What's on YOUR latkes?
Hanukkah is coming, and with it my usual debate with my husband’s family. They are wonderful--sophisticated, warm and accepting of my last-minute hysterical gift decrees (no plastic toys, no battery-operated toys, whatever is bothering me that year). They are flexible about what a proper Menorah is, especially if a grandchild constructs it. But, don’t touch their toppings.
I mean latke toppings. My in-laws eat their latkes with granulated sugar. Insist on it. Won’t pick up a fork on Hanukkah if they don’t see a sugar bowl on the table. As my cousin Raymond says, “It just ain’t right.”
I got married in December. It was a year before the question of latke toppings came up. In that year, I got really, really attached to my new spouse. Also, we moved to California. This made it very hard to for me to follow my instinct to run home to Mama when my beloved surveyed the Hanukkah table asked for the sugar.
In my mother’s house, applesauce and sour cream was the rule. My mom made her own applesauce every year just for Hanukkah, which I looked forward to all year. Mom cored and quartered the apples and cooked them with their skins on. I put them through the Foley food mill. The applesauce was always served cold from the fridge. The coolness of the sauce, along with the pink color made a great contrast to the warm, golden, crisp latkes. For a meat meal, we skipped the sour cream, but the applesauce was always there, and there never was any sugar served. Sugar? Ecccch....
My kids are straight applesauce eaters, except when they eat latkes with sugar just to gross me out. My brother-in-law, who belongs to the “Low fat Faithful,” only eats totally nonfat baked latkes with sugar. My other brother-in-law doesn’t care for latkes, or any form of potato other than the French fry. His mother is still trying to figure that one out.
Then there’s my cousin Rifky, the Long Island balaboste. Her family eats sour cream and applesauce with their latkes, but for variety, Rifky makes a DIFFERENT KIND OF LATKE EVERY NIGHT except Shabbat. She also is a real estate broker, helps her husband with his investment business, does all her cooking for the week in one day, and manages to stay well-groomed all the time, manicures and all! Here is her latke rotation:
Cousin Rifky’s Seven Nights, Seven Kinds of Latkes
Zucchini-2 parts zucchini by volume to 1-part potatoes
Carrot-equal parts carrot and potato
Kinneret Frozen Latkes (no fool, my cousin Rifky)
Mixed Veggie Latkes with Tam-Tams
Parsnip or Chioggia Beet—equal parts parsnip or beet and potato
Latke varieties one, two, three and seven are really a basic potato-based latke batter with the novel vegetable added, With some water in your Cuisinart, using the fine shredding disk, grate one large onion and 4 large potatoes. Switch to the chopping blade and pulse the shreds a couple of times to give them a hand-grated texture. Transfer the shredded potatoes into a bowl, cover closely so no air gets in, and keep in the fridge until needed. Then, drain the potatoes; add 2 eggs and 4 extra egg whites, salt and pepper, and enough potato starch until batter is mushy but not sticky.
Veggie Latkes use ground Tam-Tam crackers instead of potatoes, and canned mixed vegetables. Mix one can (16 oz size) mixed vegetables, 10 tam tam crackers ground fine in the Cuisinart, 1 egg, and fry. Sometimes these need some potato starch to thicken. As Rifky says, “They are yum.”
For low-fat Latkes use an egg substitute like Egg Beaters. Make the regular potato batter an hour ahead of serving time, spread the batter directly on parchment paper-lined cookie sheets that you have sprayed with cooking spray, and bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. Remove cookie sheets from oven, let latkes cool briefly, and remove from paper with spatula. These latkes are extra thin and crisp, and will satisfy even my brother-in-law, who is so anti-fattening foods he holds his breath whenever he drives by a KFC.
Rifky’s family really enjoys their parade of latke variations. But they eat all of them with applesauce and sour cream, which is the right thing to do. The sugar bowl stays in the cabinet.
Preeva Tramiel is a freelance writer in Palo Alto, California. She blogs at Melon Memories.