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Archive for January, 2011

(31) Crazy Nights

The holidays are a busy time for everyone. So, since I was off in the city taking finals and everyone else was so caught up with, well, Christmas preparations, it’s easy to see how an eight-day holiday might be celebrated on the 31st rather than the 1st. To be honest, we did light the candles. And we said a prayer over them. And Francesca explained the importance of the Shammash (it’s a big helper, just like her) as Isabella blasted Candlelight. But I had an English final to write, and so we were forced to neglect the most important part of the Hanukkah celebrations. The potatoes sat lonely and unpeeled, the oil remained in its container, and there was no mess on the stove or the microplane. Yes, our grand Potato Pancake Plans had been foiled by the cruel march of time. It was a real snub to half my heritage.

That night as I nestled all snug in my bed, visions of latkes danced in my head. And over the following weeks I couldn’t shake the sad feeling that something was missing from my December. The potatoes were calling to me. Honestly.

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I need therapy.

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But when New Years Eve finally rolled around and mommy was planning a menu for our quiet New Years evening of Munchies and Mad Men, I seized my opportunity. “Yes, of course I’ll grate the potatoes, Mommy!” I promised. “I’ll do the whole thing myself!” And so she agreed. Because I said I’d do it.

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In my head I was a bit terrified. Grating is so labor intensive, and I have a slight fear of deep frying. But with the strength of the Maccabees behind me (they certainly didn’t have microplanes…) I charged on. And to my surprise and delight, it wasn’t that hard!

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You do have to grate the potatoes on this setting.

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And you’re *supposed* to grate the onions on this setting…

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But you could also just put them in one of these…

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And go until they look like this…

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And so once you’re done with that, all you have to do is mix them with the potatoes, flour, egg and salt to get this beautiful batter.

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And you get these heavenly Hanukkah (or rather New Years) miracles!

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Obviously, you don’t have to be any part Jewish to fall in love with these. Pancakes this style are ubiquitous throughout Europe, and I like to think there’s nobody in this world who doesn’t love fried potatoes. They’re the finest form of simplicity, and they’re great all year round, particularly for celebrations. And yes they make a bit of a mess… but they’re entirely worth it.

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Joyous New Year! We are so happy to have you all as readers, and we can’t wait to share even more with you in 2011.

New Year Latkes (Potato Pancakes)
Adapted from Leah H. Leonard’s Jewish Cookery (1949)

6 Medium Potatoes
1 Medium Onion
2 Eggs
1/2 Cup Flour
1 Teaspoon Salt
Vegetable oil

1. Peel potatoes and grate into a large bowl.
2. Squeeze out the liquid. This is very important. I speak from experience. Recent experience.
3. Peel and finely grate the onion. Or just puree in an immersion blender.
4. Add onion to potatoes, and mix in eggs, flour and salt, and stir to blend.
5. Add enough oil to a wide, heavy frying pan to fully cover pancakes, and heat on high. Drop in a tiny bit of batter as the oil is heating. When the batter begins to sizzle, you know it’s hot enough.
6. When oil is hot, lower stove temperature to medium-high, and drop in batter with a spoon to make pancakes approximately 1/2 inch thick, and 4 inches wide (give or take, it’s all a matter of personal preference)
7. Fry, flipping every few minutes, until both sides are golden brown
8. Lift out with spatula onto plate with paper towels on it. Pat dry and serve immediately.

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