11 December 2007

The Sun's as Warm as a Baked Potato

The king returned tonight to the ABS kitchen, this time in the form of one of my favorite Jewish traditions: latkes. Hanukkah came around early this year, smugly plunking itself down in the eight most hectic nights of my school year: smack dab in the middle of both the last week of class and my entire exam schedule (exams also came early for me this year). My brain right now feels as deep fried and smushed as, well, potato pancakes, really.

I've been in the kitchen before when latkes were made, usually when my dad's family visited for one of the holidays. Hanukkah and Passover, though, were always spent up at my aunt's house, an hour and a half drive up the turnpike into Amish country. My aunt always invited friends from her Synagogue to join us. Most times they were cool – I remember one couple who leapt up on the spur of the moment and just started waltzing – and sometimes they were just… eccentric – like the one who put a (hopefully unloaded) gun on the Seder plate for… who knows what symbolic purpose. Back in those days, I was less interested in food than I was in Nerf guns, or Cannibal the Musical(the title is a quote from the theme song, btw),or any other excuse to escape the weird and wonderful adult society downstairs for the equally madcap world of the cousins upstairs. I know I'm mixing holidays, talking about Hanukkah and Passover in one breath, but I remember less of the actual ceremonies than I do of the people, who are stubbornly refusing to fall into any sort of calendar organization. Although I wasn't as into it at the time, though, the good food is now the part that I want to connect to.

As I said, I've seen latkes made and eaten them fresh from the family kitchen. And I've certainly harped to my friends when the dining hall attempts them (always soggy from those unforgiving steam trays). But. This was the first attempt. And I decided to try them with our leftover sweet potatoes, which are juicier than regular potatoes, requiring more brain cohesion than I've got right now to keep them the right shape. I forgot (though I will never again) that cast iron skillet handles get HOT. I relearned this when I tried to faithfully follow the mash-up of online recipes I'd found, which told me this step was very important. Well, yes, important to add more oil and butter each time, as that wears off, but important to have a spiffy, clean pan? No, that can only end in tears (or a very firm jaw clenching to stave them off, followed by cold water). And besides, I didn't find that my latkes stuck any more often with a dirty pan, so I just couldn't see the point. Oy vey. That's enough griping from the peanut gallery, I'll let you get on to the sweet stuff.

Sweet Potato Latkes

(recipe cobbled together from these two at Epicurious.com)

Things you can snitch from the dining hall:

6 tablespoons butter

½ cup shredded onion

Things you will probably have to buy:

2 large sweet potatoes

2 large eggs

3 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon pepper

2 teaspoons salt

6 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil

  1. Using a cheese grater, coarsely grate the sweet potatoes. Chop the onions to roughly the same size as the potato peelings. Combine both in a colander and press out as much liquid as possible.
  2. Whisk together the eggs, flour, and spices.
  3. By hand, work together the drained potato mixture and the egg-flour mixture until mostly mixed, just on the edge of totally mushy. (This process is called 'goozing' in my family.) You should still be able to see individual potato peelings.
  4. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat until all the butter is liquefied.
  5. Press goozed potato mixture into a ¼ cup measuring cup, then plop down directly into the boiling oil. Flatten with a slotted spatula.
  6. Fry the latkes for 5 minutes per side, flattening them again (to get out excess moisture) with a spatula when you flip them.
  7. Cool latkes on a paper towel to absorb excess cooking oil.
  8. Add a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of oil after every batch of latkes.
  9. Serve as they are cooked, hot, or reheat in the toaster oven on warm for later. These sweet potato versions go great with a saltier dip like Ranch dressing, French onion dip, or Salsa


1 comment:

Patricia Scarpin said...

Olivia, I have seen latkes on some of the best blogs and websites but hever never tried them - yours look delicious!