Hanukkah Lights and Latke Delights

Happy Hanukkah! There are eight nights to celebrate the Festival of Lights, a time when families gather together to tell stories, hone their dreidel spins, and enjoy the gently flickering candles of the menorah. And then, there are the latkes: fried potato pancakes that are perhaps one of the most delicious homages to the miracle of oil ever to grace a plate. There are so many variations (and toppings!) to try, and we’re delighted to share Melissa Clark’s delicious french spin on the classic.

Get the recipe: Gruyère Latkes from Dinner in French by Melissa Clark* (also printed below).

And for your listening accompaniment, we suggest one of these audiobooks that you can start while grating potatoes, and leave on long after the candles burn low.

A National Book Award Finalist. The Way Back is perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman and Philip Pullman, this warm and sweeping historical fantasy follows two teens on a journey through the Far Country, a land of spirits and demons from the Jewish folk tradition. Narrated by the incomparable Allan Corduner.

In Dreidels on the Brain, it’s Hanukkah, 1971, and Joel is the only Jewish student at Bixby School, where his attempts to make himself disappear fail spectacularly. Home is no better, with a family that’s not just embarrassing but flat-out broke. That’s why Joel’s betting everything on these eight nights, armed with his favorite jokes, some choice Yiddish words, and a suitcase full of magic tricks.

The holidays are a time for sharing stories, and In the Land of Happy Tears: Yiddish Tales for Modern Times offers access to modern Yiddish works–translated for the first time into English–for anyone who appreciates a well-told story rich with timeless wisdom. A year-round audiobook for families that is also a great Hannukah listen! Includes a comprehensive introduction on Yiddish culture.

Gruyère Latkes
From Dinner in French
By Melissa Clark

Stuffing a layer of grated Gruyere cheese into latkes is not at all traditional, but it is extremely good. Most of the cheese melts into the potatoes, giving the latkes a soft and runny center, while the little bit that escapes mingles with the grated potatoes frying in the oil, adding extra crunch to the already brittle golden shards. Scallions replace the usual onion here, giving the whole thing a slightly sweeter flavor and a bit of color. Serve these as you would regular latkes, smothered in sour cream (or creme fraiche) and topped with either applesauce or salmon roe.

Makes About 12 Latkes

1 pound (about 2 large) russet potatoes, cut lengthwise into quarters
6 scallions (white and green parts)
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) grated Gruyere cheese, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Olive or grapeseed oil, or duck fat, for frying
Chopped fresh chives, for serving (optional)
Creme fraiche or sour cream, for serving (optional)
Applesauce or salmon roe, for serving (optional)

1) Use the coarse grating disk of a food processor to grate the potatoes and scallions; you can grate them together. (Or you can grate the potatoes by hand on a box grater and finely chop the scallions.) Transfer the potatoes and scallions to a clean dish towel and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Be thorough; the drier your mixture, the crisper the latkes.

2) Transfer the potato mixture to a large bowl and stir in the eggs, 1 cup of the cheese, and the flour, salt, baking powder, and pepper. Scoop out a golf ball—size mound (about 3 tablespoons), and flatten it to about 1/4 inch thick on a cutting board. Top it with 1 teaspoon of the remaining cheese, then scoop another golf ball—size mound on top and squish it down over the first mound to make a 3/4-inch-thick patty with cheese in the middle. Repeat with the remaining batter and cheese.

3) Heat 1/4 inch of oil in a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, carefully drop the patties into the skillet, leaving generous space around each one. Use a spatula to flatten them into disks. Cook until the edges are brown and crispy, about 5 minutes. Then carefully flip them over and cook until very brown on the second side, about another 5 minutes. Reduce the heat if the potatoes start to burn, or raise the heat if they don’t turn golden brown. If some of the cheese leaks out, this is a good thing; it will turn crunchy as it hits the hot pan. As they are finished, transfer the latkes to a paper towel—lined plate and immediately sprinkle them with a little salt. Repeat until all the latkes are fried, adding more oil as needed. Serve hot, with chives, creme frmche, and applesauce or salmon roe, if you like.

Copyright © 2020 by Melissa Clark. *Photographs © 2020 by Laura Edwards.
Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Random House.

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