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days.
Latkes, which are fried in oil, are
further symbolic of the event.
According to Nathan, potato latkes are
Eastern European in origin; Sephardic
Jews have a Hanukkah tradition of sweet
pancakes made from flour.
Some people make latkes with zucchini or
apples. But Iím partial to the potato
kind, which are as delicious and
addictive as homemade french fries.
Hereís what you do. For four generous
servings (which wonít be enough, even
for two), wash and peel three large
baking potatoes. Grate them coarsely ó a
task much aided by the grating
attachment on a food processor. Grate
half of a large white onion into the
Now take handfuls of the grated potatoes
and, with clean hands, squeeze their
liquid into a large bowl. Transfer the
drained potatoes into another large
When youíve extracted all the liquid you
can, pour this cloudy water down the
drain and scrape the starchy sediment at
the bottom back into the potatoes.
Mix in two eggs, a half teaspoon of salt
and two to three tablespoons of flour,
enough to bind the potatoes loosely
Now heat three to four tablespoons of
vegetable oil in a large frying pan over
medium-high heat. Some recipes recommend
a much larger quantity of oil, but, in
the Hanukkah spirit, I maintain that a
little oil goes a long way.
When the oil is just shy of smoking,
scoop large spoonfuls of the potato
batter into the pan and press into flat
pancakes. Your latkes can be whopping or
dollar-size, but donít make them thicker
than a half-inch.
Cook for three to five minutes, or until
the undersides of the latkes are crisp
and golden brown. Flip and continue
cooking until crisp and brown on the
other side and well-cooked throughout.
Drain on paper towels and serve hot with
sour cream and applesauce. Delicious!
Latkes can be made ahead of time, kept
at room temperature for a few hours,
then reheated in a 400-degree oven.
If you have leftover batter, press
plastic wrap on the surface, refrigerate
it and have fresh latkes for breakfast.
The top of the batter will turn black,
but thatís fine; just stir the batter
well before cooking.
And there you have it. The year 2006 is
already looking up.