How To Avoid Latke Fatigue
Tonight will be the fifth night of Hanukkah, meaning I’m right on schedule. I have entered into the arena of latke fatigue — and perhaps you have to. It’s at this point in the holiday that I have had more than one too many classic, plain potato latkes. Many of them were delicious, made up of layers of pillowy shredded potatoes surrounded by perfectly crisp and crackly edges. But, at this point, both my mind and my palate are coated in a thick layer of oil and are in need of something new — a flavor to temper the richness of all the oil. If I were a chef on a cook-off show, this is when I would reach for the “acid,” to “balance the flavors.”
To find latke inspiration, I had to leave tradition aside to seek out something different — and, I knew just where to find it. For the past four years, the New York’s Annual Latke Festival has pitted chefs from some of the city’s top restaurants against one another in a latke showdown. This year was no different: 17 chefs took on the challenge to create a latke that would satisfy some 300 guests and a group of judges with some very serious food credentials.
As I sampled each latke, I felt a bit like Goldie Lox, looking for the latke that was just right. I found the perfect balance of flavors in two latkes (recipes below). The chefs behind the café at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, which hosted the event, blended Indian flavors with Ashkenazi tradition in their Indian Spiced Latke with Cauliflower Chutney and Crushed Cashew Nuts. The result was a lightly spiced topping and a delightful crunch from the cashews. (The chutney would make a wonderful topping for rice as well.) Dizzy’s Club, a diner located near by in Park Slope, went retro with their toppings, accompanying their latke with delicate deviled eggs, red onion, parsley and black olive relish, creating a surprisingly zippy latke. Both of these recipes will squash your latke fatigue and carry you through the final four nights. What’s your favorite way to brighten up latkes at the end of the holiday? Share your tips in the comments!
BAM Cafe Indian Spiced Latke with Cauliflower Chutney & Crushed Cashew Nuts
Serves 6 people
For the Latke:
2 pounds of Idaho potatoes
1 large egg
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Peel potatoes and grate them. Squeeze out the excess water from the potatoes.
Add egg and mix. Add flour followed by spice. Pan fry in the clarified butter.
For the Cauliflower Chutney:
2 heads of medium size cauliflower, cut in small pieces
1 large onion, small diced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, minced
3 plum tomatoes, diced
fresh curry leaves
2 tablespoons madras curry powder
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1 cup coconut cream
3 tablespoons blend oil
3 tablespoons cashew nuts, crushed and toasted
Heat up the oil medium high. Add the curry leaves and allow them to toast. Add garlic and ginger and toast for 1 minute. And add onion, followed by curry powder. Toast for a couple minutes. When you smell curry, add tomatoes, salt, and peppers.
Cook for a couple more minutes until tomatoes get soft. Then add coconut milk and cook while the tomatoes are melting. Add cauliflower and mix well. Cook for about 10 minutes until cauliflower is well-cooked. Add cilantro and garnish with cashew nuts.
Dizzy Laid Back Latke: Deviled Eggs, Red Onion, Parsley and Black Olive Relish
For the Latkes:
2 cups peeled and shredded potatoes
1 cup peeled and shredded celery root
4 eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons grated onion
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 pinch nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup canola oil for frying
Place the potatoes and celery root in a cheesecloth and wring out all the moisture.
Stir together remaining ingredients, and set aside until ready to form latkes.
Red onion, parsley and black olive relish
1 cup medium diced red onion, roasted in olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped parsley 3 tablespoons pitted black olives rough chopped
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
zest of 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4 hard-boiled eggs, halved
1 tablespoon chopped parsley 4 tablespoons mayonnaise 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard 1 teaspoon pickle relish salt to taste
Remove the boiled yolks from the eggs, and place in a bowl with the remaining ingredients. Mix well and pipe or spoon into halved eggs.
To assemble the latke:
Over medium heat, fry patties of this mixture until golden brown, flipping as needed. Drain well on a paper towel and top with a dollop of relish and a devilled egg.
"Donniel Hartman said the miracle of Hanukkah is not just that the oil lasted 8 days; it’s actually that it lasted more than one. Would we have said, 'Dayenu,' (to mix metaphors,) if it had lasted two days? Would we have had a holiday? Probably, yes. The idea that we as a Jewish community, even in our darkest moments, hold out the hope that a candle is going to keep burning, I find very powerful."— Rabbi Rachel Ain
"“We would all argue vehemently and work tireless against assimilation. But the Hellenists and we Reform Jews didn’t assimilate. We acculturate, and by doing so, provide a portal for continuity unavailable to those who continue a quasi-ghettoized existence with all the ramifications thereof, good and bad. The irony, rarely mentioned by those who use the Hanukah story to justify Orthodoxy, is that the Maccabees (Hasmoneans) lasted a century and a half before they disappeared, having taken on Greek names as High Priests and Kings. And Rabbinic Judaism, the first ‘reform’ movement, birthed all of us.”"— Rabbi Peter J. Rubinstein