As a child, Hanukkah was one of my favorite holidays. We would all gather in the living room, with our menorah’s lined up in a row on the windowsill, singing songs and lighting the candles. Unfortunately, my parents did not believe in eight nights of presents, although we usually got at least one really awesome gift.
Yet, what my family lacked in gifts, we made up in food. Lots of delicious but oily, Hanukkah fare. We eat a lot of oily foods to celebrate the miracle of Hanukkah, where a one-day supply of oil burned for eight nights. The traditional favorite: potato latkes, fried potato pancakes.
My Grandparents made the thinnest, crispiest latkes I have ever tasted. It was really a two person activity; my Grandfather was the muscle, and he hand grated each potato and onion. While my Grandmother would season, form the mixture into a patty, and then fry them up in a cast iron frying pan. Afterwards, she layered them on kitchen paper, so that the excess oil would drain away. The result was a thin potato pancake, perfectly seasoned and not over the top oily.
Over the years, latkes have undergone a culinary makeover. There are chipotle- jalapeno latkes with chipotle sour cream, spinach & feta potato latkes, sweet potato apple latkes, celery root parsnip latkes, even samosa latkes.
As exciting as some of these ingredients are, I’m more of a traditionalist when it comes to latkes. It also helped that my kids really love simple, fried potato pancakes. The only difference is that, in our home, I’ve embraced modern technology and use a food processor to grate the potatoes and onions.
This recipe for Killer Potato Pancakes in Food & Wine magazine is reminiscent of my Grandparents little kitchen in Queens, New York. And when I make these latkes for my kids, I’m passing down the tradition to the next generation.
Wishing all those celebrating a very Happy Hanukkah!