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Latkes - the Topic!


Fat Guy
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Almost all seasons are sunny (like today for example) July-Sept. might be on the hot and humid side.

Then July and September are no good for me. :sad:

I have to visit very soon.. I keep wanting to... and then work and other trips happen. :sad:

But now that I know there are deep frieds sweets awaiting my arrival... I will make a greater effort.:smile:

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Robert S. - There was a decent size Alsatian Jewish community that immigrated to the U.S. In fact the synagogue on Madison Avenue between 94th & 95th Street was founded and is still predominantly attended by Alsatian Jews. I actually have a very close friend who is the grandaughter of someone in that community. They were/are a well off community which I guess is why they lived in that neighborhood.

I always found that Jews tried to hold themselves to a "peasant standard" when measuring authenticity. In fact I grew up with an immigrant father who was from a small village and didn't have much of an education. And his friends were mostly like him. So I used to think of that as the standard for Jews. But it just isn't true. There were many well off and educated Jews all over the world, both Ashkenazy and Sephardim that didn't follow peasant traditions. But I didn't, and in fact most Jews I know, didn't realize that when they were growing up. In fact my parents would speak about people like that as if they were "fancy Jews," or as if they weren't really Jewish.

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Steve, I wonder what the number of Alsatian Jews was in 1937, and what the number is today? That's what I was getting at.

As to authenticity, I can't see any reason whatsoever to place that stamp more so on Jews who came from poor circumstances, as oppposed to those who were (much) better off. I know that it occurs, along with the reverse, and many accompanying issues, but it's not my thing from either point of view. I would be interested, though, to know what the preferences and practices of Our Crowd were regarding latkes, both here and in Germany. If anyone has a primary source citation on that, please pipe up.

Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

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Jin...I'm so glad you were the first to post about your traif psuedo latkes, because now I can tell you about mine.

While I use the basic latke technique described on my own secular latkes page, I will call these 'potato pancakes' out of respect for my Jewish friends both here and at home.

I used some Yukon Gold spuds, mostly because that's what was available, to make these pork and cheese potato pancakes (one friend described them as "traif squared"). To the he basic latke recipe, add a handful of diced prosciutto and some fresh grated parm..I used shallot instead of onion, too. Fry in olive oil.

To commemorate our own mixed household, last night I made another batch with chopped leftover Thansgiving turkey and added some leftover mashed potatoes as well. Not bad, but you could hardly taste the turkey. I ate a few with cranberry-tangerine relish, but still prefer my old standby, ketchup.

Jim

olive oil + salt

Real Good Food

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Both times I've had sufganiyot, they've been leaden--twice the size of a Dunkin' Donut or Krispy Kreme and far greasier. If anyone knows where to get "lighter" ones, let me know.

My mom sometimes makes three-vegetable latkes, with potatoes, carrots, and zucchini. A nice variation on the traditional and a very good accompaniment to roast beef or pot roast.

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Steve P., I apologize for slapping your wrist earlier :blush: about asking a question, when it :shock: Suvir! who asked, not you.

But to answer your "What's so special about latkes/potato pancakes?" -- What, you don't remember the story of Hanukah? Tsk, tsk, as my Aunt Sootz says. When the Temple was destroyed, and the Maccabeans came into the ruin, they only found enough oil to keep the Eternal Flame going for one day. But it lasted for 8 days. So the answer is: it's not the latkes or doughnuts per se, it's the fact that they are cooked in great quantities of OIL.

(Those who remember their religious training better than I, feel free to correct/embellish the story.)

And all those other variations that people have posted sound terrific! Many, many chefs ago, Zoe served a potato pancake/smoked salmon/crème fraiche app that was ethereal. I had it once, then it was gone. :sad:

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There are sufganiyot available at Pita Sababa bakery, on Kings Highway between Ocean Parkway - MacDonald, closer to Kings Highway. Plenty of other bakeries in that area that probably have them, too. And I'm sure plenty in neighborhoods in Queens - just have to be neighborhoods with Sephardim.

But really, there's no secret to them - just buy a jelly donut at Krispy Kreme and save yourself the shlep. It's the same thing.

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Steve, I wonder what the number of Alsatian Jews was in 1937, and what the number is today? That's what I was getting at.

Jewish Community in Strasbourg

I would be interested, though, to know what the preferences and practices of Our Crowd were regarding latkes, both here and in Germany

Don't know what the Our Crowd crowd ate for Hanukah but I do know that Our Gang ate ham .

