The first night of Hanukkah is...yikes!...tomorrow. Friday, December 11th. Did I mention YIKES?
I mean, sure, I'm not ready present-wise. And I don't have enough candles to get us through more than a day or two. (Especially since we light a minimum of three menorahs: one is mine and Baroy's, one is Em's, one is N's.) But, really, that yikes is about latkes. Specifically, the fact that I don't know when I'm going to be able to make them. And IT IS NOT HANUKKAH until I have eaten myself sick on latkes. Latkes that I have made myself. With applesauce that I have made myself.
(Yes. It's all about me.)
But, hey. The fact that I'm so overwhelmed by life that I haven't managed to schedule the making of latkes, much less done any actual making of latkes...that shouldn't impact you guys. Or at least not beyond the lack of cool latke-related photos on this post. (Sorry.)
And so, let's talk latkes.
Now, making latkes? Ridiculously easy. There are fancy latke recipes out there (relatively speaking), but me, I'm a simple kind of gal. In fact, you can't even really call this a recipe; what follows is really a list of obvious ingredients, and some tips on how to make the process of latke-izing as painless (and delicious) as possible.
OK. So. First, let's talk potatoes. I am almost embarrassed to admit that, until a year or so ago, it never occurred to me that there was an easier way to do latkes than the spend-seventeen-hour-peeling-russets routine. Now? I'm all about the Yukon golds, or just plain old white potatoes. Because, dude! You don't have to peel! The skins on these potatoes are so thin, you can just grate them into the batter along with the potatoes themselves (after cleaning well, of course). It cuts the latke-making time down to almost nothing! Trust me. It's totally worth it.
Now, let's talk proportions. My mom taught me to make latkes, and she told me to use a more-or-less four-to-one ratio of potatoes to onions. But the potatoes she used were huge russets, whereas the potatoes I use, well, we just talked about that. So I just sort of eye it; I probably use about one small onion (or half of a larger one) for every six to eight potatoes I put through the food processor.
On to the actual making. First, wash the potatoes. Next, grate them. What I do is put a bunch of potatoes and the onion through the grater apparatus on my food processor, then put aside about half of the coarsely grated mixture into a collander, so the liquid can drip off and the batter will be less runny. I take the other half and put it through the food processor again, using the blender blade (if that's what it's called, the blade that sits on the bottom of the mixing bowl) to turn that half of the batch almost into a puree.
Once that's done, mix the two halves of the potato-onion batter together in a large bowl, adding in one already-beaten egg.
Next, add enough flour to firm up the batter, and then season with kosher salt (I prefer kosher salt for cooking) and pepper (if you like to give your latkes a little kick) to taste.
As you're doing these last couple of steps, you'll want heat a quarter-inch or so of oil (the more neutral the oil, the better; I prefer canola) in one or more skillets. When the oil is hot, drop the batter in by large spoonfuls; turn the latkes once, when the edges start to brown, adding more oil as needed.
Remove cooked latkes from skillet and place on a plate or platter lined with at least two layers of paper towel; cover each single layer of latkes with another layer or two of paper towels, to soak up excess oil. Serve hot, or freeze in single layers on cookie sheets lined with wax paper; once the latkes are frozen, they can be put into plastic bags and stored pretty much indefinitely. (God, I wish I'd done this a few weeks ago. I'd be all ready now!) When you're ready to serve them, pop them into the oven on the same cookie sheets at 300 degrees or so, until warm and crisp.
And that's pretty much it. Or, rather, that's almost it.
If you know anything about latkes, you know what I'm going to ask: Applesauce, sour cream, or both? You already know my answer. (And no, it's not "both." One does not adulterate the perfection that is homemade applesauce...not even with the creamy near-perfection of sour cream.) But you might (I shudder to think) have a different opinion. And so I ask...When it comes to latke accompaniment, what's your pleasure?
And to all who celebrate, via latkes, presents, or prayers: Happy Hanukkah. May your days and nights be a feast of lights.