Latkes are a traditional part of the Hanukkah celebration because the oil they are fried in symbolizes the miracle of the small amount of oil that burned for eight days when the holy temple in Jerusalem was under siege.
Hanukkah begins at sundown on Friday, and that first night will be marked in many homes by a celebratory dinner.
Many cooks will prepare the latkes the way they were taught as children, but others are willing to try something new. Parsnip, Potato and Scallion Pancakes will fit the bill for them. This variation on the latke theme would go well with roast beef or a brisket.
Butternut squash also sometimes can take the place of potatoes. Squash and onions can be shredded using a box grater or a food processor. Be sure to squeeze as much liquid out of the shredded onion as possible. Otherwise your latkes will be too wet and fall apart in the pan.
Latkes aren't all that difficult to make, but it's always nice to amp the flavor and trim some time where you can.
Easy Sauteed Mushroom and Onion Latkes reimagine the Hanukkah staple and you won't need to break out the food processor or bloody your knuckles to grate the potatoes. A bag of frozen hash browns (which are just grated and frozen potatoes) allows you to skip that step in the accompanying recipe.
To add flavor, the hash browns are blended with onions and mushrooms that are slowly sauteed until browned. Some thyme, smoked paprika and garlic powder also are added, but you could substitute whatever seasonings you prefer.
If you'd rather not fry, you also could bake Easy Sauteed Mushroom and Onion Latkes. Just scoop the mixture into pancakes on a lightly oiled baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees until crisp on the bottom. Flip and cook until evenly browned.
For a tasty sauce for these (or any) latkes, mix 1/2 cup of sour cream with some minced garlic, a splash of lemon juice and a bit of salt and pepper.
Parsnip, Potato and Scallion Pancakes
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled
1 pound medium parsnips, peeled and cored
3/4 cup sliced scallions (white and green parts)
2 large eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil for the griddle
Using a food processor fitted with the medium grating disc, grate the potatoes and parsnips separately. Put the potatoes in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, parsnips, scallions, eggs, flour, 2 teaspoons salt and a few grinds of pepper and mix well.
Generously oil a griddle and heat over medium heat. Working in batches, spoon about 1/3 cup of the mixture onto the griddle at a time to form pancakes. Flatten the pancakes with a spatula (they should be about 1/2 inch thick) and cook until the bottom is browned and crisped, about 5 minutes. Flip and cook until the other side is well browned, about 5 minutes more. Sprinkle with salt. Serve immediately or keep warm until ready to serve.
Makes 8 to 10 pancakes.
Source: Fine Cooking magazine
Easy Sauteed Mushroom and Onion Latkes
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups sliced button mushrooms
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 cups frozen hash browns, thawed and gently squeezed to extract excess water
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Canola oil, for frying
In a large skillet over medium-high, melt the butter. Add the mushrooms and onions, then saute for 10 minutes, or until the mushrooms are well browned and the skillet is mostly dry. Transfer to a large bowl.
Add the hash browns, egg, thyme, paprika and garlic powder, then mix well. Season with salt and pepper.
In a medium skillet over medium-high, heat about 1 tablespoon of oil. When the oil is hot, add about 1/4 cup of the hash brown mixture. Use a spatula to flatten into a pancake. Cook until browned on the bottom, about 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and cook for another 3 minutes. Repeat with the remaining mixture, adding oil to the pan as needed.
Makes 8 pancakes.
Source: Associated Press
A Shmaltz toast
Mazel tov, He'Brew! Shmaltz Brewing Co. (shmaltz.com), makers of "He'brew, the Chosen Beer," turns 13 this year, launching a limited-edition release of Jewbelation Bar Mitzvah, their 13th beer in 13 years. Shmaltz's winter seasonal beer for Hanukkah 2009 comes in 22-ounce bottles and packs a wallop (13 percent alcohol, natch). A marriage of 13 malts and 13 hops, it's a dark, chocolatey brew with a heavy roasted malt character. At roughly $5.99 per bottle, it makes a nice seasonal gift, just not for the recently bar mitzvahed. Designed by Shmaltz's art director Matt Polacheck, the label artwork incorporates consumer-submitted bar and bat mitzvah photos culled from a recent national photo contest. Look for the beer at specialty liquor stores.
Times food critic