Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Amazing Green Latkes

Ever heard of a GREEN latke? And no - I don't mean the one that fell behind a cabinet last Chanukah and has been there ever since (it having been missed during cleaning for Pesah). Well if not, then read on, or stop by my house if you're in town to taste one.

It's not really Chanukah around our house without both lotsa latkes and REAL sufganiyot. Both are a bit hard to come by where I live, unless you make them yourself or have friends who do.

We do have two kosher bakeries here, both selling jelly doughnuts. But one makes them by simply deep frying bread dough (how very, er, um, clever). The other, our local King Soopers grocery store bakery, makes decent U.S.- style "bismarks" but they're dairy. Oh, and our kosher grocery does get them from somewhere "back East," but considering that their Chanukah cookies this year were the consistency of a hockey puck, one is reluctant to trust the doughnuts.

As for the latkes, we can get them commercially but: think either frozen, or flat and often with enough oil infused to fuel a good size Chanukiah (Chanukah menorah).
Roll Your Own

So the answer, my friend, is simple: you gotta learn to roll your own. The recipe I use is pretty much the classic, but the secret is in the technique.

To make about 20-24 latkes I use roughly five pounds of potatoes. This year we bought a big bag of BIG potatoes (see photo), weighing about a pound each, so that meant only five potatoes to peel per recipe. With smaller spuds you'd need more. To the five pounds of potatoes I add one onion, and we also used BIG onions, also weighing nearly a pound each, so we only needed one.

Now here comes the technique: I run the potatoes through the food processor (I'm using the standard grating blade on my Cuisinart, not the fine grater). Then I drain them, squeeze out liquid as much as a I can, and run them through the processor a second time! Using the fine grater, you see, would result in long fine strands. This technique results in shorter pieces, but finer than what you'd use for hash browns, for instance.

Finally, the onion gets run through the processor (just once is enough) and added to the potatoes. Into the mix go two eggs, a half cup of flour, a teaspoon of salt (coarse 'kosher' salt is best), and a quarter teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper (okay, from a jar is almost as good). 
Fry Baby Fry

Now for the next secret. Most people simply don't use deep enough oil when they make their latkes. The trick to big puffy latkes, instead of flat and sometimes oil-laden ones, is to deep fry them, almost as if you were making real french fried potatoes, rather than pan frying them. Use enough oil - I generally use Canola oil - to just about let the latkes float in the frying pan as they cook.

The temperature of the oil is also important. To high and the outside burns while the inside stays raw. Too low and they never get brown enough, and get really greasy.
Finally when ready I drain my latkes on a couple of thicknesses of paper toweling, then actually stand them on end on fresh paper towels. The latkes are now ready to serve, or perhaps to stick in the oven (remember to take the paper towel out of the pan, please) until your guests arrive. They can even be frozen, or refrigerated a few days, and re-crisped as you heat them in a hot oven.

Going Green

Aha, you were wondering ... what about the promised "green latkes"? My better half, the inveterate Jewish blogger Lady Light, loves green latkes, and the trick to making them is so simple its almost silly.

You simply take a small can (it says 13.5 ounces on the one I used my recently) of spinach, or a box of defrosted frozen chopped spinach, (or if you want you could certainly cook and chop your own easily enough). Squeeze out the liquid as best you can. Then mix the spinach with a bit less than half the latke batter from five pounds of potatoes.

The spinach latke mix is cooked just the same as regular latkes, although the results are of course a bit darker and a bit green. If done properly, the result should be about a dozen spinach latkes and a dozen regular latkes (which is enough for only about six people around my place, which means making FOUR recipes to serve to the couple of dozen guests expected for our Chaunkah party), ready to be topped with your choice of applesauce or sour cream.

A Chanukah feast: 
Regular latkes joined by the Kosher Kook's Amazing Green Latkes

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