At Home’s Traditional Potato Latkes & Applesauce

The first night of Hanukkah is Wednesday, December 1st.

From At Home…Latkes and Choucroute
Many years of demanding work, single fatherhood and a reclusive social life meant I was a near-celibate when it came to home entertaining. Christina changed all that. She has a wide range of friends and family and loves having them over. A very stylish entertainer, she always has a bottle of champagne in the refrigerator and her oft-repeated and perfected salt and pepper chicken is featured on page 157. Naturally, Christina has influenced the shape of this book, just as she’s shaped my home entertaining attitude. She is from the KISS school of entertaining: Keep It Simple, Sweetheart. Her philosophy is that by keeping it simple, you’ll be inclined to host more often and maintain the focus on your guests. For too long, I thought of entertaining as my art and guests were simply a welcome excuse to practice that art. Married on November 29th, we decided on an early December holiday gathering. Worn out from our wedding and the demands of recipe testing, I was, frankly, hardly in the mood for extracurricular cooking. Yet holiday entertaining was a long-held Christina tradition and we wanted to celebrate married life with friends and family in a season of celebrations. Potato latkes (see page 340) were de rigueur. On my list of recipes to test was choucroute garnie, the traditional pork-laden sauerkraut dish that I made for Christina for our first New Year’s Day together. So, killing two birds with one stone, the choucroute garnie complemented our latkes, making for a reasonable Hanukkah and Christmas pairing befitting our respective holiday traditions. Dessert was lavender ice cream—leftovers from the batch I’d made for our wedding.

Traditional Potato Latkes & Applesauce
It’s a shame that potato pancakes tend to be made only for Hanukkah, the Jewish holiday that comes in December. The Hanukkah story celebrates the miracle of oil—there was reportedly just enough to burn one day in the temple, but it lasted for eight days. The fact that potato pancakes require prodigious amounts of oil to fry is surely a coincidence. The key to making them crispy is to squeeze out excess water from the grated onion and potato. Make the applesauce first so it’s ready for your hot latkes. The recipe will yield more than you will likely need for the latkes.

do ahead Applesauce may be made up to two weeks ahead and stored in the refrigerator. Latkes may be made up to three days ahead and stored, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator or frozen up to a month. Reheat in a 350° oven for 7-10 minutes, turning them over midway through.

Applesauce
1 cup apple cider
2 cinnamon sticks
21⁄2 pounds apples (for best results, use a mix of sweet and tart)
sugar to taste
Latkes
1 pound onion, peeled
11⁄2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon pepper
vegetable oil

1 Make the applesauce: In a large pot, add apple cider and cinnamon sticks and simmer slowly for 10 minutes, taking care not to boil the cider away.
2 Leaving skin on, core apples and cut them into chunks.
3 Add apples and sugar to pot. Increase heat to high and cover. After about 5 minutes, stir apples to move the top apples down into the liquid. Continue cooking until apples are soft and falling apart, about 10-15 minutes more.
4 Remove cinnamon sticks and reserve. Using a food mill or food processor, puree apples to desired texture. Add back cinnamon sticks to sauce. Chill. (Just be sure to remove cinnamon sticks before serving.)
5 Make the latkes: On the largest holes of a box grater, grate onion and potatoes. The large-holed grating disk on the food processor does a fine job too. Turn the mixture onto several layers of cheesecloth or an open kitchen towel. Gather the corners and squeeze the water from the mixture.
6 Combine eggs, flour, salt and pepper in large bowl. Add onions and potatoes and mix well.
7 Preheat oven to 200°. Line a baking sheet with two layers of paper towels and have another unlined baking sheet ready. Heat 1⁄2 cup oil in a sauté pan over moderately high heat until very hot but not smoking. Fill a 1⁄3 cup measure with the potato mixture. Drop it into the sauté pan and push it down with the flat side of the measuring cup so you have a pancake about 3 inches in diameter and 1⁄4-inch thick. Cook pancakes until brown and crisp on one side, about 2-3 minutes, and flip, taking care not to splatter the oil. Continue cooking for 1-2 minutes more. Add more oil as needed, making sure to get the oil hot before adding the pancake mixture. Adjust heat as needed so that the pancakes brown as they cook through without burning. As you get to the bottom of the mix it will be watery, so be sure to give it a stir. Transfer cooked pancakes to the prepared baking sheet to drain. Pat the top of the pancakes with another double layer of paper towels. Cook remaining batter in batches until all the pancakes are cooked, transferring cooked and drained pancakes to the unlined baking sheet.
8 Keep them warm in the oven until ready to serve. Serve with applesauce and/or sour cream.

yields 2 quarts applesauce and 1 dozen 3-inch pancakes

Potato Latkes…This Thursday at The Residences at Two Liberty Place
As guests arrive, I’ll be serving potato latkes with homemade applesauce. There are still a few seats available for my Gershwin Y sponsored event at Two Liberty Place. Click For info. I’ll be doing some Home Entertaining Coaching. The event begins at 7 PM and will include my perspective on how to make home entertaining better and easier and well as some simple recipes. At Home’s Potato Latkes included. If you never have experienced the view from the top of Two Liberty Place, I can promise you that it’s breathtaking. I will be selling and signing At Home: A Caterer’s Guide to Cooking & Entertaining.

Happy Hanukkah,

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

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