Posts Tagged ‘Hanukkah’

Mashed potato latkes

November 30, 2013

Every year when Hanukkah comes around, I pick a night to make latkes and a brisket. And every year, I swear I will not only make latkes for Hanukkah.

Similarly, a lot of people go crazy about selecting, preparing and serving a turkey for Thanksgiving and never think about it again the rest of the year.

This year, with Thanksgiving falling on the first day of the Feast of Lights, I was concerned about when I might make my latkes. Even with a scaled back crowd attending dinner this year, I knew realistically we wouldn’t be done with the leftovers until at least half-way through Hanukkah.

The first night after Thanksgiving, we finished up the leftover ravioli and sauce and meatballs and sausage. On Saturday night, we set our sights on some turkey, the end of the dressing, green beans, cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes.


Why not repurpose those leftover mashed potatoes into latkes. I could still spoon some of the gravy over them. Or top them with cranberry sauce.  Of course a dollop of sour cream is always nice.

What a great idea! And so easy to do.  They turned out great! Crisp exterior with a fluffy interior. 

The convergence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah that occurred this year won’t happen again for 70,000 years.

Don’t wait that long to try this recipe. mplatkes

Mashed Potato Latkes

  •          Leftover mashed potatoes (approximately 2 cups) at room temperature
  •          1 large egg
  •          ½ to 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  •          Vegetable oil

In a large bowl, sprinkle about ¼ cup of the flour over the potatoes.  Add the egg and work into the flour and potatoes. Add just enough additional flour to form a cohesive dough that is just stiff enough to be workable. Don’t overdo it.

Pour oil into a 10 or 12 inch skillet (cast iron is perfect for this) to a depth of about ½ an inch. Heat the oil over a medium flame until it sizzles when a small piece of the dough is dropped into it. (About 7 minutes).

Grease a ¼ cup measuring cup with Pam or a similar spray oil. Fill with the dough mixture and drop into the hot oil. Flatten the dough slightly with a spoon. Do this three more times. Do not overcrowd the pan.  Cook until browned, four to five minutes, flip and cook for another four or five minutes.

Remove the latkes from the skillet and set on paper towel lined platter to drain. Cover to keep them warm. You may want to lightly salt and pepper them to taste. Repeat until you have used up the dough.  Serve warm with sour cream and applesauce (or the Thanksgiving leftovers).

Makes 8 – 10 potato pancakes.


I hate Mondays (sometimes)

December 20, 2011


While I don’t normally think the worst of the first day of the work week, sometimes they just don’t get off to a good start. It had been one of those days.

By the time I was grabbing my second cup of coffee, I was getting agitated with various and sundry “things.” A walk to city hall and then the bank to take care of a couple of errands chilled me a little but upon returning home found the aggravation level going up again due to some computer “issues.”

The question came up about dinner and was solved with grabbing a couple of boneless, skinless chicken breasts out of the freezer. Sort of.

The way the day had started I thought it might be advisable to come up with something more pleasing than some dry old sautéed chicken breasts accompanied by some yellow rice or a baked potato.

I started taking a mental inventory of what we had on hand in the pantry and a plan began to take shape. Something warm and comforting. And out of the ordinary.

Chicken paprikas came to mind. While I had eaten paprikas (veal or chicken) dozens of times, I had never made it. Well, once, I just sort of dusted some cut up chicken breasts with paprika, browned them off and made a quick pan gravy with some stock and a little butter/flour roux. I knew there was more to the dish so I did a quick Google and looked at the first entry that came up.

It was a link to this entry on I had just about everything I needed, except sour cream. But there was a half of a half pint of light cream in the fridge. I bet I could make this work.

So, using the recipe provided by the late BoxO’Wine on, I put together what I referred to as my “half a**sed chicken paprikas” for the two of us. It passed the test. It might not be 100% authentic but I gotta tell ya it was quite tasty.

There can be no denying, the key is good paprika and I was fortunate to have not one but three tins of Spanish smoked paprika purchased through La Tienda. This assortment of La Chinata paprika includes one, 2.5 ounce tin each of sweet, bittersweet and hot paprikas. And I put all three to work.

The paprikas smelled great while it was cooking (and that was no small feat because I was also braising the brisket for the next night’s Hanukkah dinner and IT smelled pretty good too). I wished I had a bottle of “Bulls Blood” on hand to go with the dish. A California Merlot would have to do.

It was a pretty good ending for what had started off as a less than spectacular day. Not bad for a half-a**ed attempt at a classic.

Half A**ed Chicken Paprikas (for two)

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into pieces approximately 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons Spanish smoked paprika, 1 each sweet and bittersweet
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • salt to taste
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 small onion, sliced thinly lengthwise
  • 1 tablespoon Spanish sweet, smoked paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon Spanish hot, smoked paprika (can use cayenne pepper in a pinch)
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (or, in a pinch light cream)

Mix flour, paprikas, salt and black pepper in a plastic bag large enough to hold all the chicken slices.  Add the chicken, seal the bag and toss to coat evenly.  Remove the chicken and reserve the seasoned flour.

Add oil to Dutch oven or large skillet and heat over medium high flame until shimmering. Place chicken in pan and brown on each side.

Remove the chicken pieces from the pan and set aside. Add butter and a little more oil to the pan. Once butter has melted, toss in onions sweet and hot paprika (or cayenne) and a pinch of salt. Sauté until the onions have softened, 2 or 3 minutes.

