Bad latkes are like bad pizza slices. It’s completely obvious from the first time you lay eyes on them–you don’t even have to take a bite–and you know that the crust will be soft and oddly sweet, the cheese gooey yet tasteless, the sauce from a can. Pitiful, perhaps, but still enjoyable. Bad pizza is still pizza!
Likewise, bad latkes can be bad in a number of ways, but in the end they’re fried potato, and you know what? I’ll probably eat one anyway. It’s one of those deep truths about my personality: I can’t resist a fried potato, not at any time of year.
That was why I was extremely happy when I discovered that Hanukkah was going to come early this year. In mid-November, when I looked up the date, I saw that it would be on December 8th. That meant latkes, and soon. Needless to say, I got frying, testing recipes to make in December.
It wasn’t until Lily, our SKC managing editor, pointed out that Hanukkah started on the 20th that I realized I’d been looking at a 2012 calendar. The fall dates I’ve been playing with for mine and Alex’s wedding are in 2012, and apparently I’d been keeping my personal calendar a year in the future. Yup. I’m worse at wedding planning than even I would have guessed. I alternate between overthinking and refusing to think at all. I’m dying to figure out a way to have a sweet ceremony and a rockin’ party, and I’m dying to figure it out soon, so we can get back to life as usual, in the fall of 2011.
For me, life as usual definitely does include frying latkes. What it doesn’t include are rollicking latke parties, because it’s really not that much fun to stand in front of the stove, frying and flipping for what seems like forever, while the latkes mysteriously disappear from the serving platter, which I really can’t object to that much because good latkes should be eaten immediately: no making ahead and reheating later. Come on!
That’s why my favorite way to celebrate Hanukkah is at home with Alex. I make just enough latkes for the two of us to overeat slightly, and then I pair the pancakes with a light main course that’ll leave us feeling like we actually ate dinner, not just gorged ourselves on greasy hors d’ouevres.
We’ve already got my mom’s recipe up on the blog from two years ago. If you’re looking for classic go check them out.
This year, I tricked out the latkes, adding my favorite mash-up of root vegetables: parsnip, celeriac, and kabocha squash. The result is a batch of latkes that feel like they’ve been to the farmers’ market. They’re less starchy and more vegetable-y tasting, but they still feature that prized crispiness in every last free-flying shard of potato (or parsnip or squash). They’re best eaten at home on a Sunday night, during Hanukkah or before it, with the windows wide open, and someone you like a lot.
From my kitchen, frying latkes for two, to yours,
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Root Vegetable Latkes
Serve these with shortcut applesauce.
2 baking potato (16 oz)
2 small parsnip (8 oz), trimmed and peeled
2 small celeriac (10 oz), peeled
1 small kabocha squash (12 oz), peeled, trimmed, and seeds removed
5 tablespoons flour
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
Oil for frying
Grate the potatoes, parsnip, celeriac, squash and onion into a mixing bowl. The potato will oxidize, so if possible keep it at the bottom of your bowl, covered by the other vegetables. Add the salt and the eggs, then stir in the flour. If the batter still seems too liquid, add another tablespoon or so of flour.
Heat about a 1/2 inch of oil in a large, cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat for at least 5 minutes. Add a few shreds of the mixture; when it starts sizzling, you’re good to go.
Form latkes out of about 1/4 cup of batter, draining off excess liquid as you work. Fry for 3-4 minutes, then flip and fry on the second side. Let rest on paper towels until ready to eat, reheating in the oven if they’ve gotten cold.
You do want to try the very first pancake to be sure you’ve salted it correctly. If the pancakes are cooking too slowly, they’ll absorb a lot of oil and be greasy, so monitor the heat level the whole time, adjusting as needed.
Serve with applesauce (shortcut) or otherwise.