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Vodka & Latke Party recipes |

Vodka & Latke Party recipes

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The Jonath family’s huge annual Vodka Latke Party relies on a few simple tricks: Do-ahead latkes and a communal approach to the dinner, in this case a big wine-braised brisket, courtesy of Oakland’s Eat Real Festival founder and Belcampo CEO Anya Fernald, and desserts provided by guests.

Leslie Jonath, author of the new “Feed Your People” (Powerhouse Books, $40), and her mother Suzanne begin the prep work well ahead of time. “Suzanne is a strong advocate of the freeze-ahead method for latkes,” Leslie explains in the book. “She makes one 50-latke batch at a time, freezes them and then reheats them in the oven the day of the party.”

Fifty latkes may sound like a lot, but each guest will likely eat four to six, topped with applesauce, sour cream or other toppings. So double this latke recipe to serve 10 to 12 people. One more tip: As anyone who has ever worked with potatoes can tell you, grated potatoes turn an unpleasant shade of gray very quickly. The crushed vitamin C tablet in this recipe helps prevent that.

The “Feed Your People” brisket recipe, which also appears in Anya Fernald’s “Home Cooked” cookbook, can be made ahead, too. Both the brisket and braising liquid can be refrigerated, covered, for up to two days, or frozen — unsliced — for up to two months.

“I love to serve brisket,” Fernald says, “because it’s a relatively affordable cut that, when braised, turns out to be a delicious, inexpensive main dish.”

And it’s perfect with latkes.

Latkes are the centerpiece of Leslie Jonath’s annual Vodka and Latke Party. (Photos courtesy Molly DeCoudreaux)

Suzanne Jonath’s Potato Latkes

Makes 25 pancakes


1 tablet vitamin C

2 tablespoons boiling water

2½ pounds russet baking potatoes

1 yellow onion, cut into 2-inch pieces

2 tablespoons matzo meal

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon baking powder

Canola oil, for frying

Sour cream, applesauce for serving


  1. Crush the vitamin C tablet to a powder, using a mortar and pestle or on a cutting board with a heavy saucepan. (The acid in the vitamin C is used here to prevent the potatoes from browning.) Transfer to a small heatproof bowl and stir in the boiling water. Let cool.
  2. Peel the potatoes and cut into 2-inch pieces. Fit your food processor with the shredding attachment and, working in batches, shred the potatoes. Remove the shredded potatoes from the bowl and fit the processor with the blade attachment. Again working in batches, return the shredded potatoes to the bowl and pulse until they are the size of rice grains. Transfer the finely chopped potatoes to a large bowl (or two bowls if making a double batch), add the vitamin C mixture and toss to combine.
  3. Let the potato mixture stand for about 10 minutes until some liquid is released and the starch has settled into a thick paste at the bottom. Drain off the liquid, leaving behind the starch at the bottom. Stir the starch back into the potatoes, mixing well.
  4. Fit the processor with the shredding attachment and shred the onions. Remove the onions from the bowl and fit the processor with the blade attachment. Return the shredded onions to the bowl and pulse until they are the size of rice grains. Add the onions to the potato mixture along with the matzo meal, eggs, salt and baking powder, and stir until incorporated.
  5. Line two half-sheet pans with a double thickness of paper towels. If serving the latkes immediately, position racks in the top third and center of the oven and heat to 200 degrees. Have two additional sheet pans ready for the oven.
  6. Heat two large skillets over medium-high heat. Pour oil into the skillets to a depth of ¼ to ½ inch and heat until hot, but not shimmering. (Suzanne’s trick for checking the temperature is to put the end of a wooden chopstick in the oil; if bubbles quickly form around the tip, the oil is ready.) Using a soup spoon and allowing about 2 generous tablespoons per pancake, spoon the potato mixture into the hot oil. If you see liquid in the spoon as you scoop, drain the liquid back into the bowl from the spoon before adding the potato mixture to the oil. Do not crowd the pan or the latkes will give off too much steam, inhibiting crisping. Flatten the cakes slightly with the back of the spoon, then fry, turning once, until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Using a spatula, transfer the latkes to a paper towel-lined sheet pan to drain for a couple of minutes, keeping them in a single layer. Then move the latkes to an unlined sheet pan and keep warm in the oven for up to 1 hour.
  7. Repeat with remaining potato mixture, replenishing the oil as needed to maintain the same depth throughout cooking and bringing the oil back up to temperature between batches. Use a wire skimmer or slotted spoon to remove any burned bits from the oil before adding a new batch. Serve the latkes warm with sour cream and applesauce on the side.
  8. To make ahead: Let the latkes cool completely, then freeze them in a single layer until solid, about 1 hour. Transfer them to zip-top freezer bags, separating the latkes with parchment paper, and freeze for up to three months. When ready to serve, heat oven to 450 degrees. Arrange latkes in a single layer on half-sheet pans and thaw at room temperature for about 15 minutes, then bake until sizzling and crisp, 5 to 10 minutes (or 15 to 20 minutes, if you don’t have time to thaw them).
Brisket is a crowd-pleasing entree for any party, says Leslie Jonath in the new “Feed Your People” cookbook.

Anya Fernald’s Wine-Braised Brisket

Serves 6


5 pound first-cut beef brisket

Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper

1 large red onion, cut into 8 wedges

2 fresh rosemary sprigs

2 cloves

4 juniper berries

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

750-ml bottle hearty red wine


  1. Heat the oven to 300 degrees. If necessary, trim the fat cap on the brisket to about ¼-inch thick. Generously season both sides with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over high heat. When the pan is very hot, add the brisket, fat side down, and sear until deep golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Flip the brisket and sear the second side until brown, 5 to 6 minutes. (If the brisket is too large for your largest skillet, brown the brisket in a roasting pan spanning two burners.)
  3. Transfer the brisket to a large roasting pan. Add the onions, rosemary, cloves, juniper berries and peppercorns. Pour in the wine, then add water as needed for the liquid to reach halfway up the size of the brisket. Tightly cover the pan with aluminum foil, and place in hot oven.
  4. Braise until the brisket is fork-tender but not falling apart, 3 to 3½ hours. Remove from oven.
  5. Carefully transfer the brisket to a sheet pan. Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees. When the oven has reached temperature, place the sheet pan in the oven and bake until a dark brown crust begins to form on the meat, about 20 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, pour the braising liquid through a fine-mesh sieve into a clear measuring cup; discard the solids. Using a large spoon, skim off and discard any fat from the surface. If the braising liquid is not as reduced as you would like, transfer it to a saucepan, bring it to a boil over medium heat, and boil it until the liquid has reduced and thickened. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. When the brisket is ready, transfer it to a cutting board and cut it against the grain into ½-inch thick slices. Arrange the slices on a platter and spoon some of the braising liquid on top. Pour the remaining liquid into a pitcher or bowl to serve on the side.

— Excerpted from “Feed Your People: Big-Batch, Big-Hearted Cooking and Recipes to Gather Around” by Leslie Jonath with 18 Reasons, Powerhouse Books, 2018 

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