This is such a busy time of year for all of us. It seems particularly busy for me and my multi-faith family. The moment the Thanksgiving dishes are put away, we begin to celebration plans for anniversaries, my husband’s office party and Hanukkah. Not always in that particular order. And then, we are on to Christmas and New Years. My anxiety kicks in just thinking about it.
This year, Hanukkah falls nicely into our holiday madness – early in December with no overlap. To me, that means that I can enjoy the preparations for our annual Hanukkah party, sharing latke love with friends and family.
We started this tradition about 13 years ago, when one of my daughter’s friends announced she wanted to celebrate Hanukkah to have 8 nights of gifts. I took it upon myself to invite our kids’ friends and their families to share the true meaning of the Festival of Lights. We have been celebrating this tradition ever since! Families, friends, good food and candlelight – what could possibly be better?
Each year, no matter how many guests I invite, my kids (now 23 and 25) seem to make their own guest list of hungry friends- and we end up with a house full of multi-denominational, latke-eating, candle-lighting regulars, sharing a special night with us. It’s one of my favorite moments of this time of the year.
I like to sprinkle dreidels and chocolate gelt on the tables, to add to the festiveness. The dreidel spinning begins, along with discussions of the preferred choice of gelt – dark chocolate or milk chocolate?
I don’t profess to be a great potato latke master. In fact, I am not even Jewish. I grew up on a farm in Iowa! But, in the early years of my marriage, my wonderful and very cunning mother-in-law had a way of teaching me all the families favorite dishes without even realizing it. I will always be grateful for that. When she came for a visit, she would announce that we would be making something I had never heard of for dinner that night. I got used to keeping extra onions and celery on hand when I knew she was visiting!
I may not have ever heard of Kasha Varnishkes or Matzo Brei, but by gosh, I sure learned how to make them! Unfortunately, my mother-in-law passed away long before my curiosity with sweet potatoes peaked.
There are many wonderful recipes online with tips to pursue perfection in frying potato latkes. I won’t even begin to give advice in that arena. I make them, and they are tasty, but I know there are better latkes out there. I am actually known more for the brisket or homemade applesauce that flag the buffet table. And over the years I have become known by my friends for frying a pretty mean sweet potato latke.
I thought it would be fun to share my favorite recipe with you. There may be better ones out there, but this is what I have been making for years, and I think I have it down to a science at this point. At least, I have no guests complain yet!! I like them best with homemade applesauce (extra cinnamon, please), but they are also wonderful with sour cream.
Sweet Potato Latkes
- 2 leeks, rinsed thoroughly and cut into chunks
- 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled, quarter and to fit in food processor*
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour or matzoh meal
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- canola oil, 24 fl. oz.
- You will also need: food processor, 12″ in deep cast iron skillet and a splatter screen, metal spatula, ice cream scoop, salt shaker and pepper grinder, and a cookie sheet lined with 2-3 layers of brown paper bags or paper towels.
*Tip: You can shred the potatoes by hand, but the food processor is much easier and does a wonderful job with sweet potatoes.
Break 3 eggs into a large size bowl and beat well.
Using the “S” blade on your food processor, mince leeks until almost pureed. Transfer to egg mixture and mix together.
Attach the julienne slicer blade to the food processor. Feed the sweet potatoes through the processor to shred. Transfer shredded potatoes to the large bowl. Tip: Rinse out the processor immediately, so that you don’t end up with an orange “stain” to the plastic.
Sprinkle in 1/2 the flour and the nutmeg. Mix well. Sprinkle remaining flour, until it gets a “sticky” consistency.
Heat 1/2″ of oil in a deep 12-inch cast iron skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Turn the heat to medium and make a “test” latke. With a ice cream scoop, spoon potato mixture into oil and gently flatten to 3-inch diameter with a slotted spatula. Tip: I usually take a fork and loosen up the edges, to get a cripsy, hairy texture.
Salt and pepper, then cover with a splatter screen. Cook until golden and crispy, about 2- 3 minutes, then flip and fry for another 2 minutes. You may need to flatten again once turned. The latke should have a crispy enough surface that it will not break up when turning. If it breaks apart, add a bit more flour to the remaining mix.
Transfer to cookie sheet and fry remaining mix, making 4 at a time.
Transfer latkes with spatula to cookie sheet to drain. You may move to a warm oven until finished frying the remaining latkes.
Serve with applesauce and/or sour cream. Enjoy!
And so, with the lighting of the candle on the first night of Hanukkah, the holiday season has officially began for my family. One lovely evening of family and friends enjoying traditions and embracing the holiday season together.
May all of our readers have a wonderful and peaceful holiday season filled with happiness and love!