I very seldom talk about my religion,personal life and the religious holidays I celebrate. Not because I am ashamed to. But because this blog is not a forum for religious and theological discussions. The only time I will mention religion and holidays if its related to the food and dishes served on those occasions. And because this recipe ties into the holiday I’m currently celebrating, I feel that a brief crash course on this holiday will perhaps provide you with a better understanding with this particular dish.
Hanukah is an 8 day holiday that usually falls out around December (which commenced last Saturday night) . The English translation for Hanukah is dedication. For those of us who are Jewish (like yours truly), we celebrate this holiday to commemorate the miraculous victory we had over the massive Syrian-Greek army in 165 B.C.E as well as the re-dedication of the Holy temple in Jerusalem. So why do we celebrate this holiday for 8 days? What significance does potato pancakes and doughnuts have on this holiday? These questions can be answered in one word: Oil.
This is where food comes in. Because Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of oil, it is traditional to eat fried foods such as latkes and sufganiyot during the holiday. Latkes are pancakes made out of potatoes and onions, which are fried in oil and then served with applesauce. Sufganiyot (singular: sufganiyah) are jelly-filled donuts that are fried and sometimes dusted with confectioners’ sugar before eating. As you know, I have a weakness for fried food and I’ve learned some self control. Resisting fried chicken and doughnuts can be challenging. But I can feel my arteries clogging and my waistline expanding just over the mere thought of anything heavily saturated in oil.
Believe it or not, I struggled for many years trying to make the perfect potato pancake. As simple as it looked, I could never get it right. They either fell apart as they were cooking or they came out soggy. Either experience was frustrating. And then I learned a new and logical cooking technique to making crispy potato pancakes. Potatoes,zucchini,apples,etc. contain a lot of water. After you shred either vegetable, they must be drained from their waters as much as possible before beginning the cooking process. This tip helped me a lot and now I no longer need to anticipate an anxiety attack when making these spud delights again. Whether you choose to fry or oven bake them, this tip is very much applicable.
I tried making doughnuts and the results were disappointing. But rather than deep frying potato pancakes, I decided to bake them. Okay. I used a bit of oil but not for frying purposes. Some people critique that oven baked potato pancakes are not as crispy as the fried ones. But when it comes to cooking healthy by me, when there is a will, there is (almost) a way. I used bread crumb to give these pancakes that crispy appearance and texture. Breadcrumbs also hold the potato mixture together and prevent them from falling apart. Feel free to use cornmeal instead for gluten free potato pancakes.
When it comes to making potato pancakes, a lot of cooks will recommend russet potatoes but I see nothing wrong with using red or Yukon potatoes. Some people like to exclusively use potatoes while others may use zucchini,carrots,sweet potatoes, and even apples (guilty). I’ve seen people incorporate some shredded cheese as well. You can use a bit of each vegetable or you can make vegetable pancakes using either produce without the potatoes. Last year, I used zucchini in addition to the potatoes and this year I went with apples. I was aiming for the sweet-savory flavor. If you decide to omit the apples, then use some extra potatoes.
Because of hubby’s nut allergy, I didn’t use any nuts. Otherwise, I would have thrown some grounded walnuts in the potato pancake batter. But I’m leaving that option available to you. You don’t need to wait till Hanukah comes around to eat potato pancakes. You can make them any time of the year for any occasion. Serve them with some unsweetened apple sauce or dollop a spoonful of non-fat plain Greek yogurt on top sprinkles with some chives. Cucumber salad would go well with these pancakes as well as a bowl of hot soup or even with fish.
For this recipe, you will need:
- 1 lbs of potatoes ( about 4 to 5 large russet,Yukon,or red potatoes)
- 2- 3 apples cored and peeled
- 1 medium onion
- 2 eggs lightly beaten
- 4 tablespoons of breadcrumbs or gluten free flour
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon of celery seeds
- 1 teaspoon of dried parsley
- 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper
- 1/3 teaspoon of nutmeg
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Wash and peel the potatoes. Using a food processor or a hand grater, grate the potatoes, apples, and onions. Transfer them to a colander and press down firmly with a paper towel to remove some of the excess moisture. Stir potato mixture using your hands and repeat. Transfer potato mixture to a large bowl. and stir in the eggs. In a small bowl, mix in bread crumbs,gluten-free flour,salt,pepper,celery seeds,parsley,and nutmeg. Stir them in with the potatoes pancake mixture.
Drop the potato pancake mixture in 2-3 tbsp measures, forming 2-3 inch pancakes that are about 1/4 inch thick (sightly thicker is fine), on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes, then turn the pancakes over, and bake for an additional 10 minutes.These pancakes should be deep gold on both sides when done, so add a minute or two to the baking time, if necessary. The latkes can be served immediately, but will stay crisp a bit longer than their fried counterparts and can also be served at room temperature.
Yields approximately 16 potato pancakes.
This recipe can easily be doubled.