At my college, the annual Latke-Hamantaschen debate drew standing-room only crowds in the Sunken Lounge, a step-down space that cleaved our dining center in two. During the event, two philosophy professors held forth on the relative merits of these foods so central to Jewish tradition. (This is a real thing.)
There was nothing earth-shattering about the recipe, but for a food that’s all about balance and proportion – the right amount of potato to onion, the right amount of binder, the right amount to dole out for each pancake – it did the trick. I also watched her squeeze the living daylights out of the vegetables before she added the other ingredients, a step about which many latke-makers are a bit too relaxed. You want to squeeze that mixture until it weeps its very soul into your paper towels.
Wait, dessert! I don't make jelly doughnuts, so I tend to opt for non-traditional Hanukkah desserts that still fit the spirit of the holiday: fried apple rings, honey-drizzled banana fritters, or star-shaped chocolate cookies, all pictured above. I'm also crazy for noodle kugel with melted apples as a side, though between you and me, this dish really has nothing to do with Hanukkah. That said, no one will kick it off the table.
Recipe for Alison's Famous Latkes
I've written about this classic, no-fail recipe before, but something this good bears repeating. Also, I don't screw around when it comes to latkes. Please keep your sweet potatoes to yourselves.
Makes approximately 40 latkes, give or take
10 russet potatoes
4 yellow onions, peeled and halved
1/2 cup matzoh meal (roughly)
Sour cream and apple sauce, for serving
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
Peel the potatoes and plunge them in a large bowl with cold water. Either cut them into large chunks, and then shred them and the onions in a food processor, OR keep the potatoes and onions whole and grate them on the large holes of a box grater.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs lightly and set aside.Transfer a few handfuls of shredded potatoes and onions to a double-thickness of paper towels, and squeeze out as much liquid as you can muster. Place in the bowl with the eggs and repeat with remaining potatoes and onions. You'll use quite a few paper towels, so be prepared.
Stir in the matzoh meal and season generously with salt and pepper. Mix well with a fork, making sure to distribute the eggs thoroughly.
Heat a few glugs of oil in a large heavy skillet (you'll use about 1/4 cup oil at first, but you'll keep adding more) over medium-high heat. To see if the oil is ready, put in a pinch of potato mixture; if it sizzles and turns golden in about 10 seconds, the oil is ready. Use an ice cream scoop or 1/4 cup measure to form the latkes; drop in the oil and flatten gingerly with a spatula. Cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. As you proceed, the pan will get hotter and the oil will need to be replenished. Adjust the heat and add new oil as necessary. Carefully remove any burnt particles.
When latkes are done, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle immediately with salt. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and keep hot in the oven. Repeat until you've cooked all the latkes.
Serve hot, with apple sauce and sour cream.