Growing up without Christmas was brutal. Each night for eight long and depressing nights, my parents would dole out gifts more boring than the last. Sweaters, books and, yawn, pajamas, all while my friends got Barbie houses and roller skates on perfect, snowy, Christmas morning. If there was one saving grace to the Hanukkah blues, it was most definitely those crispy, tasty, potato latkes.
In addition to the lighting of the Hanukkah menorah, these oil-fried pancakes symbolize the miracle during the Maccabean Revolt that took place in 2 B.C. when the second temple of Israel was kept lit by one day's worth of oil that somehow lasted for eight days. Whatever the reason we eat them, latkes are delicious and fun to make. Top them with applesauce or sour cream and you've got yourself a treat any day of the year.
While my Grandmother's recipe calls for eggs, I make vegan latkes with cornstarch instead and they taste just like I remember them.
2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled
1 small yellow onion, peeled
1/4 cup corn starch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Lots of vegetable oil
Grate the onion and potatoes.
In a large bowl, mix together the grated potatoes and onion with the cornstarch until it dissolves. Season with salt and pepper and let sit for 5-10 minutes. It will get a little liquidy.
Preheat oil in a cast-iron or non-stick skillet with a good thick layer of oil on the bottom (don't use olive).
Let the oil heat up so that when you drop some batter in, it begins to crackle. Lower the heat if it starts to smoke and wait a minute or two and try again.
Scoop the batter up, squeezing off the excess liquid. Flatten with your hands into thin patties and place in the oil. Cook 3-4 minutes per side. They should get nice and crispy brown.
We used to lay swaths of paper towels on a plate and let the oil drain off the latkes that way, but you can also use a paper bag or dish towel if you want to be more eco-friendly. But either way, drain off the excess oil after they're cooked.
If you're making a big batch of latkes (as you certainly should), turn your oven on to a low temperature, around 250 degrees, and place the latkes in there to stay warm while you fry the next round. They're great cold the next morning for breakfast too, if they last that long.
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Photo by SLGCKGC courtesy of Creative Commons