Guest Elle Cosimano Shares Traditional Chanukkah Potato Latkes

Elle Cosimano

I’m guest-host pinch hitting for poor Mary, who was conscious only long enough to send me Elle’s post.  You can read about our guest in her own words, and stick around to learn the REAL way of making latkes.  I say real because my way consists of opening a box and pouring out a mix.  My Nana would NOT be proud.  Comment to win a dubious prize.  🙂

 

Shalom, Elle!
A Great Miracle Happened There
If you ask most people, they may know Hanukkah is a Jewish celebration. Many may even recognize the menorah and the dreidel — two symbols associated with the Festival of Light. But most probably don’t know the connection these symbols have to each other, or why Jewish families eat foods fried in oil during this special time of year.

The sides of the spinning top, called a “dreidel”, contain four letters of the Hebrew alphabet: נ (Nun), ג (Gimel), ה (Hei), ש (Shin), which together form the acronym for “נס גדול היה שם” (Nes Gadol Hayah Sham – “a great miracle happened there”). The miracle dates back to 167 BCE, when Antiochus ordered an altar to Zeus be erected in the Jewish Temple of Jerusalem. Judah Maccabee and his brothers led a revolt against Antiochus, and after two years, were successful in liberating The Temple. After The Temple was cleansed and rededicated, olive oil was needed, as the candles of the menorah in The Temple were required to remain lit each night. There was only enough oil to last one night, but by a great miracle, the menorah remained lit for eight  — just enough time to produce the oil needed to keep the lights burning.
It is this miracle we celebrate on Hanukkah. This is the reason we light a special menorah, called a Hanukkiah. The Hanukkah menorah bears eight candles, one for each night the oil burned at The Temple.

Come light the menorah

And here is where oil becomes the key ingredient in all great Hanukkah celebrations! It is customary to eat foods fried in oil as a way of celebrating the miracle that happened in The Temple. Potato Latkes (potato pancakes fried in oil), are the most widely recognized Hanukkah treat. But you may not know that jelly donuts, or sufganiyot (which are pastries fried in oil), are also enjoyed in many Jewish homes during Hanukkah.
Personally, I indulge in both! As I share this story with you, and the customs from my own kitchen, I am reminded of a Jewish teaching: The reason for the Hanukkah lights is not for the “lighting of the house within”, but rather for the “illumination of the house without.”
And now that you have an understanding of the Hanukkah traditions, I will share with you my family’s favorite recipe for Potato Latkes.
Enjoy.
 Kagor at the Ukrainian language Wikipedia
Potato Latkes
Serves 8-12
8 medium potatoes, peeled
1 medium onion
lemon juice
1 cup flour (or rice flour may be substituted)
1 cup milk
1 egg
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/8/ cup melted butter
fresh grated nutmeg
salt & pepper
applesauce (optional topping, served on side)
sour cream (optional topping, served on side)

Grate potatoes and onions in a large hole grater.
Splash with lemon juice and squeeze out the water.
Mix flour, milk, egg, baking powder, and nutmeg. Add to potatoes.
Add melted butter.

Heat peanut oil in skillet and fry until golden on one side. Flip and repeat.

Serve with sides of applesauce and sour cream which make be used as toppings.
Thanks, Elle… I definitely need to try this one.  So remember that mix from a box I mentioned earlier?  Yeah.  I’m giving away a couple of them to a lucky (or unlucky?) commenter.  Tell me about your first exposure to Jewish foods.   Or let me know about any latke variations you’ve had. 
Traditional Hanukkah Potato Latkes
Recipe Type: Traditional
Cuisine: Side Dish
Author: Elle Cosimano | Chicklets in the Kitchen
Serves: 8-12
Ingredients
  • 8 medium potatoes, peeled
  • 1 medium onion
  • lemon juice
  • 1 cup flour (or rice flour may be substituted)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/8/ cup melted butter
  • fresh grated nutmeg
  • salt & pepper
  • applesauce (optional topping, served on side)
  • sour cream (optional topping, served on side)
Instructions
  1. Grate potatoes and onions in a large hole grater.
  2. Splash with lemon juice and squeeze out the water.
  3. Mix flour, milk, egg, baking powder, and nutmeg. Add to potatoes.
  4. Add melted butter.
  5. Form small handfuls into patties.
  6. Heat peanut oil in skillet and fry until golden on one side. Flip and repeat.
  7. Serve with sides of applesauce and sour cream which may be used as toppings.
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28 thoughts on “Guest Elle Cosimano Shares Traditional Chanukkah Potato Latkes

