There’s nothing like a platter of potato pancakes to inspire excess.
Plain and simple, the recipe I grew up with called for measurement in pounds: as many potatoes as you could stand to peel and grate by hand, as many onions chopped as needed to bring tears streaming to your eyes, eggs and matzoh meal - enough to hold the ingredients together, salt and pepper enough to taste, and if you really wanted to give your Lipitor a workout, a dollop of chicken fat, enough to add that indescribably heavenly Jewish flavor.
Latkes, the Yiddish word for the potato pancakes we know and love, are the iconic food of Chanukah, Festival of Lights and Oil. Fried until golden in a pool of vegetable oil, drained on paper towels, latkes are best when eaten still sizzling, cooled just enough so as not to burn the tongue. Serve with sour cream and homemade apple sauce or apple-cherry compote. Make plenty - the more, the merrier. When it comes to latkes, ain’t no mountain high enough to slow down the descendants of the Maccabees.
Put a plate of potato pancakes in front of me, and it evokes memories of my father in his prime, with his appetite for a latke feast. He’d take second helpings, then a third and fourth without qualms, stopping only to bring sugar to the table, to sprinkle over the pancakes left on the plate and polish them off for dessert.
Now with the shredding blade of the Cuisinart, I’m no stickler for the old recipe. I throw in the potatoes, peel and all, add carrots or sweet potatoes for color and delicate flavor. For company, I make petite latkes in appetizing little spoonfuls, topped with a creme fraiche or an elegant mix of chopped smoked salmon, red onion, caviar (red salmon roe) and capers.
Google "potato pancakes," or wander through the pages of a Joan Nathan cookbook, and latkes take on a whole new meaning. We learn, for example that latkes in Israel are calledlevivot, the Hebrew term for any and all sorts of vegetable or flour pancakes. Take vegetables and grains in their glorious variety, legumes, beans, rice, add cream and cheese, and voila, you can fry!