Eating Jewish: Corn Latkes
Any excuse to eat fried foods is a good thing in my books. Fried foods are my weakness, something I just can’t help myself from eating despite knowing that the outcome will usually involve an unhappy stomach and a lot of sparkling water to try to make myself feel better. If there’s anything fried on a restaurant menu, you can almost be certain that I’ll order it and I’m of the opinion that most things taste better after having been cooked in some hot oil until they are golden and crisp. So as you can guess, I was very excited when it was time for me to start making Hanukkah recipes for Eating Jewish.
Latkes have become the quintessential Hanukkah food in North America and they have become so synonymous with its celebrations that for many people it simply wouldn’t be Hanukkah without them. I love latkes and there was no question in my mind that I would devote a post to them. Although potato latkes topped with sour cream are my favorite, I decided I wanted to expand my latke repertoire. After looking through numerous recipes for sweet potato, zucchini, and parsnip latkes, I came across this recipe for corn latkes and I immediately knew that these were the ones I was going to be making.
As explained in Gil Marks’ detailed entry about latkes in his Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, the potato latkes we know today are a relatively recent culinary invention and it was soft cheese latkes that were more commonly associated with Hanukkah in the past. It took much time for the potato latke to become Hanukkah fare due to the fact that it was only centuries after the potato was introduced into Europe by the Spanish, that they were accepted as being fit for consumption. Prior to this they were thought to be poisonous. The French and the Germans were the first to embrace the potato at the end of the eighteenth century, while it only became part of the diet in Eastern Europe around 1840. Due to the fact that the potato was cheaper than both cheese and wheat flour, it thus became the most common ingredient for latkes being made during Hanukkah once it had been integrated into the daily diet of Jews in Europe. The potato pancake came to America along with German immigrants in the mid-nineteenth century, while Eastern European immigrants introduced the term latke, which was derived from the Ukrainian word oladka meaning pancake, at the end of the nineteenth century. The new variations on the latke that have recently emerged in North America, such as those mentioned above, may be seen as another step in the long development of the latke.
Unlike potato latkes, which can be labor intensive if you choose to grate all the potatoes by hand, the batter for these corn latkes comes together quickly and easily. Once half of the corn has been pureed, it’s simply a matter of mixing all the ingredients together in a bowl. The batter can then be dropped by tablespoon-full into hot oil and cooked until each latke is a beautiful golden brown. With only a few ingredients going into these latkes, what you get are light and crispy rounds in which the sweet taste of the corn really shines through, while the cumin adds a subtle hint of earthiness that perfectly complements the corn. These latkes are delicious eaten plain but also go nicely with sour cream that has been mixed with some chopped parsley, or even some chopped cilantro (something my roommate would have preferred but had to do without because of my cilantro averse palate).
I think these would be a nice addition to any Hanukkah table and are the perfect latke to make when grating another potato is simply unfathomable.
From Faye Levy’s International Jewish Cookbook
4 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels, cooked, drained and cooled
2 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
salt and pepper, to taste
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup vegetable oil, for frying
Puree ½ cup corn and mix with salt, pepper, cumin and egg. Stir in the flour and the remaining corn kernels.
Heat oil in a deep, heavy, large skillet. Drop one heaping tablespoon of the corn mixture into the oil.
Flatten slightly with the back of a spoon and fry over medium heat about 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until golden brown. If desired serve, serve sour cream mixed with chopped parsley alongside the latkes.
Yield: about 15 medium sized latkes