Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Chanukah Pre-Prep

1956.  Chanukah in Hollywood.  Cousins, Sasha, Ellen, Denny and Kenny

Next Tuesday at sundown is the first night of Chanukah.   Traditionally, you are supposed to eat foods prepared with oil for the Festival of Lights. The story of Chanukah that explains many of the customs is here. Another popular food for this Festival of Lights is sufganiyot, or little jelly-filled doughnuts, fried in oil (of course). I became familiar with this custom later in life...it's a delicious Israeli or Middle-Eastern recipe.
When I was a kid, we usually celebrated Chanukah at Grandma and Grandpa Bloom's house in Hollywood.  Grandma Ethel used to write all of her grandchildren's names in some sort of white paint on the mirror over the decorated sideboard in the dining room.  We would light candles, play games and eat Grandma's delicious fried latkes (potato pancakes)., along with brisket, chicken and more.  Grandpa used to give each of us a shiny silver dollar as our Chanukah gift.
1958.  Chanukah in Riverside at Aunt Betty's and Uncle Hi's HomeThe Bloom Cousins with Grandma Ethel
In later years we'd have our family Chanukah party at Uncle Hi's and Aunt Betty's house.  Aunt Betty's latke recipe was probably the same as Grandma's, but Aunt Betty deep-fried her latkes instead of just pan-frying them.  Yummmers!  We used to call them "Kentucky Fried Latkes."
"Kentucky-Fried" Latkes

Once in awhile, my Mom made latkes at home too.  I remember my Dad getting out this antique meat grinder that he would clamp to the carving board.  After Mom pressure-cooked the potatoes, Dad would peel them and run them through the grinder.  This was a messy process.  There was always lots of starchy liquid that had to be drained from the grated potatoes.  Often, the grated potatoes would turn a purple color unless Mom and Dad remembered to sprinkle them with lemon juice.  

Here is Mom's basic Latke Recipe:
1 pound potatoes, peeled and grated *
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and grated
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons matzoh meal**
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
Oil for frying
Mom always used her electric frying pan to fry the latkes

Mix everything together and then drop mixture by spoonfuls into hot oil.  Pat down into cake.  Fry on both sides until golden brown.  Drain on paper towels before serving with applesauce and sour cream.
I make the same basic latke recipe as Mom.  HOWEVER, over the years in the need to simplify this process, I've opted for *frozen hash-browns (defrosted) instead of boiling, peeling, grinding and draining.  This cuts out about one hour of preparation.  Also, those lovely defrosted hash browns never turn purple!  Preservatives.  Yum.
My good friend, Rhoda makes her latkes more multi-cultural.  Instead of matzoh meal or flour, she adds Aunt Jemima's powdered **pancake mix to the potato mixture.  You should see those puppies rise while frying!  Brilliant. 
If you'd like to simplify the latke frying process even more, zip over to Trader Joe's and buy a couple of boxes of their frozen potato pancakes.  Follow package directions.  Yes, they are positively delicious!

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At 1:44 PM PST, Blogger ken bloom said...

Hi Ell,

I talked to Momn today and discussed your suggestion of using defrosted hash browns in stead of all the grating. She definitely recommended that I grate the spuds. I guess I'll follow the original recipe and see what happens. Last year I got some sort of latke mix which was awful. Thanks for putting the recipes up. I'm looking forward to some real old fashion latkes. Haven't had any since Clifftop two or three years ago when I played clarinet with a klezmer band for a big latke party. Only at Clifftop!


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