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Secrets to making the perfect latke |

Secrets to making the perfect latke

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Vermont resident and baker Gesine Prado hosts new show that debuts Saturday on the Food Network.
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Food symbols are central to most Jewish holidays: matzo for Passover, apples and honey for New Year, hammentashen (tricorner pastries) for Purim, cheesecake for Shavous and sizzling latkes (potato pancakes) for Hanukkah, which begins at sundown on Tuesday and lasts eight days.

Latkes are a combination of grated potatoes and onion, eggs, flour, bread crumbs or matzo meal, seasonings shaped into pancakes and fried in oil. Oil is the symbol, so “lite” latkes don’t qualify. Food processors revolutionized the process. No more grated knuckles.

Latkes have inspired legend and humor because they can be leaden or luscious. Jokes center around whose granny makes the best latkes – because everybody’s granny makes the best latkes.

Actually, I make the best latkes, or so my grandsons say. This accomplishment requires a few tricks honed over many Hanukkahs which I gladly share every few years.

Choose thin-skinned potatoes like Yukon gold. Peeling is optional – I don’t, since potato skins have flavor and nutrients. Wash potatoes thoroughly, remove any blemishes and cut into chunks. Fill a large basin with cold water, add the juice of a lemon and the squeezed lemon itself. Soak potato chunks in water several hours. This keeps them from graying – the cardinal latke sin.

Drain potato chunks and dry well on a terry towel.

Before grating with onions in processor (use grating blade) have everything ready, including one or more skillets containing about ½ inch vegetable oil.

Grate potatoes and onions in batches. Scrape into a big bowl, toss with juice of a another lemon (adds sparkle to the latkes), the eggs, salt, pepper and a binder. I much prefer matzo meal to flour or bread crumbs. Start frying immediately; press down to keep latkes fairly thin. A latke maestro can keep two or three skillets going at once.

Overbrown rather than underbrown. Don’t want the potatoes to taste raw.

Drain latkes on brown paper bags or paper towels. When the batch is done, reheat quickly in a single layer, in a hot oven.

Applesauce and sour cream are the traditional toppers. I save a jar of homemade cranberry applesauce from Thanksgiving — superb on latkes. Or, chop green onion, parsley and celery leaves in processor. Stir into sour cream, along with freshly ground black pepper.

In a pinch, make “lazy latkes” by buzzing potatoes, onions, eggs, lemon juice and a spoonful of matzo meal in blender. Batter produces latkes of a different texture but the same excellent flavor.

For this problem I have no solution: The aroma of latkes frying in hot oil lingers for hours, if not days. At least it’s a happy smell.

Contact Debbie Salomon at debsalomon@nc.rr.com

Category: Skillets  Tags: ,  Comments off
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