Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Lynda's "Jersey-Fresh" Latke Recipe

It started when Pearl informed me that she was accepting my invite to our impromptu First Night latke celebration, which has become a part of our life here in Teaneck. 

Before I continue, I want to point out that in this picture I am standing with Sarah, proprietor of Le Sabon (locations in Manhattan and Teaneck), who gave me this adorable Koogle apron. She joined Pearl and me and our tribes for the gathering.

Having clarified all this, let's continue:

Around noon on the first day of Chanuka (which I always forget) I invite the neighbours. It separates the men from the boys in the sense that not everyone is as spontaneous as those of us who show up to the house. We had a pretty decent crowd last night, and there was lots of laughter, music, mass consumption and some imbibement.

Okay, so back to Pearl. She can't eat wheat. So sometime in the recent past I made a special batch of latkes for her that had no flour in them. I made two kinds -- sweet potato, and also the standard 2-cent plain variety. Hers had the taste and consistency of a really nice, homey hash brown. 

This year we decided to forego the flour and only make latkes from local Jersey farm-fresh produce. And voila, the Jersey latke for you to try at home:

5 lb. bag of white or yellow potatoes
3 lb bag of yellow onions
2 tsps. iodized salt per batch
12 eggs
1 bottle of olive oil (preferably extra virgin, and the greener the better)
Three or four large bowls
One roll of paper towels
Spatula and/or kitchen forceps

Turn on NPR and put on your rubber gloves. Lay a large dish towel on the floor in front of your stove. You MUST wear shoes that cover your toes, and do not wear drapey clothes as the spattering oil is a real fire hazard. No joke.
Get out your old grater and one large bowl.
In the sink, fill a second large bowl with warm water, and plop in around 5 lb. of potatoes.
When you are certain they are nice and clean, start grating everything, including the skins. Make sure to turn your potatoes so that the skin gets grated and does not stick to the potato. Five pounds will fit nicely into a large bowl. Optional: dump the grated potatoes into a colander and let it drain in the sink to get the potato juice out. 

Peel three or four onions and slice them in half. Dice into tiny pieces and place in a bowl.

Get out your favourite iron frying pan. Throw out your teflon...did you know that the fumes of your burning teflon pan can kill your canaries and even make you sick? Pour in the olive oil and watch the heat level (I recommend medium high) since this is a heavier oil than the generic crap they've been passing off as vegetable oil down at the supermarket. 

In a separate bowl, take two handfuls of potato gratings and a small handful of onions. Break two eggs into the mess and mix. Cup your hand and throw in enough salt to taste - between a teaspoon and a tablespoon. Do not fear the salt shaker -- that Weight Watchers frozen entree you had today at lunch had at least three times as much salt. When it's all mixed together and a bit wet, take a tablespoon and drop the batter into the hot oil.

Brown both sides well until crispy. Be careful of the spatter. That is why I suggest draining the potatoes. It helps keep spatter to a minimum, but you cannot be careful enough.

Meantime you will take a large plate and cover it with two sheets of paper towels. After you take your latkes out of the pan, you will lay them down on the paper towels just to pat them dry a bit. Make sure to change the towels when they get too greasy and soggy. Serve as they come out. There's nothing worse than a lukewarm or cold latke.

Latkes are best enjoyed with sour cream or that delicious home-made apple sauce that you had prepared earlier in the day. Do I need to tell you how to do that, too? I'll save that for another time.

Tzim gezint! Bon appetite!

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