Hanukkah, the eight-day festival of light that celebrates the triumph of good over evil, is one of the most sacred holidays of the Jewish faith. While it is a time to reflect upon life, love, family and friendships, doing so over a plate of latkes will undoubtedly make it better. Whether Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Muslim or whatever religion one chooses to practice, anyone can enjoy a good helping of potato pancakes.
Luckily, this festival feast staple has few ingredients, follows simple instructions, is relatively quick to cook and conducive to being prepared in a variety of styles.
To start, here’s a traditional latke recipe in its simplest form. If followed accordingly, these instructions should yield 12 to 16 latkes.
Yields: 12-16 latkes
• 1 lb. potatoes peeled
• ¼ cup finely chopped shallots
• 1 large egg, lightly beaten
• ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
• 1½ tsp. salt and freshly ground black pepper
• Vegetable oil for frying (or coconut oil as a healthier alternative)
Grate the potatoes either by hand or by placing them in a food processor, and add to a large bowl of cold water. Let the shavings soak for one to two minutes, then drain well. Spread the potatoes and finely chopped shallots on a cheesecloth or towel and gently squeeze to get rid of excess moisture.
Next, add the potatoes and shallots to a bowl and stir in the egg, salt and pepper. Coat the bottom of a large stovetop pan with either vegetable oil or coconut oil and put it over a medium flame. Take the potato mixture and form round pancake-like shapes consisting of about two tablespoons worth.
Working in batches of four latkes at a time, cook each for about five minutes until the undersides begin to brown, then flip. Transfer the finished latkes to a towel to absorb excess oil and season with more salt and pepper.
Repeat the steps for each batch, adding more oil to the pan as necessary. Though they are delicious as is, with a few extra add-ons, transform regular latkes into the talk of the dinner table.
Fire up Hanukkah this year with spicy cajun latkes. Add a dash of cayenne and grated raw jalapenos. Include as little or as much as you’d like depending on what your taste buds can handle, and add a teaspoon of lemon juice to neutralize the spiciness. Top it off with chipotle mayo dipping sauce.
When in doubt, just add cheese. And while you’re at it, why not add three different kinds? From cheddar, to Swiss, to pepper jack and everything in between, there’s no limit to what can be made of the cheesy delicacy. One option is a cheddar, parmesan and mozzarella blend. Add a little or add a lot for the optimal amount of melty greatness. For a side dip, make use of your favorite tomato soup.
Easily swap the regular potatoes for sweet potatoes and you have a new dish entirely. Not only are the sweet potatoes tasty, but it is also a healthier carb alternative, proven to be an excellent source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, manganese and other essential nutrients. To the finished product, add a bit of powdered sugar and some honey mustard dipping sauce or applesauce on the side.
Add a healthy dose of vegetables to your latkes. Ingredients may vary depending on personal preferences, but opt for leafy greens, like spinach and kale, and root vegetables that can be easily grated, such as beets, parsnips, carrots, radishes and kohlrabi. Finely cut your vegetables of choice or put them in a food processor. To rid of excess moisture, place them in a cheesecloth and squeeze. Then add the vegetable mixture to the original latke recipe above, with one added egg. The final product can be best paired with sour cream or greek yogurt.