Growing up, we always used to celebrate Hanukkah. Just over a month after Diwali festivities had dwindled, we would play with the dreidel, light imaginary candles on the imaginary menorah (we didn’t acutally have one), and eat a makeshift Hanukkah meal, all right next to the…Christmas tree. Looking back, I see how strange this was. Or really extraordinarily multicultural. Or, really, just strange.
Either way, latkes would sometimes make the menu, often not. Even though they are, in my opinion, the epitome of Hanukkah food, we never got them quite right. They were too soggy, or too flat, or too oily, or didn’t have enough flavor. And then we would always eat them with sour cream, straight from the tub. Needless to say, the dreidel was far more festive.
But I brought Hanukkah back this year! And I conquered the latke! I realized that to make a good latke, you need a little faith…and a good recipe, and we finally have both. These latkes were crispy and fluffy and not too potato-ey (which can be a problem), with the perfect Greek yogurt accompaniment. Latkes are finally sticking around for yearly Hanukkah celebrations in this Indian household!
Latkes (slightly adapted from The New York Times)
The key to crispy latkes is to get as much moisture out of the potato, onion, apple mixture, as possible. Even though this was not a part of the original recipe, after squeezing out the liquid from the mixture as much as I could, I tied my mixture-filled cheese cloth on a faucet to let it drain even further. What resulted was the most crispy latke on the outside, but a pillowy soft inside. I have made these several times now, and I have hung up my mixture to drain every time. I’m assuming that it will work without this step, but why mess with a delicious, perfectly fried, non-soggy latke, I say.
1/2 cup whole or 2% Greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon maple syrup
3 Golden Delicious apples, peeled and cored
2 medium russet potatoes, peeled
2 medium onions, peeled
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
Olive oil, for frying
1. In a small bowl, mix together the yogurt, cinnamon and syrup. Cover and chill until ready to use.
2. Coarsely grate the apples, potatoes and onions. Put the mixture in a clean dish towel and squeeze to wring out as much liquid as possible. Tie the dish towel onto a faucet to let the mixture drain further, about an hour.
3. When ready, squeeze the remaining juice out of the mixture and put in a large bowl. Separate the mixture with a wooden spoon. Working quickly, add the flour, eggs, salt, baking powder and pepper, and mix until the flour is absorbed.
4. Preheat the oven to 250. Place a baking rack on top of a cookie sheet. In a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat, pour in about 1/4 inch of oil. Once the oil is hot, drop heaping tablespoons of batter into the pan, cooking 3 to 4 latkes at a time. Flatten the latke slightly with the spoon. When the edges of the latkes are brown and crispy, 2 to 3 minutes, flip them. Cook until the second side is deeply browned, another 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the latkes to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Place the latkes on to the prepared baking sheet and place in the oven to keep warm until the rest of the latkes are fried. Repeat with the remaining batter. Serve with dollops of the cinnamon yogurt on top.