By Riki Shore
This time of year is packed with celebrations: birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and, of course, Hanukkah.
Growing up, Hanukkah meant we didn’t celebrate Christmas. We didn’t eat cookies, or candy canes, or chocolates, or even little oranges. We didn’t get an enormous tree and decorate it with sparkling lights and delicate ornaments. We didn’t get extravagant gifts like new cars, jewelry or bikes. We didn’t even get a present each night for eight nights.
We got dreidels and, sometimes, Hanukkah gelt. We got a practical present on the first night, and most of the time a present from grandparents on the second night. We got to light candles in a menorrah. It sort of paled in comparison to a glittering tree, but it was something.
The one thing we got that did seem better than our Christian friends’ deal was latkes. I’d take latkes over ham or goose or whatever it is you’re supposed to eat on Christmas night any day.
Latkes are a humble food: potato, onion, salt and pepper. They are a labor of love: peeling, grating, draining, and frying. And they are delicious.
The aroma of frying potatoes, the addition of all sorts of toppings both savory and sweet, the crispy texture and salty aftertaste.
Who can resist them? Not even Santa, I bet.
This year I’ll be making gluten free latkes inspired by the Gluten Free Girl and the Chef. I like an assortment of toppings to go with the pancakes. Shown in the picture is a lightly sweetened, cinnamon-spiked sour cream inspired by a recipe in the New York Times. I’ll also have smoked salmon, slivered red onions, capers and lemon.
A traditional topping is homemade applesauce, but no one in my family is crazy about applesauce. Instead, I’m planning to serve a roasted cranberry chutney, similar to what I made for Thanksgiving or perhaps this fresh one from Local Kitchen. The acidic fruitiness and bright red color will be a perfect combination with the crispy, salty potatoes.
Who knows? Maybe we’ll even put some under the tree with a note for Santa on Christmas Eve.
GLUTEN FREE POTATO LATKES
3 Russet potatoes
1/2 small yellow onion
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Set out a medium bowl and combine the salt, pepper and cornstarch in it. Get out a cheesecloth or thin kitchen towel for draining the potatoes.
2. Chop the onion in half, then grate it using a box grater or food processor.
3. Working quickly to prevent browning, peel and grate the potatoes.
4. Immediately remove the potatoes and onion to the prepared towel and wring out as much moisture as you can. Press down, squeeze, twist, then squeeze some more. The dryer your potatoes are, the crispier your latkes will be.
5. Pour the grated mixture into the bowl with the remaining ingredients and quickly mix with your hands to combine everything well.
6. Heat some olive oil in a cast-iron skillet (or other oven-safe pan) over medium heat until sizzling. Using a 1/3-cup measure, scoop some latke mixture into your hands and form into patties about 1/3-inch thick. Place these in the hot oil as you make them. Cook on one side until browned, about 4 minutes, then flip and repeat.
7. When both sides are golden brown, place the pan in the oven and cook about 10 minutes, until the latkes are soft in the middle and your kitchen smells amazingly like fried potatoes. Serve immediately with your favorite toppings.
CINNAMON-SPIKED SOUR CREAM
6 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Whisk all ingredients until smooth. Reserve in the fridge until ready to serve.