Last night was the second night of Chanukah — the Festival of Lights. We celebrate both Chanukah and Christmas in our household, as did my Jewish husband growing up.
Many years ago, I illustrated Chanukah Lights Everywhere, by Michael J. Rosen. I love the book because it is about Chanukah but also ties the Festival of Lights to other lights in our lives as well as other traditions “sharing a street together”. I set the story in Brooklyn, where we live, because it is so beautiful here in the winter when the sidewalks and buildings are covered in snow.
On each night of Chanukah, as the candles are lit, there are the same number of cats to find (plus a hint of another cat) in the picture. This book is not available in hardcover anymore, but it is available in softcover. I’m just happy that it is still in print! 🙂
To celebrate Chanukah, we light the candles on our menorah. My mother-in-law found a beautiful one shaped like a bonsai tree that captures both my heritage (Japanese) and my husband’s.
My go to recipe for latkes is basic, but I thought I would try the one I saw in the New York Times last week — Apple Potato Latkes with Cinnamon Sour Cream. I used yogurt in place of the sour cream. The latkes were tasty, but they were too “fluffy” and soft for me — maybe it was the extra flour and addition of baking powder. I like crispy latkes. Since I have eight nights to experiment, I made them again. This time, I used my tried and true recipe that I use every year. One of the tricks I use to get the crispy texture is to rinse the potatoes in water until all the starch has rinsed off. Then I spin them dry in a salad spinner. The combination of less starch and very dry potatoes makes the latkes extra crispy.
Another tip is to use a food processor to grate the potatoes. It is just so easy and you can whip up a batch in no time. Also, to save on paper towels for draining, I cut a brown paper bag (TJ’s is perfect!) in half and fold one piece into a square and put it a rack. I then cover it with some paper towels and drain the latkes on those.
The latkes made with apple were OK — but you couldn’t really taste the apple –they were just slightly sweeter. I prefer to eat the latkes with applesauce to really get that apple flavor, so omitting them in the latke batter is fine with me. The combination of sweet, salt, and fat is perfect, which is probably why it is difficult to eat just one latke! 🙂 No use in trying to fix something that isn’t broken!
Crispiest Latkes Ever
6 medium potatoes
1 medium onion
2 tablespoons flour or matzo meal (I prefer matzo meal)
1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
vegetable oil for frying
1. Peel potatoes and grate (in processor or by hand). Immediately immerse in a salad bowl spinner (or large bowl) and rinse with several bowlfuls of water until the water runs clear. Drain in the salad bowl spinner (or colander) and spin several times until potatoes are completely free of excess moisture. If you don’t have a salad spinner, you could squeeze all the moisture out using a clean dish towel. The salad spinner is much easier though!
2. Grate onions and mix with potatoes in a large bowl. Add eggs and mix. Then add flour or matzo meal and 1 teaspoon salt and mix.
3. Heat oil in a frying pan so it’s about 1/4 -inch high. Drop batter from a large spoon into the hot oil (I check it first with a piece of potato. When it sizzles, the pan is ready). Flatten slightly with the back of the spoon. I make my latkes on the small side — about 2 inches in diameter but you can do them bigger. Do not crowd the pan. Fry until brown and turn and brown the other side. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with kosher salt. Continue to make latkes until batter is gone. Make sure to let oil heat up between each batch, adding more as needed.
4. Serve immediately.