Years ago, when my children were little and I was married to their father, a Jewish man, we always had latkes at Hanukah. They were good if you got one straight out of the frying pan; but warmed in the oven, they were greasy and not crisp. For some reason unknown to me, we served egg salad and tuna salad with them, and a friend I’d gone to graduate school with always brought his family, including his father-in-law who kept a roll of one-dollar bills in his pocket and peeled them off for the speechless children. The men always cooked the latkes--a distinct departure from traditions. But those were good times.
When I saw a picture Janie Emaus’ family’s latkes on Facebook and saw how crisp they are, I knew I had to ask her how they do it. Here’s her description of the process, some specific hints for making latkes, and the love that goes into this tradition. And note--the women do the cooking.
For those of who you don’t know, Hanukah is known as the celebration of lights. Upon the rededication of the
in Temple ,
the Jewish people found enough oil to burn for only one day. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days. Thus,
along with lighting the Menorah for eight nights, we eat foods fried in oil. Jerusalem
Janie's mom and daughter
Making latkes is serious business
I find it a miracle that four generations of women in my family were together in one kitchen. As the matriarch of the family, my eighty-seven-year old mom set the tone. It was no-nonsense with her. Get started. Keep focused. Get it done. As her daughter, I obliged and began peeling potatoes.
When my daughter arrived, the tone shifted slightly. To say that she is a clone of my mother would be an understatement. She definitely inherited the “control” gene. It appeared that my frying skills weren’t up to par, and thus my granddaughter and I were relegated to lining the trays with paper towels, emptying the trash and washing the bowls.
But it worked.
And five hours later – hours filled with peeling, chopping and frying, along with discussions about life, marriage, sex, men, and more sex (with women in the kitchen, what do you expect?) we had over ten dozen delicious latkes.
It doesn’t get any better than that. Unless, of course, there is a cleaning crew to come in to wash the stove, counter tops and floor. Because there will be grease everywhere. But nothing that can’t be tackled after a well shaken martini.
Here is our family recipe along with some essential tips:
4 potatoes1 onion
Salt and pepper – to taste
Flour – for thickening the mixture
This will yield approximately 25 latkes
Tip #1 – Prepare and fry one batch at a time. It is easier to fry them this way and the mixture won’t sit in the bowl for too long. Cut the potatoes and onions into even pieces. Place potatoes into ice water until ready to use them. Place into food processor and chop.
Tip #2 – Do not grind too finely. Pour mixture into a bowl. Add eggs, salt and pepper. Thicken with flour. Heat about ¼ inch oil in frying pan.
Tip #3- A cast iron pan works best. Spoon mixture into oil. Fry until golden brown. Flip over. When done, place on cookie sheet lined with paper towels.
Tip #4 – It takes about 2-3 batches to get it exactly right and get the “latke” feel. Add flour to mixture as needed while frying.
Tip #5 – Have fun!
Serve with applesauce or sour cream.
Happy Hanukah to all who celebrate.
Janie Emaus is blogger and a novelist. Her current release is a young adult novel, MERCURY IN RETRO LOVE. She blogs for the Huffington Post at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/janie-emaus/ Since 2009, she has been regular columnist at www.inthepowderroom.com, Her blog for baby boomers, www.theboomerrants.com takes a humorous look at life
NOW as compared to THEN.
She is currently at work on a new novel and can be found at www.janieemaus.com