I have seen dozens of posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram the last few days that have featured groups of people standing in front of a lit nine-branch menorah, wishing me a Happy Chanukah. Those are all nice photos, as we celebrate our festival of lights. But for me, it’s the festival of oil. Or fried oil to be more exact. Okay, for me it’s all about my latkes.
I don’t often boast like this, but I think I make the best latkes. For those of you who don’t know what latkes are (first of all, shame on you), I will briefly explain. The essence of the latke is the story of the great miracle that is at the heart of the story of Chanukah. The quick version goes back over 2,100 years ago, when a small but brave group of Jews living in Jerusalem, led by the Maccabees, defeated the Syrian forces, led by King Antiochus IV. As they cleaned up their desecrated temple, the Jews found only enough oil to light the lamps for one night.
But a great miracle happened, and the oil lasted for 8 nights! So, while there is much to celebrate during the holiday of Chanukah, we always remember the oil. And what better way to celebrate oil then to heat a ton of it up in a fry pan and cook some delectable food?
Take a potato, shred it (with a hand shredder of course), mix in eggs, onion, a bit of flour, baking powder, salt and pepper, and you have the ingredients of a latke. Or in my case, 17 potatoes, and you get 95 latkes. I take latke-making very seriously, and a big reason for why mine are so good is that I have the spirit and strength of my grandmothers with me as I cook.
First of all, I wear my Nanny’s apron. It’s not gorgeous, but it protects me from oil splatters and keeps me relatively clean. Second, I use my Bubby’s electric fry pan, which is definitely older than I am. Maybe it’s built-in grime from decades ago is what makes my latkes extra tasty.
I jumped into my annual latke-making on Tuesday night, the first night of Chanukah. With my range hood fan set to high and electric fry pan powered up, I got to work. My parents, uncle, children and husband were on hand to test and taste, and we ate through a few dozen latkes in no time.
Yesterday I brought in a bunch of latkes from the Tuesday night batch to work. I enjoyed watching my colleagues dive in. For one person, it was her first ever latke. She timidly asked me, with her latke on her plate, what exactly is a latke, and I proudly explained. Then she tasted it and was hooked. I really felt like a proud mother at that moment, when I saw my colleague enjoy her first latke. It made my day.
So, you ask, what makes MY latke so good? Well, I think it’s many things. Good, quality potatoes (I like Yukon Gold), parboil the potatoes and hand shred them. Gently mix the batter of course. Piping hot oil in my Bubby’s electric fry pan of course. And I form my potato mixture into a slightly flattened ball. I immerse the latkes in hot oil just long enough so that they are golden brown and crispy on the outside but perfectly soft on the inside.
Is your mouth watering now? Are you craving a hot, greasy, crispy one right now? I’d share a few more from my batch, but I only have a few left. We can’t stop eating them!
And while I admit that I was more focused on my latkes than my family on Tuesday night, and took many more photos of my kitchen than my children, I did snap a family selfie last night, on the second night of the holiday. What would Chanukah be without a photo of children and a lit Chanukiah? And latkes of course!