Do you smell that? Oh yes you do! It’s the smell of delicious things frying in the kitchen! Hanukkah isn’t just the festival of light, it’s the festival of light because it’s really the festival of oil. (Remember? The oil that was supposed to last a day lasted eight? Huzzah!)
To commemorate such a miracle, we celebrate by eating foods made with oil. And that means all kinds of frying, includinglatkes, or fried pancakes (usually made of potatoes, but pretty much anything you can make into a loose batter and cook into a cohesive mass), which are one of the quintessential Hanukkah treats.
Latkes can be a meal on their own, serve as a side dish, or even just an appetizer. In fact, if you make them with ingredients like apples, cinnamon, sugar, and/or cottage cheese, you’ve got yourself dessert (do not underestimate our neighbors to the north!). Which brings me to my next point: while there may be something to be said for box mixes given the right occasion, latkes are so easy to make from scratch, do yourself a favor and skip the box and head for the real deal.
Just like these perfect little packages of Hanukkah goodness can be any part of your meal, they can be made with any number of different ingredients, often reflecting the locale. For example, Sephardic Mediterranean chickpea latkes use chickpeas like the Ashkenazi version uses potatoes. The common thread: fry those suckers in oil and dig in.
This year I’m opting for something slightly healthier (although I have no illusions about what fried food does to my arteries) and swapping sweet potatoes for the usual Russets. It’s also a way to change things up without totally abandoning tradition. The upshot? This was the first time I’ve gotten my husband to eat that jewel of a root vegetable and actually like it. (He’s always a good barometer for this kind of thing.) I think that’s saying a lot. Plus, they look so beautifully orange on a serving platter! And let this be the year you quit arguing with yourself over the applesauce vs. sour cream debate and serve these with BOTH.
For multiplying the recipe, a ratio of 3:2:1 of eggs : sweet potatoes : small onion seemed to do the trick.
Sweet Potato Latkes
2 medium sweet potatoes
1 small onion
1/2 C flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp ground clove
- Grate sweet potatoes and onion.* A food processor would work for the potatoes, but I’ve never had success using it to grate onions, so get yourself a box grater or mandoline for this part (or just chop them finely if you’re so inclined). Put in a large bowl.
- Use your hands to mix in 1/2 C flour (it’ll help bind everything when you add the egg mixture).
- In a second smaller bowl, beat eggs with the salt, pepper, and ground clove.
- Pour egg mixture over the potato mixture and mix until evenly incorporated.
- Heat about half an inch of oil in a heavy skillet. Drop a single thread of potato in; if it sizzles, it’s ready (if not, wait a little longer!).
- This part is easier to do with your hands. Form golf ball-size balls of potato mixture in your hands, and flatten slightly. Gently drop them into the oil.
- Don’t forget to flip! Depending on how hot your oil is (and how well you can moderate the temperature), they might be ready to go by the time you drop a fourth into the pan. Just don’t let them get too dark!
- Use a spatula to lift the cooked latkes out of the pan onto a plate lined with paper towels. Work in small batches until the batter is exhausted.
- Consume joyfully!
*You may need to drain the grated potatoes and onions; to do so, place them in a mesh strainer over a bowl and press down evenly to remove excess moisture.