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Celebrate Hanukkah with potato latkes topped with mushrooms, brandied pear compote and more

Potato latkes are traditionally served with applesauce and sour cream, but this year you can experiment with new garnishes.

Chicago Tribune

Potato latkes are traditionally served with applesauce and sour cream, but this year you can experiment with new garnishes.

Potato latkes are a traditional Hanukkah dish, and most often the warm, crispy fried pancakes are topped with sour cream or applesauce. Maybe this is the year to experiment with the garnishes that make them decidedly savory or sweet.

In recent years, we've seen many recipes that change up the pancake itself, substituting shredded russets with purple potatoes, carrots, parsnips, zucchini and even sweet potatoes. Seasonings range from curry to a cinnamon-sugar sprinkle.

This year, opt for the traditional pancake, but turn up the volume on the dollop on top. In fact, offer a few varieties for your guests and make sure to fry enough latkes, because it's likely everyone will want to try each topping. Another idea: Make them smaller and serve them as appetizers for a New Year's Eve party.

The eight-day festival of Hanukkah begins at sundown Tuesday. It's traditional to eat foods fried in oil during Hanukkah to symbolize the small amount of oil that miraculously lit the reclaimed temple in Jerusalem for eight days and nights in 165 B.C.

Consider one of the following toppings to dress up potato latkes, one for each night of Hanukkah:

Smoked salmon: Combine minced smoked salmon, minced red onion, rinsed, minced capers and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Place a spoonful on top of each latke and sprinkle with chopped fresh dill.

Fresh horseradish cream: To 1 cup of sour cream, mix 1/4 cup freshly grated horseradish, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard and 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar. Season with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Dollop on hot latkes.

Deli-style: Top each latke with a small spoonful of warmed sauerkraut, a heap of shredded, warmed pastrami and a drizzle of bottled Russian or Thousand Island dressing. A holiday version of the Reuben sandwich.

Mushroom melange: Season sauteed quartered button mushroom with cumin, thyme and paprika and scoop onto hot latkes. (See accompanying recipe.)

Figgy latkes: Spoon jarred fig jam onto each latke, then top with chopped, toasted walnuts and crumbled blue cheese.

Greek style: Either buy tzatziki sauce or make your own by combining 1 cup of Greek-style plain yogurt, 1/4 cup grated seedless cucumber, 1 to 2 cloves minced garlic and fresh lemon juice, to taste. Spoon onto latkes then sprinkle with chopped fresh dill.

Pear compote with pear brandy: Spike cooked pears with pear brandy or Grand Marnier to give latkes an adult twist. Use compote warm or at room temperature. (See accompanying recipe.)

A bit of honey: Over hot latkes, layer thinly sliced fresh pears, crumbled goat cheese and a drizzle of honey.

Information from the Associated Press was included in this report. Janet K. Keeler can be reached at jkeeler@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8586.

>>MODERATE

Traditional Latkes

2 cups peeled and shredded potatoes

1 tablespoon grated onion

3 eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons salt

½ cup peanut oil for frying

Place the potatoes in a cheesecloth or clean dish towel and wring, extracting as much moisture as possible.

In a medium bowl, stir the potatoes, onion, eggs, flour and salt together.

In a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Place large spoonfuls of the potato mixture into the hot oil, pressing down on them to form¼- to ½-inch-thick patties. Brown on one side, then turn and brown on the other. Let drain on paper towels. Keep warm in 250-degree oven until serving, though they should be eaten soon after being made.

Makes 10 to 12 potato pancakes.

Source: Allrecipes.com

>>EASY

Pear Compote With Pear Brandy

2 pounds ripe pears

¼ cup (½ stick) butter

6 to 7 tablespoons granulated sugar

¼ cup pear brandy or Grand Marnier (substitute kosher orange liqueur)

Peel pears. Halve, core and slice them. Heat butter in very large skillet. Add pears and turn slices over so both sides are coated with butter. Cook, uncovered, over low heat, stirring often, 15 to 20 minutes or until soft and some of the pears have fallen apart. Continue cooking over medium heat to evaporate some of liquid.

Add 6 tablespoons sugar; cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until mixture is thick and dry.

Remove compote from heat; stir in brandy. Taste and add more sugar if desired.

Makes enough topping for 10 to 12 potato pancakes..

Source: St. Louis Post Dispatch

>>EASY

Sauteed Mushrooms

¼ cup olive oil or butter

1 medium onion, chopped

1 pound fairly small button mushrooms, quartered

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon dried thyme

½ teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion; saute about 7 minutes or until tender.

Add mushrooms, salt and pepper to taste, thyme, paprika and cumin. Saute, stirring often, 15 to 20 minutes, or until mushrooms are well coated with spices and any liquid has evaporated. Add cayenne. Taste and adjust seasonings. (Mushrooms can be kept, covered, 2 days in refrigerator. Reheat over medium heat before serving.) Add parsley and serve.

Makes enough topping for 10 to 12 potato pancakes.

Source: St. Louis Post Dispatch

Celebrate Hanukkah with potato latkes topped with mushrooms, brandied pear compote and more 12/13/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 13, 2011 3:30am]

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