Sunday, December 20, 2009

latkah or latke?

Chanukah has come and gone. I had a wonderful holiday with my family. My mom and I spent a few evenings peeling, shredding, mixing, and frying potatoes and onions into the most delicious (and heart-clogging) part of my religion. I would consider myself more of a cultural Jew than a religious one, and the food certainly plays a large role in my continued observance, and so I look forward to these holidays not only as a chance to spend time with my family, but also to watch my mother cook and try to learn her secrets. This year I learned something new about her latkahs. The basic ingredients of potato, onion, egg, salt and pepper are just the basic elements of the perfect potato pancake. These are all combined in a large bowl and mixed to incorporate. But before forming the patties and squeezing out the excess liquid, there is another ingredient my past attempts at latkahs were missing. The secret to perfectly crispy, golden brown potato pancakes is a dash of baking soda!
When I was away at school, my friends and I would always get together at this time to celebrate our holiday together before going home to our families. One year I lugged a sack of potatoes over to my friends' house to use their food processor. You can shred the potatoes and onions by hand with a cheese grater, but given the option, the faster, less tearful (and bloody) method is preferable. I mixed everything together as I had seen my mother and father do countless times. But I suppose I wasn't paying very close attention as my effort at latkahs yielded soggy, floppy somewhat green and pitifully feeble-looking things. Since I have amazing friends, they happily gobbled up what was put before them... but I knew something had gone terribly wrong.
I have since learned that I was doing two things wrong: a) I didn't use enough oil to fry them, and b) I never knew that my folks tossed the mixture with baking powder.
This time, I made sure not to look away for any part of the pancake process. The finished product was just as I had remembered them. Last year I came home from university after the holiday had passed, but my mother met me at the airport with a baggie full of leftover latkahs. I am so glad I was home this year to make them myself.

1 comment:

  1. Save me some! This almost makes me want to come home from my tropical paradise. Almost...