So it’s a bit confusing around my house with all the holiday festivities and celebrations. Anytime you have a 3 and 6 year old there’s bound to be questions and comedy. There’s been lots of talk and queries about God, Santa, Hannukah, presents, the North Pole, etc. Everything from “Why don’t all kids get presents since Santa can make as many toys as he wants and gives them for free?” (good point) to “We’re Jewish right?. You make latkes and we go to a party and play dreidle”. (that’s true, but…)
Like many I like to use food as a way of celebrating and teaching different holidays, cultures, and history. There’s always a story and a food for most of life’s tradition, beliefs and gatherings. However now my son thinks our family is all religions, cultures and ancestry because I cook it all. Not necessarily a bad thing, but he (and I) needs some guidance. I ordered a book (not a cookbook) entitled One World, Many Religions by Mary Osbourne to hopefully give me some more educated answers about religions, faith, and beliefs around the globe. I need something more than the simple story about the oil lasting for 8 days and now here’s a latke.
Thankfully other children in my son’s school and circle of friends are noticing different ways family’s celebrate too. I hear them ask “Why don’t we have a Menorah/Christmas Tree?” So we’ve been able to share in some friends’ candle lighting and dreidle games (and note our impromptu “lights” above) and also have ornaments for those to put on our tree that don’t have one at their home.
Here’s the latke recipe that launched a thousand questions.
(from Petit Appetit: Eat, Drink and Be Merry)
Wanting to reduce the amount of oil and frying in traditional latkes, I developed a version that’s finished in the oven to give extra crispness without extra fat and grease. These are great accompanied by applesauce and sour cream.
Makes 12 servings
1½ pounds (about 2) organic russet potatoes, scrubbed and shredded (4 cups)
1 medium yellow onion, shredded (½ cup)
2 medium shallots, minced (1 tablespoon)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large cage-free organic egg
2 (6-inch-squares) whole wheat matzo, broken into pieces
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Toss potatoes, onion, shallots, and salt together in a medium bowl. Transfer to a sieve set over a large bowl and let drain for about 15 minutes. Squeeze potato mixture by handfuls over a glass bowl to release excess moisture (some moisture should remain) and put potato mixture in a separate bowl. Potato liquid will have a pasty-white sediment (starch) in the bottom of the glass bowl that you can see. Carefully pour off and discard top liquid and add starchy portion to the potato mixture. Stir in egg.
Put matzo pieces into a food processor (or see below) and process to coarse crumbs. Sprinkle crumbs and pepper over potato mixture and toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate until matzo is softened, 15 to 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Coat a baking sheet with oil.
Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Stir the potato mixture. Using a ¼-cup measuring cup, scoop potato mixture and add to pan without crowding. Press with a spatula to flatten to about a 3-inch cake. Cook until crispy and golden, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer the latkes to prepared baking sheet. Continue cooking, using additional oil to prevent sticking, if needed. Once all are cooked and on baking sheet, transfer to the oven and bake until heated through, about 10 minutes.
Kid’s Help vs. Processor. Instead of using the processor to make matzo crumbs, put matzo in a plastic bag and have kids roll with a rolling pin to break and crumble. Of course the project takes longer, but is more fun.