Chanukah is Grate
Happy Chanukah. Mrs. Fussy is surprised I don’t spell it Hanukkah. I mean officially since Hebrew and English have different characters, you can anglicize it however you like. But dammit, the word starts off with the mellifluous back-of-the-throat “ch” sound that some people find difficult to pronounce.
Today is actually the first day of the holiday, even though last night was the first night. That’s how we do it. So officially this post isn’t late. It’s exactly right on time.
Last year I wrote about why this is my favorite holiday. The short answer is that it’s a celebration of fried foods. The most traditional of these, potato latkes, did not really get the attention they deserved. Honestly, it wouldn’t feel like Chanukah without them. And I was recently reminded by my mother of a easy and delicious shortcut to make them on a weeknight with little fuss.
So today, I’m going to share it.
Most of my life, I never really had to worry about making latkes. And that is thanks to two very special people in my life: My mom and ADS.
Although the two of them didn’t quite see eye-to-eye on latke recipes.
As far as I was concerned, my mother’s recipe was unimpeachable. But ADS always gently bristles when he’s reminded of the presence of a small quantity of baking powder. He says that it causes the latkes to rise, or something like that.
His family recipe doesn’t call for it. And much to his credit, his recipe doesn’t use a blender, either.
If you didn’t stop reading at the end of the last sentence, please allow me a moment to explain. Not all blender latkes are created equal. Most are simply gummy and flat, more like fried mashed potatoes. But if you master a couple of simple techniques, they don’t have to be.
Here’s what I do.
I cube up some russet potatoes, skin and all, into a rough centimeter dice.
Using my blender’s markings, I measure three cups.
Then I dump out 2 ½ of those cups to reserve for later (no need to dirty a cup).
I cube up ½ of a small onion and throw that in the blender.
Then I add 2 large eggs, 2T all-purpose flour, 1t kosher salt and ¼t baking powder.
I hit the grate button and watch everything turn into a lumpy paste.
Here’s the critical part. I stop the blender and put in all the remaining potatoes. Then with one finger on the off button and one finger on the grind button, I run the blender just until all of the big chunks pass through the blades. Once it gets moving, it’s faster than you think. Now you’ve got something that looks a lot like oatmeal.
What these latkes are lacking are the tendrils that come from grating potatoes by hand. But those lacy edges can still be achieved when you put your batter in the frying pan. A gentle ¼-cup pour will result in an oddly round and symmetrical latke. But if you take that same measure and shake it with a bit more force into the pan, the batter will scatter, and the result is a more rustic edge.
Just be careful, because that oil is hot and it can scar you for life. At least that’s what my mom told me.
I made these last night after a lengthy latke cooking hiatus which might have lasted over ten years. It was super easy. And now the house smells like Chanukah. I just hope by tomorrow it goes back to smelling like our house.
Maybe I’ll get some frozen latkes this week and just cook them in the oven to help me go through my stash of applesauce and rBGH-free* sour cream. Fried foods are delicious, but I think I’ll continue to enjoy them at restaurants.
And now I can move on to the other foods of the holiday.
* By law producers must note: the FDA has stated that there is no significant difference between milk from rBST-treated and untreated cows.