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Mike Siegel of the Compass World Bistro in Portland, Oregon has long had as his signature dish Sweet Potato Pancakes with bits of dried and fresh fruits and diced Brie. I remember different sauces being served, but mostly that this dish is always good with wonderful texture. It's obviously not Latkes, but a nice variation.

Judy Amster

Cookbook Specialist and Consultant

amsterjudy@gmail.com

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The current (December) issue of Saveur has a brief article about Roger Mummert and the latke festival he founded. Two recipes: Perfect Every Time Latkes and Larry's Firecracker Latke Poppers (with jalapenos and cream cheese filling, winner in the multicultural category at last year's festival).

I just grated the potatoes and Matthew is frying up a batch of Jim's Tex-Mex latkes. We'll eat them with salsa. Wonderful fragrance from the kitchen right now.

Hungry Monkey May 2009
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Enjoy, LaurieA-B. Then report back in.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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We've made these before, but they're always great. Jim doesn't mention this on his page, but put in way more chili powder and cumin than you think you should. I don't have any pure chile powders on hand (although I have a nice bag of anchos that I need to do something with), so I used Penzey's hot chili powder, which is great stuff.

These things get really crunchy, fast. Laurie said she would have liked some sour cream with them, too. "They'd be almost authentic," she lied.

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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I ate a few with cranberry-tangerine relish, but still prefer my old standby, ketchup.

Jim

Thanks for the great recipes Jim.

I will certainly use your recipes.

For my Indian potato pancakes (which are not too different at all from Latkes), I hardly ever eat them with mint chutney, but prefer using Ketchup. :shock::rolleyes:

Edited by Jason Perlow (log)
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OK, I've made a few batches of latkes this weekend and come to some conclusions:

  • Coarsely grated is preferable to finely grated, but best of all is some of each.
  • Adding caramelized onions is a great addition, but hardly mandatory if you don't have the time.
  • Contrary to popular belief, they don't have to be eaten immediately after frying. In fact, they are better reheated. Immediately after frying, the insides tend to feel undercooked, and they suck up a lot of oil. If they are made ahead and stored between layers of paper toweling, there is more time for the oil to be absorbed by the toweling, the insides have a better texture and the outsides re-crisp just fine.

With some input from my Jason, my mom and aunt, here is my current recipe. I use the shredder attachment to my KitchenAid mixer, so the instructions are phrased accordingly. If you are using a regular food processor, you will probably need to empty it a few times.

Make Ahead Potato Latkes

3 large Onions*

1 (5 lb) bag of Potatoes - Russet or Yukon Gold

2 Eggs, beaten

1 cup Matzo Meal

1/2 tsp freshly ground Black Pepper

1 1/2 tsp Salt

Peanut Oil - at least 1 cup for frying

Quarter lengthwise and slice 2 of the onions. Add a small amount of oil to a large skillet (preferably cast iron) and slowly brown them, stirring occasionally. When they are well browned put aside to cool. *If you don't plan to caramelize the onions, just use the one raw onion (i.e. don't add three raw onions to the batter).

Meanwhile prepare the latke batter. Trim and quarter the potatoes. It is not necessary to peel them, just remove the eyes and any bad spots. Grate the potatoes into a large colander inside an even larger bowl. Grate 3/4 of the potatoes coarsely, then grate the remaining onion. Grate one more potato to get the rest of the onion out of the blades. Remove the coarse grater attachment, scrape off the bits of potato into the batter. Attach fine grater and grate the remaining potatoes into the batter. Press and squeeze the potatoes to remove as much moisture as possible. You may have to pour off the liquid into a separate bowl a few times. However, allow the starch to settle to the bottom before pouring off the liquid. Add any starch from the second bowl back to the batter too.

Put the potato/onion mixture, the settled potato starch and the caramelized onions into the bowl of your mixer (I prefer to use the dough hook to mix it up), add the eggs and mix. Sprinkle on the matzo meal, salt and pepper, and mix thoroughly, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally.

Heat your cast iron skillet and add about 1/2 cup of peanut oil. When the oil is hot, scoop the batter by large heaping tablespoons, about 3 should fit in the pan at a time. When it becomes necessary to add more oil, do it while the pan is empty and allow it to become hot before adding more batter. As you will re-heat them later, you are going for nice even browning here, not perfectly cooking the pancakes through, so move them around and flip when they are a medium brown. Drain on a cooling rack over a sheet pan and then move to a paper lined sheet tray. Place them in single layers, with more toweling between the layers. You can even put another tray (I use a cutting board) on the top (lined with more toweling) to press out some of the oil. These suckers absorb a lot of oil.

