Sunday, December 5, 2010

Back to Cooking

For several days after Thanksgiving, I really didn't feel much like cooking. I like cooking - A LOT - but I needed a break. We lived on leftovers and quick meals for a few days, but now I feel like I'm ready to rejoin the world of cooking.

This weekend Aaron made latkes, the traditional potato pancake associated with the holiday of Hanukkah/Chanukah/choose your favorite spelling and move on. Hanukkah is called the festival of lights since we Jews light a 8 branch menorah (candelabra) + the helper candle (shamash) in honor of a mythic miracle of oil for the Holy Temple's menorah lasting much longer than predicted. The actual story of Chanukah has to do with a battle of cultures and religions, but this blog is about food and not religious history, so back to food. In honor of the supposed miracle, we Jews eat a lot of greasy food during the 8 days of Chanukah.

Aaron makes some of the BEST latkes I've ever had. He of course does not cook with a recipe, but he does stick to a formula - one onion for every two potatoes. Most recipes I've read suggest one onion for four potatoes, and I don't find this formula as flavorful. In addition to the grated onions and potatoes, Aaron adds enough egg to make the vegetables stick together. It looks fairly soupy before he fries it. After he fries a batch, he puts the latkes on paper grocery bags in a dish in the oven to stay warm and drain. Let me try explaining this more like a recipe. :)

Aaron's Latkes
For every 2 potatoes, 1 onion
Salt and pepper to taste
Cooking oil of your choosing (Aaron likes peanut oil)

Grate potatoes and onions, preferably with a food processor since it is quicker and less dangerous. Put grated potatoes and onions in a large mixing bowl. Begin to add beaten eggs until you have a fairly soupy mixture. It won't be a liquid, but it is somewhat pourable. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Prepare a baking dish such as a 13 x 9 Pyrex and preheat your oven to 200 degrees. Cut some brown grocery bags to line the baking dish and eventually to layer between rows of latkes.

Heat oil on a griddle or in a large skillet. You will want to heat a shallow pool of oil and consider having a pan lid nearby in case of grease fire. Aaron has yet to cause a grease fire, but other family members seem to be prone to latke fire starting. Scoop potato mixture on griddle into 3-4" diameter "blobs"/pancakes. Fry for several minutes on each side. As the latke fries on the first side, you can test its "flippability" with a very flat spatula after a few minutes. Latkes are ready to flip when they do not threaten to fall apart when you touch them with a spatula.

When latkes are fried, remove them from heat and transfer to your prepared baking dish. Keep dish in oven while you cook remaining latkes. Make sure to put a layer of paper bag between the rows of latkes. After you have made all the potato mixture into latkes, serve latkes warm with applesauce and/or sour cream.

Speaking of applesauce, I made a cranberry applesauce which complemented the latkes rather nicely. My usual applesauce recipe follows:

8-9 apples, cored and sliced, possibly peeled
1 c. water
cinnamon (optional)

Combine ingredients in large pot. Bring to boil. Continue boiling/simmering until apples are mashable (10 minutes?). Mash with potato masher or immersion blender.

For cranberry applesauce, I added just under 3 cups of fresh cranberries. The resulting sauce was quite red, a bit tart but still sweet enough that the kids really enjoyed it.

More cooking coming as our week starts again!

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