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LATKE-PALOOZA

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This year the latke gets a makeover
11/30/2010

LATKE-PALOOZA photo

I admit to being somewhat of a gastronomic and a culinary discontent. I like to push the envelope and play with an idea or recipe and then move on and do it all over again. The same applies to holiday menus. I love the rituals of the Jewish holidays and the foods, but I do not like the routine recipes that often accompany those dishes. This Chanukah I am thinking outside the box and mixing it up a bit.

I love the basic latke of potatoes and onions, all crispy and golden brown with the aroma of crackling onions and fat topped with a generous dollop of homemade applesauce or sour cream. I could eat a whole platter full of them myself—on the first night. And then what? We have eight nights to celebrate. So I started thinking HOW COULD I MAKE THIS CHANUKAH DIFFERENT FROM ALL OTHERS?

I do not want an ordinary Festival of Lights. I want something spud-tacular. I want a LATKE-PALOOZA. An extraordinary celebration of crispy fried goodness. I am going where no chef has gone before. I am going to create an abundance of delights, a different one for each night of Maccabian Madness.

Latke options are infinite. I can stick with the classic potato and onion cake as my base but I want to add some pizzazz, creating endless variations on the central theme. After all, even the little black dress needs a little “bling.” I am adding carrots, parsnips, celery root, roasted garlic, herbs, and more. These latkes will be so amazing we will want to add nights to the holiday.

I also want to play with the toppings. After all, why limit ourselves to just plain apple sauce and sour cream? Like all classics that just need a little tweak, I am updating the humble applesauce and bringing it to new heights. For Latke-Palooza, I am dolling up the modest condiment with crystallized ginger, pomegranate molasses, mango chunks, and even sweet and gooey caramelized onions. Delish!

Chef Laura’s Latkes (basic latke recipe)

I like really crispy latkes that are only slightly creamy inside. I don’t use yolks in my batter as egg yolks make dough and batters tender. Egg whites hold the ingredients together but don’t make it soft or cakey.

2 pounds Russet potatoes, peeled and shredded (after shredding the potatoes, place them in a large bowl with ice water-they won’t oxidize and turn rust colored)
Neutrally flavored oil for frying (I prefer canola)
1 large Spanish onion, peeled and grated
3 egg whites, beaten with a whisk until frothy
3-6 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper

1. Place the shredded potatoes in a large clean towel and squeeze out all of the moisture; make sure the potatoes are completely dry.

2. Place all of the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and add the potatoes. Mix all of the ingredients together until thoroughly combined.

3. Heat a large skillet with 1-½ inches of oil. Drop spoonfuls of latke batter into the oil. Flatten it slightly with the back of a spoon. Brown the latkes on both sides. Remove to a platter lined with paper towels.

4. To re-heat: Place the latkes on a cookie sheet and heat in a 400 degree oven until hot.

Apple-Cranberry Ginger Sauce

This is a beautiful garnet-colored tart applesauce. It is a perfect complement for the crispy latkes. The addition of ginger adds a deep citrus spice flavor that balances the vegetables in the latke.

6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1-cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/3 cup sugar
1 whole cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons chopped crystallized ginger
½ cup apple cider or juice
Pinch of kosher salt

1. Place all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Cook uncovered over medium heat until the cranberries pop. Continue cooking until the excess moisture evaporates. Remove the cinnamon stick and stir to combine. The applesauce may be stored covered in the refrigerator for up to one week or frozen for up to 2 months.

Chef Laura’s Latke-Palooza Variation 1

I was so excited when I wrote this recipe and even more thrilled once I smelled the latkes sizzling away in the pan. This latke variation is so good and savory that you will want to make these all year round. I served them with a slow cooked pot roast and the Apple-Cranberry Ginger Sauce, of course.

1 ½ pounds Russet potatoes, peeled and shredded (after shredding the potatoes, place them in a large bowl with ice water-they won’t oxidize and turn rust colored)
Neutrally flavored oil for frying (I prefer canola)
1 large Spanish onion, peeled and grated
2 medium parsnips, peeled and shredded
1 medium carrot, peeled and shredded
¼ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1 clove garlic, finely minced
3 egg whites, beaten with a whisk until frothy
3-6 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper

1. Place the shredded potatoes, parsnips and carrots in a large clean towel and squeeze out all of the moisture; make sure the vegetables are completely dry.

2. Place all of the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and add the vegetables. Mix all of the ingredients together until thoroughly combined. The mix should be slightly wet and holding together. If not, add a little more flour.

3. Heat a large skillet with 1-½ inches of oil. Drop spoonfuls of latke batter into the oil. Flatten it slightly with the back of a spoon. Brown the latkes on both sides. Remove to a platter lined with paper towels.

4. To re-heat: Place the latkes on a cookie sheet and heat in a 400 degree oven until hot.

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