It’s that time of year again, and guess what that means? It’s latkes time baby.
Here’s the problem (did you notice there’s always a problem?), El senor gastronome over here decided to go on a little of a diet, and by that I mean stopping my gluttonous ways. And of all times, chanukka time, where the only thing that ties all the traditional chanuka food together is oil. So what’s a dieting gastronome to do? Well I figured, I’ll just improvise, and see what happens.
I guess you can call me a potato type of guy, although I’m not really sure how that would come up in conversation, but I’ve been dealing with potatoes ever since I was a baby. I even had a potato as a teething toy, when I was wee infant. Sometimes I feel like I was supposed to be born to a family living in Bucharest harvesting potatoes, because I know my potatoes.
I’m not saying this to be brash, but I’ve been working with potatoes every week for as long as I can remember. My grandmother, who was actually crowned Queen Potato in Buktalarentaza, Hungary (it’s true, look it up…it’s really not, so don’t waste your time), is the one who taught me everything I needed to know to fully master the potato.
When I was about 13 she handed down the secret recipe for her sought after potato kugel (she also won the Potato Kugel “Kukoff” 15 years in a row in Hungary…yeah you can look that up also), and with this recipe I have wowed many a patron to my Shabbos table with this kugel.
However, this recipe is very versatile, and with this “batter” I also make yaptsuk (a slow cooked potato cholent, that we started making every week in place of traditional bean cholent), and of course latkes.
For those who don’t know, latkes are basically grated potatoes with spices, and eggs, fried up in oil. Like I said, these latkes were more about experimenting on how to cut out some fat/calories, and the main way I did that was a lot less oil, and only one egg.
I’ll be honest one of the integral secrets to making an amazing potato kugel/latke is how you grate it. Now if you take a look around the web, you’ll see that everyone uses a hand grater, and when making latkes, they then drain the potatoes of the “water.”
Not in my house.
First of all – the grater. It’s not just any grater, this grater was hand crafted in Eastern Europe somewhere, by a little kid who has no shoes, and lives in an actual cottage.
That’s it over there…it’s very hard to describe, but these things are a prized possession in the Fogel/Altman household. Even if you do lay your hands on one, some are better than others, and it requires a lot of elbow grease. But with this nifty grater, you get more of a mush as opposed to a box grater, and not as fine as a puree that you would get with a food processor.
Once the potatoes are all grated, I poured in some flour, an egg, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder (yes, it’s probably better to use fresh garlic, and an onion, but I was too lazy), and mix it all up.
In the meantime – heat some oil in a skillet, and spoon some potato mixture into it
and let them brown, and flip.
Once ready – as the Maccabes did in ancient times, you must let them drain on a plate with paper towels, while someone somewhere is singing Maoz Tzur.
Now in my mind, that’s what a latke is supposed to look like. Not thin and only crust, but thick with a nice middle, and a firm and crispy crust.
So onto the diet part, was the reduced egg/oil a success? Well if dieting means eating stuff that doesn’t taste the same, then yes.
However, it just wasn’t the same, mainly because I would’ve used a lot more oil. Latkes should be sitting in oil, so the 2 tablespoons that I used did not cut it, and resulted in a crust that done before the inside had a time to cook, and a little more burnt than I would have liked. I also would’ve added another egg, for taste, and for binding purposes.
I also need to make sufganiyot on my brand new deep fryer (thanks Entin’s!) with a caramel (I’m thinking dulce de leche) filling…
Maybe I’ll pause my diet for chanuka.