AUTHOR: Julia TITLE: The Miracle of Latkes DATE: 12/20/2008 09:13:00 AM ----- BODY:

The original story of Channukah (or Hanuka, Chanuka, or Hanukkah) recounts the rededication of the second temple of Israel. During the first century C.E., the Holy Temple of Jerusalem was under Greek rule, and the Jews could not enter and pray in this sacred and holy place. Miraculously, in 148 C.E. the Jews defeated the Greeks and reclaimed their temple. It had been desecrated and needed to be rebuilt and cleaned up. The rededication of the temple lasted eight days, and included burnt offerings. This celebration became the annual holiday of Hanukah (the spelling my computer spell-check prefers).

Centuries later, the story is retold in the Talmud, and is embellished with the miracle of oil: When the Jews were cleaning up the temple, they need to oil to light the “Eternal Light.” They found an oil flask that seemed to contain only enough to last for 1 day, but instead lasted for eight. It is through this story that foods cooked in oil become the central theme of the holiday.

To me, the real theme of the holiday is potato pancakes (latkes in Jewish), a further stretch of imagination from the original story – since the potatoes are cooked in a only a modest amount. The shredded potatoes are mixed with onion and perhaps a little flour and egg for binding, and are served with either sour cream or apple sauce. Modern culinarians have adapted the original recipe to include zucchini, parsnips or sweet potatoes.

My preferred recipe is a blend of regular and sweet potatoes. I make homemade pink applesauce – the pink coming from the skin of red apples.

1 sweet potato
2 medium new potatoes
Idaho potatoes
2 onions
2 tbs. flour
1 egg
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ cup plain oil
salt and pepper to taste

1. Peel potatoes and onions. Grate using the largest whole of a cheese grate or food processor. Pour into a colander and squeeze out the liquid.
2. Mix potatoes with flour, egg, salt, pepper and baking powder.
3. Heat a large skillet over medium high flame and add about 2 tbs. oil. Spoon about 2 tbs. of batter per latke – about 4 latkes per batch. Cook for about 5 minutes or until brown, flip and cook on other side. Repeat until all the batter is used
4. Serve with apple sauce or sour cream or both.
5. Latkes can be pre-made and recrisped in a 450F oven just before serving.

Pink Apple Sauce
3 empire apples, cored with the skin on
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
a few drops of lemon juice

Put apples, sugar and water in a sauce pot. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Continue cooking over medium-low heat, covered, until apples turn mushy. Remove from heat. Press sauce through a food mill to extract the peels from the sauce. Add a few drops of lemon juice.

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----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) DATE:12/21/2008 12:36:00 PM I make latkes with pink applesauce, too! My applesauce is unsweetened, the way my family has always made it (but yes, with the apple skins left on), and while I prefer latkes with russet potatoes, I occasionally combine sweet potatoes if I have them on hand. Of course I usually fry them, but this year, because I have a lot to make at one time (for a large crowd), I'm going to try baking them instead, using a method from King Arthur Flour. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous noble pig DATE:12/21/2008 05:46:00 PM What a great recipe, I'm doing brisket tonight but latkes tomorrow. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger melissa DATE:12/21/2008 09:14:00 PM I have still not made latkes dang it! I really, really want to. They were my favorite holiday food growing up. I could eat a whole plate of them and nothing else.

Pink applesauce sounds good. I don't eat them with sour cream at all. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous bishop22 DATE:12/22/2008 11:23:00 PM "To me, the real theme of the holiday is potato pancakes (latkes in Jewish), a further stretch of imagination from the original story – since the potatoes are cooked in a only a modest amount."

And of course, what you left unsaid is that the connection from Jews in the second century and potatoes is the biggest stretch since potatoes are a new world food, and so wouldn't be available to the Jews for at least 1300 years more, at which point the temple had been destroyed. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Julia DATE:12/23/2008 08:40:00 AM Lydia, I'll be curious to hear how the baking method works out. The lazy in me is thoroughly intrigued.

Noble Pig, yum!

Melissa, Do it Do it! They're not that hard and oh so delicious!

Bishop22, excellent point! My guess is the potatoes came by way of eastern European Jews. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger giz DATE:12/23/2008 03:40:00 PM I'm totally stoked now!!! We're not getting any latkes until tomorrow - we have to wait for the babster to make them (it's her thing). Yours look divine.
You kill me with the low cal thing - I feel like the goodyear blimp already. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Psychgrad DATE:12/25/2008 12:21:00 AM Good to read that if I make it Giz's tomorrow, I'll get latkes. I was just going to lament not eating any this year.

Homemade apple sauce sounds way better than my usual ketchup (yes...I massacre my latkes with ketchup).

Happy Hanukkah! ----- --------