It’s the last night of Hanukkah tonight, and while I don’t usually find the holiday to be anything special, this year was a bit different. To be completely honest, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say I’d be looking back on it quite nostalgically.
Just 8 days ago, my wife and I hosted our first Hanukkah party at our townhouse to celebrate night #1 of the Festival of Lights. We really pulled out all the stops for the party, especially since we had 30 guests coming.
I slow-cooked a brisket and got challah bread. The wife (who happens to be Catholic) made apricot chicken, a homemade noodle kugel, and some delicious chocolate-toffee matzah our friend Lauren over at made for Passover a couple years back. We even played the dreidel game with gelt & Hanukkah music in the background, all while drinking . But most notably (according to the guests who attended) we made Potato Pancakes (or as they are called in Yiddish — Latkes). And they came out AWESOME. We also had a Latke Bar with 8 toppings, which I was pretty pumped about.
For all the non-Jews and the out-of-practice ones, I’ll give you a little Latke history lesson, by way of Wikipedia: “Latkes are traditionally eaten by Jews during the Hanukkah festival. The oil for cooking the latkes is symbolic of the oil from the Hanukkah story that kept the of ancient lit with a long-lasting flame that is celebrated as a miracle.”
For me, latkes have always had a dear place in my heart, since my grandmother on my Mom’s side (Nana) used to make them during Hanukkah, and they were always fluffy and delicious… Thing is, when I’d try to make them in the past, I had a lot of difficulty getting them to turn out right, so I usually ended up using the boxed latke mix, which isn’t that tasty.
This year I was able to find a , which I played with just a bit, and got a ton of positive feedback on. Plus with this recipe, you don’t have to shred a ton of potatoes and wring out all the water from them (which is a huge pain in the ass). Instead this recipe uses the refrigerated Simply Potatoes Hash Browns, which you can find in any major grocery store near the eggs and cheese, and they work perfectly.
SIMPLY SIMPLE POTATO LATKES RECIPE
Makes 2 dozen medium-sized latkes
1 bottle of peanut oil. This is key, since it has a high smoke point. Do not use olive oil or vegetable oil. If you are allergic, use grapeseed oil.
2 bags of Simply Potatoes Shredded Hash Browns
1 medium onion
2 teaspons of baking powder
1 cup of flour
A few turns of fresh ground sea salt and black pepper
1 clove of minced fresh garlic
1 teaspoon of onion powder
1/3 cup of chopped scallions
1. Dump bagged potatoes into large bowl. Add all dry ingredients except eggs and onion.
2. Peel and grate the onion using a fine grater. Add grated onion to bowl with potatoes.
3. Crack eggs into a separate small bowl and whisk. Add whisked eggs into bowl with potatoes.
4. Add enough peanut oil to coat entire bottom of a large saute pan with roughly a 1/2 inch of oil. Heat to medium/medium high heat.
5. While oil is getting hot, mix potatoes and other ingredients in the bowl with your hands or with a large spoon.
6. When well-mixed, form into balls and add to hot oil. Smush potato-balls down with a spatula, so they’re more like hockey pucks. I could fit about 3-4 in a pan, and that worked out quite well.
7. Cook until golden brown on both sides (maybe 3-5 mins per side). Keep heat on medium/medium high, but monitor the latkes and make sure they don’t brown too quickly. You can flip a few times too — they’ll keep their form after about 4 mins.
8. Put cooked pancakes into toaster oven or conventional oven on low (225 degrees) to keep warm while you cook the rest of the latkes.
8. Enjoy with the traditional sour cream and apple sauce, or any of the other toppings that we enjoyed at our party: Roasted red peppers, tzatziki sauce, chopped scallions, mango chutney, chopped bacon (for the non-kosher folks), or queso. They all worked surprisingly well. Especially the tzatziki, which I highly recommend.