Have a Happy Hanukkah with Potato Latkes
By Elana Iaciofano • December 03, 2018
Happy Hanukkah, everyone!
Hanukkah is an eight day celebration of lights in the Jewish religion and is traditionally celebrated with foods that use olive oil. Why olive oil? Because during the original ceremony in 165 BCE, a single vessel of pure olive oil miraculously burned for eight days.
We, at Colavita happen to think that olive oil is pretty miraculous, too… but we are biased.
We are also biased towards latkes, a traditional Hanukkah dish. Latkes are shredded potatoes mixed with onion, egg and flour and formed into a pancake. This pancake is then fried, in—you guessed it—olive oil!
To kick off the holiday, we at Colavita are flipping latkes. Two kinds of latkes, in fact!
I have to admit, I haven’t made many potato pancakes in my time. Regular pancakes, yes. But not so many latkes. I needed some taste testers and guinea pigs, so I hosted a latke party.
I chose a menu of two kinds of latkes: original and sweet potato. Original potato pancakes are often served with an apple sauce – a cool and sweet compliment to the warm, savory pancakes. But I wanted to get a little more intense, so instead I made a pear chutney.
A chutney is a sweet and spicy condiment made of fruits or vegetables with vinegar, spices, and sugar. Chutney originated in India, so I am taking some liberties with my ethnic food combinations, but I believe the flavors match well. Pears and brown sugar combine with tangy cranberries and vinegar (choose a kosher variety) and get an added kick from fresh ginger and spices. It’s an impressive way to jazz up regular old applesauce!
For the Sweet Potato Latkes, I wanted something smooth—smooth, creamy, and just a touch sour. I opted for crème fraiche, which happens to be kosher. I whisked it with just a touch of maple syrup (also kosher!), which added just a touch of sweetness and a beautiful caramel color.
I took one more culinary liberty with the sweet potato latkes by adding a pinch of Berbere spice. Berbere is a key ingredient in the cuisines of Ethiopia (yes, I know…back to mixing my food metaphors….), but this chili pepper, garlic, ginger, basil, and fenugreek mix goes so well with sweet potatoes and cinnamon that I couldn’t resist.
Finally, I started frying. And yes, I used Colavita Olive Oil to fry. If you are concerned about frying with olive oil, don’t be. Olive oil is actually perfect for frying. If you like science (and that’s what cooking is, after all!), The International Olive Oil Councilhas this to say about the matter,
“Olive oil is ideal for frying. In proper temperature conditions, without over-heating, it undergoes no substantial structural change and keeps its nutritional value better than other oils, not only because of the antioxidants but also due to its high levels of oleic acid. Its high smoking point (210ºC) is substantially higher than the ideal temperature for frying food (180ºC).”
And if you like resourceful and trusty food editorials, Bon Appetit recommends itespecially for shallow frying, like, oh you know…. LATKES!
The moral of the story is: fry in olive oil. Preferably Colavita.
And to continue our shameless plug for frying in olive oil, we should add that you can fry in our regular olive oil OR our extra virgin. Extra virgin olive oil will impart more of that amazing olive oil taste into your food, while the regular will be milder. You can decide!
Check out our recipes for Potato Latkes with Pear Chutney and Sweet Potato Latkes with Maple Crème Fraiche below.
If you need some more Hanukkah recipes, head on over to Jamie Geller where you can find treats such as this One-pot Braised Chicken
Let’s not forget dessert…which will require more frying in olive oil. These glamorous Sufganiyot are totally worth the effort.
- Find kosher versions of vinegar, maple syrup, and crème fraiche
- Don’t worry, eggs are OK to pair with dairy products in a kosher diet!
- No berbere spice? It’s ok to skip it, but it does add something special.
- Since you can only fry a few latkes at a time, keep cooked latkes warm in an oven heated to 200°F while you finish frying.
Potato Latkes with Pear Chutney
Yields: 16-18 Latkes, depending on size
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Ingredients for the Latkes:
- 2 large Russet potatoes (about 1 pound), scrubbed and cut lengthwise into quarters
- 1 large onion (8 ounces), peeled and cut into quarters
- 2 large kosher eggs
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Colavita Olive Oil for frying
Ingredients for the Pear Chutney:
- 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
- 1/2 cup Kosher White Wine Vinegar
- 2-inch cinnamon stick
- 1 whole clove
- 2 lb. firm-ripe pears, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (5 cups)
- 1 cup finely diced yellow onion
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
- 2 tsp. mustard seeds
- 1 tbsp. grated fresh ginger
- Kosher salt
- First, make the chutney.
- Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Cook slowly, stirring from time to time, until mixture is thickens and reduces, about 1 hour.
- Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
- Next prepare the Latkes:
- Using a food processor with a coarse grating disc, grate the potatoes and onion.
- Transfer the mixture to a bowl and squeeze out excess water with a clean paper towel.
- Add the eggs, flour, salt, baking powder and pepper, and mix until well combined and all the flour is absorbed.
- Pour enough Colavita Olive Oil into a medium heavy-bottomed pan so that it is about ¼” high. Increase the heat to medium-high. Once the oil is hot (a drop of batter placed in the pan should sizzle), use a heaping tablespoon to drop the latke batter into the hot pan. Don’t overcrowd the pan, but fit about 3-4 latkes at once (depending on the size of the pan).
- Use a spatula to flatten and shape the drops into discs.
- When the edges of the latkes are brown and crispy, about 3-5 minutes, flip and cook on the other side for about 3-5 minutes.
- Transfer the latkes to a paper towel-lined plate to drain and sprinkle with salt while still warm. Repeat with the remaining batter.
- Serve alongside pear chutney.
Sweet Potato Latkes with Maple Creme Fraiche
Yields: 16-18 latkes, depending on size
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
For the Latkes:
- 1 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and coarsely grated
- 2 scallions, finely chopped
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 large kosher eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 3/4 cup Colavita Olive Oil
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp Berbere spice
- Pinch nutmeg
For the Maple Crème Fraiche
- 4 ounces (113 g) kosher crème fraîche
- 1 tablespoon kosher maple syrup
- Grate the sweet potatoes in a food processor with the grater attachment.
- Remove the grated sweet potatoes to a bowl and add the scallions, flour, eggs, salt, and spices.
- Pour enough Colavita Olive Oil into a deep, 12-inch nonstick skillet to reach ¼” deep. Heat the oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking.
- Working in batches of 4, spoon 1/8 cup potato mixture per latke into oil and flatten to 3-inch diameter with a slotted spatula. Reduce heat to moderate and cook until golden, about 3 minutes on each side. Flip and cook another 3 minutes on the other side.
- Transfer latkes with spatula to paper towels to drain.
- Next, prepare the maple crème fraiche. In a small bowl combine the crème fraiche and the maple syrup. Wisk until well combined.
- Serve the latkes hot with the maple crème fraiche.