Oy! It’s Hanukkah already and though I’ve been waiting patiently for a nice Jewish grandmother to adopt me, she hasn’t come forward yet. Cornelius suggested we should just go ahead and make our own latkes while we’re waiting.
Mmmm, latkes — the mere thought of crisp, golden potato pancakes with dabs of sour cream and applesauce makes my mouth water. I can picture mothers and grandmothers busy in the kitchen preparing their special recipes for loved ones, happy families gathered around the table eager to try the latkes first despite all the other delicious dishes being served. And why not? Latkes are irresistible and so comforting, a perfect ode to oil for the Festival of Lights!
Since I really wanted to impress any grandmotherly prospects, I decided to forego the classic white potatoes recipe in favor of something a little different. Actually, I got a special request from poet friend Gail Gerwin to share the Sweet Potato-Apple Latkes recipe from The Apple Lover’s Cookbook which I reviewed recently. I was only too happy to oblige, despite the fact that Gail is too young to be my grandmother (she’s a terrific cook, though, if you remember the delicious Stuffed Cabbage she made for Passover Seder this past April).
If you’ve ever made potato pancakes before, you know you have to be careful about extracting as much moisture from the potatoes as possible, and it can get pretty labor intensive if you opt to grate the potatoes by hand with a box shredder.
With Amy Traverso’s Sweet Potato-Apple Latkes recipe, you don’t have to worry about either of these things. “Because sweet potatoes contain less water than regular baking potatoes, you can grate them in the food processor without worrying about their releasing too much liquid.”
And, if you happen to have an elvish-leprechaun-sous chef around who’s adept at peeling potatoes and shallots and coring apples, you’ve pretty much got it made.
Oh, the wonders of a food processor with a medium grating disk! After shredding the potatoes, apples and shallots, you just toss them together in a big bowl, mix in the eggs, matzo meal and seasonings, and you’re ready to fry, baby, fry!
Amy offers a nice suggestion for keeping at least one of your hands clean — scooping 1/4 cup of the potato pancake mixture onto a wide spatula where you can shape it into a patty before gently sliding it into the hot oil. This is a good example of why I like Amy’s recipes so much — each step is explained clearly and succinctly, evidence that everything has been thought through and tested with care and diligence to make it easy even for novice cooks to achieve the desired results.
These are delicious warm with your choice of toppings. Leprechaun Len really loved them, said they were also good at room temperature and kept asking for more. Of course with apples and sweet potatoes you get wonderful texture; truly a nice mix of those tart Granny Smiths with the subtle sweetness of the potatoes and that snappy oniony bite of the shallots — and with a little applesauce on it, total yum! These babies are a meal in themselves; the recipe makes alotta latkes so we froze some for later. All we have to do when we’re ready to eat more is crisp them in the oven for about 20 minutes.
SWEET POTATO-APPLE LATKES
(makes 25 to 30 latkes)
2 pounds (900 g) Garnet or Jewel sweet potatoes
3 large firm-tart apples (about 1-1/2 pounds total; unpeeled, cored, and quartered lengthwise)
8 medium shallots (7 ounces or 200 g)
6 large eggs, beaten
1 cup (130 g) matzo meal
1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil for frying
Sour Cream and Applesauce for garnish
1. Using the coarse side of a box grater or a food processor fitted with a medium grating disk, grate the potatoes, apples and shallots. Toss together in a large bowl. Add the eggs, matzo meal, salt, and pepper and toss to mix well.
2. Preheat the oven to 200°F. Pour 3/4 inch of oil into a skillet over medium-high heat. When the temperature reaches 370°F, scoop 1/4 cup potato mixture from the bowl, then gently drop the mixture onto a wide spatula (the point here is to keep your hands as clean as possible). Press into a patty about 1/3 inch thick with your hand, then gently slide the pancake into hot oil. Cook three or four pancakes at a time (do not crowd the pan) until the edges are crispy and well browned and the undersides are golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Gently turn and cook until the other sides are golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes longer.
3. Transfer the pancakes to paper towels to drain briefly, then arrange in a single layer on baking sheets and keep warm in the oven while you cook the remaining pancakes. Serve hot, with sour cream and applesauce.
FIRM-TART APPLE SUGGESTIONS: Rhode Island Greening, Rome, Suncrisp, Granny Smith
NOTE: Keep the oil at about 370°F while frying to prevent latkes from turning greasy. Check the heat with a candy thermometer (most quick-read thermometers don’t go high enough) and adjust accordingly.
MAKE AHEAD TIP: If making ahead, cool the latkes to room temperature, then freeze in zip-top bags. Re-crisp in a 325°F oven for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.
~ Adapted from The Apple Lover’s Cookbook by Amy Traverso (W.W. Norton & Co., 2011), p. 117
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“Bubbe, can you hear me?”
I hope you give these a try, whether you celebrate Hanukkah or not. Who needs an excuse for potato pancakes?
Gail (or anyone else), if you know a Jewish someone who’d like to adopt a nice, mostly well-behaved, soup-loving, alphabetically arranged granddaughter, please call.
♥ HAPPY HANUKKAH, FRIENDS!! ♥
♥ Love Me Some Latkes, Part Two, featuring my favorite latke picture books, coming soon!
Love to all,
Jama Cohen Bernstein
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This post is being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food-related posts. Put on your bibs and come join the fun!
*Handcrafted Metal Tree Menorah available through Greenfield Judaica.
Copyright © 2012 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.