Thursday, December 2, 2010

Potato Latkes and Chunky Holiday Apples :: Happy Hannukah!

Today while I was running, I was thinking about what I would eat for dinner. I ran the fridge inventory through my head and realized that I didn't really have much to work with tonight. Some old potatoes, onions, creme fraiche, kimchi and eggs. Oh and some leftover apples from yesterday's muffins. At first, it looked like it was going to be a take-out night. But then it hit me - Hanukkah! A few hours earlier, I had just seen a friend's blog post about the festival of lights (it's so early this year!) and as it turns out, I just so happen to have all the ingredients needed to make potato latkes. Bonus: I could try to make some sort of applesauce substitute. How resourceful. This got me very excited and the next few miles were a breeze. I mentioned a few days ago that nothing fuels my desire to exercise more than guilt, but a close second would be knowing that I can eat whatever the heck I want because I just burned a butt load of calories. It's a vicious cycle, but it works for me.

I cook the same way I bake. I like to map everything out with pen and paper and measure out all my ingredients before starting any of the cooking. But I was so excited about the latkes tonight, that I just skimmed at a few recipes on my iPhone on the train ride home and gave it a go. It was quite liberating! Here's my recipe as best I can remember:


3 medium sized potatoes, grated  
1 medium sized onion, thinly sliced and quartered 
1 beaten egg
3 TB potato starch flour or just regular flour 
salt + pepper 

1. Place the grated potatoes in a bowl of ice water for 5 minutes. I have no idea why you do this, but I remember seeing it on a few of the recipes online. I assume it has something to do with making the potatoes ready for crisping.

2. Dump the water and put the potatoes in a dry bowl covered with a towel. Gather the corners of the towel together and squeeze all the excess water out of the potatoes. Water and oil are not friends and if you don't want to be dodging splattered oil during the frying stages, make sure you put some muscle into wringing out the towel. If you save the excess water in a bowl and let it sit for a few minutes, the starch from the potatoes will sink to the bottom. You can fish this out and add it back to your potato mixture. It will naturally thicken up your batter and make shaping your pancakes a little easier. I happen to have potato starch flour on hand, so I used that instead.

3. With your hands, mix the sliced onions and potato starch into the potato hash. Add the egg and mix well. Salt and pepper the batter well.

4. Heat about 3 tablespoons of oil (I used grape seed which is really neutral in taste. Good 'ole veggie oil will do fine too.) in a large skillet on high heat. Spoon some of the potato mixture into the pan and try to form a compact circle. You can probably fit 2 or 3 per batch. After about 3 minutes, turn the heat down to medium low. Flip the pancakes after a few minutes, turning the heat back up to medium high. Cook for another 3-4 minutes or until both sides are nicely browned.

The size of the pancakes are up to you, but I found that the smaller ones are easier to manage. Continue to add oil in between batches.

5. Lightly salt and pepper the pancakes right after you remove them from the skillet.

Traditionally, latkes are eaten with applesauce and sour cream. I was really tempted to squirt some ketchup on these Burger King style, but I refrained. I didn't have applesauce or sour cream, but I did have an apple and creme fraiche. So, I made a quick little chunky apple...thing (jam? chutney? compote?) and it tasted great. Sort of like apple pie filling.

If you're not making these for a traditional Hanukkah meal, try adding in other veggies like carrots, zucchini or green onions. Just be sure to wring out as much water out of all the veggies you use before mixing.

Ingredients for Chunky Holiday Apples 

1 apple, diced into chunks (I used a I am in Japan)
1 tsp cinnamon 
2 TB butter
3 TB apple juice (for some odd reason, we just so happen to have 1 pear juice box in the fridge)

1. Melt the butter in a saucepan on medium high heat. Add the the rest of the ingredients, coating the apples with the liquid. Once the liquid starts to bubble, turn down the heat and simmer until all the liquid has evaporated.