For lovers of food-centric holidays and holy days, this November is extra special. For the first time in nearly 100 years, and the last time for 70,000 years, the dates of the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving coincide. What does this mean? More food to eat, and more things to be thankful for!
Along with the traditional side dishes served at Thanksgiving, why not make a batch of these delicious potato pancakes—or latkes—that go wonderfully with sour cream, spiced apple puree, and thick turkey gravy. Latkes are quintessential Hanukkah fare, cooked in oil to celebrate the story of when the sole, small flask of oil that remained in the desecrated temple of Jerusalem miraculously lasted eight nights, keeping the the sacred flame alight.
Every year growing up, my family threw a huge Hanukkah party with lots of food, wine, and music. Each guest’s invitation had this recipe printed on the back, courtesy of my mother, so everyone brought a batch of golden brown latkes to be reheated in the oven. I can promise you that no one ever left hungry.
Mom’s “Heavenly Latkes”
Makes 24 each 2-inch, or 18 each 3-inch latkes
5 large potatoes, peeled
1 small onion, grated
1.5 Tbsp. sour cream
2 eggs, beaten
3 Tbsp. flour
salt and pepper to taste
cheese cloth (or a large, clean, cloth kitchen towel)
-Start by laying the cheese cloth (a double layer) over a large bowl.
-Next, grate the potatoes on the largest holes of a box grater (or use a food processor if you have one), as well as the onion.
-Place the grated potato and onion in the bowl and, with the cheese cloth, squeeze as much of the liquid out of the mixture as possible. This is an important step to make crisp latkes, so don’t rush it.
-After removing the liquid from the potatoes and onion, add the egg, sour cream, flour, a large pinch of salt, and three hefty grinds of a pepper mill.
-Combine all the ingredients well and heat vegetable oil (not olive oil as it may burn) in a heavy pan, preferably cast iron to retain even heat. The oil should be about 3/4 inch deep.
-Test the oil by dropping a small piece of shredded potato. If it sizzles immediately and floats, the oil is ready.
-Test the latkes for flavor by cooking a mini one. Fry on each side until golden brown and taste it. You can add as much salt and pepper at this time as you want. If the batter spreads out too much, add a little more flour to thicken it up.
-Cook the latkes in batches the hot oil, making sure to not crowd the pan.
Tip: Don’t pack the latkes tightly like a hamburger patty. Keep them very loosely formed so that oil bubbles up through the middle. They should look ragged on the edges. Otherwise, they will be heavy and doughy. Just drop a loose spoonful into the oil and spread it gently with a wooden spoon
-Once golden brown, remove the latkes from the oil and allow them to drain on paper towel-lined baking trays. My parents always used brown paper bags from the supermarket. They are perfect!
-If making a lot of latkes, keep the ones that are finished warm in your oven on the lowest setting.
-Top with sour cream, apple sauce, or gravy!
For variations, get creative! Try the latkes with grated sweet potatoes, substitute a little grated zucchini in the mix, flavor the latkes with some chopped scallions, or maybe a dash of nutmeg mixed into the sour cream first! Feeling like a fancy breakfast one day? Make Salmon Eggs Benedict with latkes instead of English muffins! Delicious!
If you have a favorite variation, let us know!
Another great side dish addition this year would be everyone’s new favorite green, kale.
Sauteed Kale with Raisins and Pine Nuts
Serves 4-6 people
1/2 cup pine nuts
2 shallots, sliced in thin strips (julienne)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp ground cumin (optional)
2 bunches of Lacinato (“Tuscan”) kale, de-stemmed and roughly chopped
2/3 cup golden raisins
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp dry white wine
salt and pepper
-Start by toasting the pine nuts in a dry saute pan. Use a medium flame and watch the pine nuts carefully as the can easily burn. When just lightly browned, remove them from the pan and set aside.
-Next, add olive oil to the pan just to coat the bottom and gently cook the sliced shallots until soft and translucent (10 minutes)
-After the shallots are soft, add the ground cumin and stir well to combine. Cook for 1 minute
-Next, add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds until just fragrant
-Add the chopped kale, along with the toasted pine nuts, the raisins, and a pinch of salt to the pan and stir to combine well. Cook for a couple of minutes until the kale begins to wilt
-Add the vinegar and white wine and stir before turning the heat up and allowing the liquid to boil away. Once the pan is nearly dry, remove it from the heat and add a little more salt and some pepper if desired.