Add chicken back to the pan along with the can of chicken stock.

Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to simmer.  Cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove from heat and let paprikas cool down.

Whisk the reserved flour into the light or sour cream until well blended and smooth.

Add small amount of liquid from pot into flour/cream mixture and stir until mixed thoroughly. This tempers the dairy product so it won’t break when you add it, stirring constantly, back into the pot.

Simmer 5 minutes. Ladle over egg noodles.  Pour some nice, but not expensive red wine and accompany with a tossed salad.

Serves 2 (with a little left over for lunch the next day).



December 15, 2009

Grandmom's menorah

We were halfway through Hanukkah this year when I got around to making my annual batch of latkes.  This is something I do in honor of my grandmother, Bessie Cohen Carlucci. 

Grandmom may have married into an Italian family and adopted many of the foods and traditions of that culture, but she maintained some of her Jewish traditions as well.  Every year the holiday decorations in her house on Ferry Street included an electric menorah that was lit for Hanukkah. 

When we were dealing with my late Aunt’s estate a decade or so ago, I was thrilled to come across that menorah in its original box. I kept it and have it still.   But even before that, I had picked up a brass menorah in a shop in Indianapolis because I wanted to keep the Hanukkah tradition going.

So one night every year, I would find myself cooking a brisket and preparing a batch of potato pancakes.

It’s a shame that I only think to make these wonderful treats once a year.  They really are tasty and deserve to appear on the table more often.  And I could use the practice.

Cooking, like any skill/craft requires repetition if one wishes to become proficient.  Certainly that is the case with my latkes.

Now I am not referring to the tarted up potato-turnip-duck fat versions.  Or ones made with sweet potatoes.  We’re talking plain old potato pancakes.

I’ve tried a number of versions from cookbooks, newspaper articles, and consults with family and friends. My results have varied from poor to mediocre.  Since the recipes are all so similar, I have to assume I am the inconsistent factor.

The important thing is I keep trying.

The basic recipe is the same: grated potatoes, some grated onion, drained of as much water as possible, seasoned with salt and pepper and bound with beaten egg.  Some add matzo meal, or chopped herbs.  Make patties, pressing out still more moisture, and fry in oil. 

Simple, right?

Or not.

Things I’ve learned over the years…

  •  Use the proper type of potato.  This year I used Yukon Golds.
  • Strain as much water from the potato mixture as possible before adding in the egg and other ingredients.
  • Press the water out of the patties after shapping them and before slipping them in to the oil
  • As with all frying, keep your oil hot and don’t crowd the pan with too many latkes at once.

I did find an interesting tip that I applied to this year’s batch. It came in an email from the people at America’s Test Kitchen(see the recipe below). 

After grating the potatoes in the food processor, switch to the regular steel blade, add back half of the grated potatoes to the bowl along with the onion and pulse until you have a uniform crumbly mixture.  The idea is that the mixture of shredded and coarsely chopped potato gives the latkes a softer center, somewhat reminiscent of the Irish boxty.   

I did get a little “fancy” in that I swapped a touch of chopped, fresh rosemary for the scallions in the recipe.  I happened to have rosemary sitting on the counter from another culinary adventure earlier in the day and figured, “why not?”

We decided that this batch of latkes was pretty good.  And that we needn’t wait and have them only once a year.

I think Grandmom would approve.

Thick and Creamy Potato Latkes

Makes approximately 14 3-inch pancakes.  

Matzo meal is a traditional binder, though we found that the pancake’s texture does not suffer without it. Applesauce and sour cream are classic accompaniments for potato latkes.


  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes or russet potatoes, peeled
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and cut into eighths
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 medium scallions , white and green parts, minced
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons matzo meal (optional)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1 cup vegetable oil for frying


  1. Grate potatoes in food processor fitted with coarse shredding blade. Place half the potatoes in fine mesh sieve set over medium bowl and reserve. Fit food processor with steel blade, add onions, and pulse with remaining potatoes until all pieces measure roughly 1/8 inch and look coarsely chopped, 5 to 6 one-second pulses. Mix with reserved potato shreds in sieve and press against sieve to drain as much liquid as possible into bowl below. Let potato liquid stand until starch settles to bottom, about one minute. Pour off liquid, leaving starch in bowl. Beat egg, then potato mixture and remaining ingredients (except oil), into starch.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 1/4-inch depth of oil in 12-inch skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Working one at a time, place 1/4 cup potato mixture, squeezed of excess liquid and pressed into 1/2-inch thick disc, in oil. Press gently with nonstick spatula; repeat until five latkes are in pan.
  3. Maintaining heat so fat bubbles around latke edges, fry until golden brown on bottom and edges, about three minutes. Turn with spatula and continue frying until golden brown all over, about three minutes more. Drain on a triple thickness of paper towels set on wire rack over a jelly roll pan. Repeat with remaining potato mixture, returning oil to temperature between each batch and replacing oil after every second batch. (Cooled latkes can be covered loosely with plastic wrap, held at room temperature for 4 hours, transferred to a heated cookie sheet and baked in a 375-degree oven, until crisp and hot, about 5 minutes per side. Or, they can be frozen on cookie sheet, transferred to zipper-lock freezer bag, frozen, and reheated in a 375-degree oven until crisp and hot, about 8 minutes per side). Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.