This season seems to be full of tradition on so very many levels, including food, food, and food. I think this can make the holidays difficult for adults with newly diagnosed food allergies. This was me last year — going to holiday gatherings where I could not safely eat anything. Missing traditional foods, wanting to indulge, not wanting to ruin the holidays by eating the wrong thing and getting sick. ARGH.
Lucky for me, our only real family tradition is trying new things for the holidays. Doesn’t mean I don’t miss some of the traditional cookies, but it does mean that I don’t feel left out of the traditions — in fact I now get to drive them
How many foods are traditional celebratory foods that are also, in and of themselves, a reason for celebrating? Well, if potatoes are your personal proof that there is some order in the universe? Latkes are that food.
Also, they are amazing.
Traditionally served for Hanukkah, the symbolic importance of the latke is the oil in which the potatoes are fried, not the potatoes themselves. Also traditionally, the potatoes are mixed with onions, flour, and eggs (though the flour doesn’t appear in every recipe, so traditions vary. Here’s your primer, if you are interested in Chanukkah. (See, even the spellings differ!) Hanukkah is not as major of a holiday in the Jewish calendar as those who are not Jewish often think or assume, but it may have my favorite food traditions.
The substitutes for the allergenic ingredients in latkes are pretty easy. Instead of flour, potato starch works just fine. Instead of eggs, ground flax or ground chia seeds, mixed with water, make a good stand in. Ground flax gel will mix in easily. Ground chia seeds require a little extra work, as the gel is a bit stiffer; massage it in and around the potatoes and you’ll be fine.
Serve with applesauce, and you’re set. I know this should likely be considered a side dish, but I eat it as a main dish because that’s the way I roll.
This recipe is for a small batch, but double, triple, make as many as you can manage.
- 2 medium baking potatoes potatoes
- 1 baseball-sized onion
- 3 Tablespoons potato starch
- 1 Tablespoon chia seeds or flax seeds, ground, and added to 3 Tablespoons water (4 if using chia)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- canola oil, enough to thickly coat bottom of skillet
- applesauce for serving
Shred potatoes and onion. The photo to the left includes the Sharpie for scale. I’d love to tell you how many pounds of potato to buy, but I hate those recipes as I never remember to weigh the potatoes and I don’t have a scale at home.
Shredded, you should have 4 cups of vegetable matter. If your food processor is like mine, pick out any big chunks of onion that somehow get through.
Place the shredded veg in a colander lined with a large, thin clean dish towel. This step is extremely annoying and extremely necessary. Fold the towel over the top of the potatoes in the colander and press down with as much force as you can muster, multiple times. When that seems to be done, twist the top of the towel and pick up the bundle and squeeze out more liquid. Do this until it’s not very effective anymore (or, in essence, until you’ve squeezed out as much water as your strength allows). I find that my hands aren’t extremely strong, so I push against the divider in my sink.
Put the oil in your skillet over medium heat about now. Also turn your oven on to 200F so that you can keep the whole batch warm.
Dump your well-squeezed shreds into a bowl, add the potato starch and chia egg (add a touch of water if you need to to get the chia gel mobile again), and salt. Mix this really really thoroughly, making sure the starch and chia are spread all throughout the veg shreds.
Now start making latkes. Taking about 2 Tablespoons, make patties in your hands, flattening them out, and not worrying about the raggedy edges. DO, however, worry about the tendency of hand-made patties to dome in the middle — work on making yours FLAT so they cook all the way through. The mound-shaped ones are still edible, but not as good. This does take practice, however, so be kind to yourself and remember that fried potatoes are fried potatoes and they are good.
Lay patties down in the oil carefully. If you’ve squeezed well, there won’t be a splatter of oil caused by water meeting the hot oil. Watch the edges and when one side is browned, flip ’em. Rinse and repeat. When you get to the last batch or so, the mix will be wet. Take your patty scoops and squeeze the water out before throwing them in the oil.
Put the cooked latkes on a sheet pan and throw them in the oven until you’re done. Serve with applesauce.
Honestly, each time you make these, they get better. The ingredients are so simple that their awesomeness is based on your technique, so keep practicing! Only about a third of my latkes come out awesomely golden brown all over, evenly. I blame my stove, but likely it’s at least partially my fault. Guess I’ll have to keep practicing. OH THE HARDSHIP! (This is where a sarcasm font would come in handy).
Do you have any tips for great latke making?