I grew up in Chicago, and my mother shopped at a variety of kosher butchers. That said, in Chicago, the understood rule is that all kosher hotdogs need to come from Romanian, an old style kosher butcher. Today Romanian is the only kosher butcher left in Chicago (there are lots of places to buy kosher meat, but Romanian is the only real butcher). Watch this fun video about Romanian. I’m not sure if my favorite part is when he admits they have bad service, or looking at the random boxes piled around the store.
I recently told my parents that they cursed me. The way I see it, when my (probable) Irish genes collided with my (definite) Eastern European genes, I was pre-destined to have a love affair with the potato.
My parents blush and look a little embarrassed when you ask them what my first un-coached word was. Not because it was uncouth, or racy, but because my first un-coached utterance was spoken as we drove past a Burger King. Ladies and gentleman, my first word was “fry”– as in french fry.
Now, my family isn’t really into fried foods. If we have a craving for french fries or onion rings, we go out to our favorite fast food joint or restaurant. We don’t ever fry anything at home; we leave it to the professionals. But, when I was growing up, come Hanukkah we’d open all the windows (a feat in the sometimes sub-zero Ohio winters), close the doors to the bedrooms, and my dad would spend several nights frying up latke after latke.
I love my dad’s latkes. As a child (and, maybe even as an adult) I would gobble them down, often leaving my mom’s brisket (also incredible) untouched. Eventually, we just started having latke-only dinners a few times each Hanukkah.
Everyone has “the perfect” latke recipe, so I won’t attempt to prove my family’s recipe is better than yours. I will, however, share a few of our latke tips with you”
- Do not peel your potatoes
- Salt the potatoes after grating them, let them sit for about 20
mintues, then squeeze as much of the water out as possible
- Grate your onions (juice and all) directly into your squeezed-out potatoes
- Use only a little matzo meal to bind the batter, don’t let the matzo
meal overcome the potatoey-ness
- Fry the latkes in corn oil
- After you fry, pat off excess oil with paper towels
- To keep warm and crispy, place latkes on cookie racks in a 250 degree oven
Rachel Korycan lives in Washington, D.C. and is a Development Coordinator at The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.
Want some additional tricks for making latkes? Check out this video that purports to give you foolproof latke tips.
I love making latkes, and like most of us, I have my preferred ways of serving the latke. Last year I prepared Mini Dill Latkes with Lemon Creme Fraiche, which I loved for the combination of rich fried potato paired with fresh lemon and dill flavors. I haven’t settled on what to make this year, but this Potato Latke with Smoked Salmon and Soft Boiled Quail Egg is a leading contender, not only for the runny yoke, but also for the use of duck fat.
There are countless latke varieties to choose from, and some top notch Hanukkah compilations this year, so I’ve put together a few of my favorite sites to help as you prepare to put your own spin on the holiday.
The Food Network also has their own Holiday Central for Hanukkah.
Gail Simmons, who you might know from Top Chef, offers her Hanukkah Favorites on Food and Wine including her own mother’s recipe for traditional potato latkes, and this drool-inducing recipe for Sephardi style Doughnuts in Cardamom Syrup.
Here is a real Hanukkah original: Zucchini Latkes with Red Pepper Jelly and Smoked Trout for those of you looking for an adventurous alternative.
What varieties of latkes and other Hanukkah treats will you be serving up this year? We want to hear about your family’s traditions, and your twists on the classics too!
Recently I saw a recipe online that looked delicious…but it called for gelatin. One of my all-time favorite Passover dessert recipes calls for several different kinds of dairy, which is problematic when you’ve just finished an enormous meat meal. And then there’s the problem of being a vegetarian, and constantly inundated with beautiful recipes for chicken, Turkey, and even ham.
The number one way to get around the problem is to choose a different recipe, or just leave out the non-kosher ingredient. Google is your friend, and will help you if you need to find, say, a non-dairy turkey recipe, or a recipe for chocolate mousse that you can serve after a meat meal. Alternately, if the non-kosher ingredient is minor, you can just opt to roll the dice and try the recipe without that ingredient. (Ultimately, that’s what I decided to do with the gelatin recipe. Results pending.)
2. Margarine and Butter
When I was growing up, we never kept butter in the house. We only ever had margarine, and that was what we cooked with for all desserts. It wasn’t until I was in grad school that it occurred to me that margarine probably wasn’t any better for me than butter, and that since I was a vegetarian, I should try some butter. What followed was nothing short of a revelation. Butter is amazing. It’s completely fabulous. BUT I had learned growing up that you can make many fabulous desserts using margarine, and while some snobs will adamantly refuse to use a butter substitute under any circumstances, I respectfully disagree. Should you be eating tons of margarine every day? No. But if you’re trying to make a nice dessert (or a Thanksgiving turkey) and you can’t use dairy, it’s okay to get on the margarine train every once in a while. As margarines go, Earth Balance is the best. If you really can’t abide margarine, it’s usually okay to substitute canola or olive oil, about ¼ cup for every ½ cup of butter instructed in the recipe.
3. Milk Substitutes
Many a fine dessert recipe call for milk, buttermilk, or cream. Happily, we live in the days of soy milk, rice milk, coconut milk, and many many other alternative “milks.” I freely substitute these for milk in recipes where I need to make something pareve. I have friends who say that they won’t ever substitute anything for cream, but I’m not that classy—I will use some vanilla soymilk and call it a day.
4. Meat Substitutes
There are so many delicious meat substitutes out there I don’t even know where to start. I love Morningstar Farms, particularly their chicken substitues, and their ground beef substitutes. Many of my fellow vegetarians swear by tofu, but personally, I find it usually kind of unfulfilling. That said, I still use it in a pinch, and if properly marinated and cooked it can be lovely. My favorite, though, is a new discovery—Field Roast vegan sausages. Not yet certified kosher, these sausages are shockingly fantastic. I love them with eggs in the morning, in veggie pies for dinner, and roasted as a side dish. Seitan is also a fantastic meat substitute with a more substantial texture than tofu. The thing is, even though some meat substitutes are great tasting, they don’t really taste like meat, and I don’t think I’d serve any of them solo as a main course the way one could serve a chicken. I say limit meat substitutes to dishes where the meal is part of something greater. And experiment to see which of these you like the most.
5. Cheese substitutes
So, these exist, but I can’t really recommend them. If you’re looking at a meat recipe that calls for cheese, I would just use another recipe. That said, there are some people who love vegan cheese, so it’s worth it to try and see how you feel.
Here are a few recipe ideas to warm up your Shabbat dinner this week!
One of my very own, Tunisian Spice Butternut Squash Soup has just enough spice to make it a little more special than your average butternut squash bisque.
Shabbat Shalom, and happy cooking!