Friday, November 26, 2010
The Chanukah Dilemmas
If this post sounds familiar it's because this is the third year that I've posted it. The dilemmas haven't change. Just as you have finished your Thanksgiving feast in the U.S. it's time to start thinking about Chanukah. In Israel the bakeries have been selling sufganiot since mid October!
The first night/candle of Chanukah falls on Wednesday, December 1, 2010.
Let's begin with Chanukah dilemma number one. How do you spell Chanukah? There is no correct way to spell it, because the word itself is a transliteration from the Hebrew word, חנוכה, meaning "dedication". The "ch" that starts the word is pronounced as if you were clearing your throat or saying the word "chutzpah". Or you can do the "soft H" sound but you won't sound as authentic. All of the other additions of "k"s, "n"s and "h"s are purely according to personal taste. That's how we end up with the following spellings: Hanukkah," "Channukah" and "Hanukah". Spell check only called attention to "Channukah".
Dilemma number two and three involve the preparation of the traditional potato pancakes or "latkes".
Which latkes to make and can you make them in advance and freeze? T N Tel Aviv offers a number of recipes below and recommends freezing. There's nothing like frying shredded potatoes and onions while your guests are anxiously awaiting the latkes fresh out of the oil. Sorry folks, there's limit to a hostess's suffering. Not to mention the smell of your house or hair after you've been frying!
So Happy Chanukah and Happy Frying!
Traditional Potato Latkes
2 pounds russet potatoes
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
Freshly ground white pepper
Vegetable oil for frying
1 carrot, peeled and cut into sticks (read on to find out why)
Peel the potatoes and grate them. (This can be done in a food processor, but the texture is better if done by hand -sorry) Place the grated potatoes in a bowl while you peel and grate the onion. Another variation is to just clean the potatoes well without peeling.
2. In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, onion, eggs, and flour and season generously with salt and pepper. Mix well.
3. In a large, heavy skillet, add oil to a depth of about 1/4 inch and heat over medium-high heat until very hot but not smoking. Add one carrot stick to the pan. Theory here is that the carrot will burn rather than your potatoes. Drop 1/4 cup of the potato mixture into the hot oil, flattening gently with a spatula. Fry the latkes until deep brown and crisp on both sides. You should taste one latke from the first batch in order to check saltiness. (Bet you can't each just taste one!)
Drain the latkes on paper towels, patting them with the towels on both sides.
4. If you are serving them the same day you can refrigerate the latkes and reheat as necessary at 375 degrees. If freezing for later use, freeze in layers with wax papers separating the layers.
There's no need to defrost them before reheating.
Serve with apple sauce, sliced cheese or sour cream.
Sweet Potato Latkes
4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and grated
1 white potato, peeled and grated
1 onion, peeled and grated
1/2 teaspoon each of salt and freshly-ground black pepper (to taste)
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup unbleached white flour
Curry, coriander (optional according to taste)
Oil for frying
In a large bowl, combine grated sweet potatoes, onion, salt, pepper, and eggs and stir well to combine. Add flour and mix again.
Heat half the oil or butter over medium-high heat in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet. Drop large spoonfuls of the batter into the skillet, pressing gently with a spatula to flatten each latke. Do not crowd them. Fry for 4 to 5 minutes, until underside is brown, then flip and cook another 3 or 4 minutes more. Drain on cookie sheets covered with paper towels. Freeze or serve as in the above potato latke recipe.
And for the healthy eaters amongst us…..
Oven Baked Latkes
1-lb. russet potatoes
1 small onion
1 large egg
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp all purpose flour
Preheat oven to 425F.
Wash and dry potatoes and remove the dry, outer skin from the onion (there is no need to peel the potatoes). Grate potatoes and onion. Transfer potato mixture to a large bowl and stir in the egg. In a small bowl, mix together the baking powder, salt and flour, then stir that in as well.
Drop latke mixture in 2-3 tbsp measures, forming 2-3 inch pancakes that are about 1/4 inch thick on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes, then turn the pancakes over, and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Latkes should be deep gold on both sides when done.
Bake for a bit longer if necessary.