  1. This is one of my absolute favorite foods, and I really mess them up every time I try. Mine always come out way too greasy. But I dearly love to order them when eating out!

  2. Elle, thank you so much for being with us today and sharing! Unlike Gillian, when I try to cook latkes, they don’t come out greasy but either too overdone or not done enough! One day I will find the happy medium. 🙂

  3. Granny was Polish Catholic & made a variant of these w/o flour. I struggle not to overcook them as they’re awful if they get too hard, but lovely if they make a lacy, crispy crunch

  4. Aha! Sounds like an issue of oil temperature! If your latkes come out to oily or undone, or even overdone, your oil may not be hot enough when you pour the batter into the pan. Come on, now! I *know* you ladies know how to turn up the heat! 😉 Make sure your oil is heated to temp before pouring. This will make sure the latkes get golden brown before soaking up too much of that oil, and will keep them from having to cook too long.

    Also, be sure you’re using a high heat oil, like canola or peanut, which produce better results for frying.

  5. I’m the product of a German Catholic dad and an English-Norweigan Church of Christ mom–both were born in the USA, but their ancestral influence left a strong mark on my cooking abilities. Well, let me back track. Since I rarely cook these days, that mark is more of a memory but those old family recipes are still dear to my heart. My mom made these same type of potato pancakes and they were always a special treat. Regardless of our upbringing, it’s sharing these special recipes that bind us all together in this holiday season. Thank you!

      • I love how certain smells (I should specify kitchen smells since I have two sons in grade school…) bring back memories and evoke certain emotions. The smell of potatoes in fry oil, or the smoke from a candle as it dwindles and snuffs itself out, all bring back such magical childhood feelings in the same ways pine and sugar cookies baking must bring back those warm feelings of Christmas. My kids are so lucky. One day, they’ll have memories of both.

  6. YUM!! My family isn’t Jewish but my dad learned to make the most amazing potato pancakes, and when I need comfort food, that’s my first choice. Also a delicious meal fit for a vegetarian! 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing this recipe, Elle! Now that my folks are spending the winter in Florida, I’ll make these for myself!

  7. Well you can probably guess when I had my first exposure to Jewish food. I may give this recipe a try simply because I’m intrigued by the nutmeg.

    And wasn’t there a rugulach recipe in the family cookbook you put together oh-so-many years ago?

  8. Elle my mouth is watering, literally. I am going to print this out and make Latkes. Thank you for sharing your culture and recipe, it was really fascinating. If you don’t mind I am going to take it into work because we wanted to honor all the holiday traditions this year.

  9. My parents took us to a Unitarian Church growing up so we were exposed to many cultures. There were foods I didn’t like but being Irish, I LOVE potatoes in many forms. Latkes are a potato pancake for me!

  10. Elle, thank you so much for sharing your religious heritage and recipe with us! I begged Abigail to bring matzo (sp?) ball soup last year to our critique group holiday party and I loved it! The year before, she brought latkes and I loved them, too. I can only imagine how good the made-from-scratch latkes taste! (Assuming you used the box mix, Abigail! LOL)

    I’ve got all the ingredients on hand so I’m going to try to make them tomorrow. 🙂

  11. And the dubious winner is…. CARLA!
    Send me your snail mail address and I’ll get the boxes shipped off to you.

    Elle, thanks for the trip down culinary memory lane. I’ll feel guilty using the boxed stuff to take to holiday parties, but next year I’m planning on making the real thing!

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