When they have cooled, wrap in foil by the amount you plan to reheat at a time. Refrigerate or freeze. When ready to serve, reheat them at 350 F for 10-15 minutes in a single layer on a sheet pan. Serve with sour cream, apple sauce, or the condiment of your choice.

This recipe makes at least 30 large latkes, plus a few eaten by the cook. If you prefer them smaller, it'll make a lot more.

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I should have read this thread yesterday, before I made my latkes. :wink:

Followed my favorite usual recipe, from Mollie Katzen's book Still Life with Menu. Calls for parboiling shredded potatoes for a few minutes before mixing with the grated onion, flour, eggs and seasoning. I usually add in some ground cumin and cayenne for a little kick. The advantage of this method is that the batter doesn't brown and the potatoes never have that slightly raw taste. Fried them in peanut oil this year and was very happy with the results. They were light and crispy and vanished quickly.

I promised the kids I'd make latkes at least one more time before the end of Hanukkah -- I'll try the hand grated, wrung-out, potato starch added back in method and see how it turns out.

Interesting info about the Jewish community in Alsace. Our new cantor was born and grew up in Strasbourg.

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Interesting stuff here. Jinmyo and Jim Dixon -- thanks for your unique perspectives! Seriously. The only thing that made me wince was the ketchup. :shock:

I made latkes for the first time in years and years. I showed up at my friends' door and they said, oh good, just in time to help us peel potatoes! I used to grate them by hand, but my friends have a "Magimix" (I can't tell you what memories just reading that word brought back, I think of the commercials in the movie theaters :biggrin: ), and boy you can just keep grating hundreds of pounds of potatoes, no sweat. (When you're doing it by hand, all you want to do is stop.) But then you have to fry all that stuff. Anyway, I make latkes like my mother did -- without a recipe. I remember asking her for her recipe once, how many and how much, and she kept saying, "until the consistency is right." Well, that seems to work. They came out great, there were a whole mess of people over, and the latkes were gone in the space of about 10 minutes. (And I hope I don't have to make them again for another 10 years!!)

Happy Hanukkah!

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The only thing that made me wince was the ketchup.

Ketchup has a long and honorable culinary history, and while it can certainly be abused, let's not blame the shortcomings on the condiment.

As I've said many times before, I'm just a country goy. My adaptions of the traditional latke came from a search for a quick fried potato breakfast dish, a sort of hash brown-home fry substitute. For me, ketchup is the perfect accompaniment, especially if you don't have any gravy.

Jim

ps...Matthew...you're right again about the spice level for the Tex-Mex latkes. My own kids often complain about that the things they make from my recipes don't taste quite the same, and that's one reason why I developed my recipe disclaimer...but I see that it needs its own disclaimer...ignore the part about adding salt only at the end (and I'll try to fix that error soon).

That's one thing that makes cooking so interesting...you never really stop learning.

olive oil + salt

Real Good Food

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My cookbook has at least 2 recipes that call for Ketchup. :shock:

I am not embarassed at all that I use it in some of my dishes.

IN fact I know several very well respected and revered chefs that also do the same. They may not always fess up to it.. But it is true.

And potatoes and Ketchup are great partners in my book. They work very well.

I could think of no better accompaniment to my Indian Potato Pancakes... and when I have eaten Latkes, I have discretely found ketchup to enjoy them with. :shock:

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From M.F.K. Fisher's With Bold Knife and Fork:

"In A Tramp Abroad, Mark Twain grouses about the food he found in Europe in 1878 (even a god can sound a little limited at times) and makes a list of the foods he has missed the most and most poignantly awaits on his return. It starts out 'radishes,' which is indeed either blind or chauvinistic, since I myself always seem to eat five times as many of them when I am a tramp abroad as when I am home. He then names eighty separate dishes and ends, 'All sorts of American pastry. Fresh American Fruits...Ice water.' Love is not blind, and I do feel sorry about a certain lack of divinity in this utterance, but my faith and loyalty are forever strengthened by items 57 and 58: 'Mashed Potatoes. Catsup.'

"These two things were printed on the same line, and I feel -- in fact, I know -- that he meant 'Mashed Potatoes and Catsup,' or perhaps 'Mashed Potatoes with Catsup.' This certainty springs from the fact that there is, in my own mind and plainly in his, an affinity there. The two belong together. I have known this since I was about five, or perhaps even younger. I have proved it -- only once, but very thoroughly. I am willing to try it again, preferably 'in a modest, private affair, all to myself,' but in public if I should ever be challenged."

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