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My pleas for a wee Christmas tree were answered with “of course we can have a Chanukah bush,” dimly noting that as a child my family’s observance of the Jewish holidays were always about food. Prayer came secondary, or never. Matza ball soup, latkes, and other favorites were staple meals, Jewish holiday or not! So really, there were no Jewish holidays. Just good Jewish food. (And mind you, my father was raised in a Kosher, Orthodox household!)

Just as I was beginning to mope about living with the Grinch (though you wouldn’t catch me running to the Christmas tree farm or splurging for a box of lights – olive oil instead please!), Bobby gave me a festive surprise!

“Happy Chanukah!” he beamed as I entered the kitchen, latkes just underway. Now this was a treat!

We made a makeshift menorah, and struck a match! With a glass of dry Riesling pumped from grapes grown nearby, we gobbled almost every last crunch of latke with a choice of homemade applesauce or sour cream with chives.

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Ever so slightly charred, adds some crunch!
Ever so slightly charred, adds some crunch!

 

Quintessential Chanukah: Latkes

Ingredients

  • about 4 medium potatoes, shredded
  • 2 small onions, finely minced
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • apple sauce, sprinkled with cinnamon
  • for garnish
  • sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon chives

Instructions

  1. Line a plate with paper towel, and keep a few sheets of paper towel nearby.
  2. Shred the potatoes and add to a bowl of cold water as you do so. This will keep them from browning. Prepare the other ingredients and set aside.
  3. Pour the potatoes into a colander and squeeze out any excess water. Transfer the potatoes to a towel, and spread evenly. Add onions as well. Roll the towel up with the potatoes. Grab each end and, over the sink, wring out the towel to release any more excess water into the towel (some might squeeze through).
  4. Transfer potatoes back to the bowl. Add the cornmeal, salt and pepper - mix. Add the eggs and mix again.
  5. Heat a cast iron skillet with about 1/4 inch layer of sunflower oil. Sprinkle with water to see if the oil is hot enough to begin frying the batter. If the water jumps, you're ready!
  6. Add a heaping spoonful of batter to the pan for each latke (about 3 inches in diameter, or the size of a small pancake). Add about 3 at a time. When the edges brown, flip over with a spatula. When both sides are done, transfer the latkes to the paper towel on the plate, and layer another sheet on top for the next round. Continue to do this until the batter is done!
  7. Prepare your sauces. Mix the chives and sour cream, and sprinkle cinnamon over applesauce in a bowl.
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