As many people know, one of the traditional foods eaten each year on Hanukah is the latke – a fried potato pancake. Hanukah is a holiday that celebrates oil (in a lamp) burning for 8 nights when it had no business lasting that long. So it makes sense that such fried foods as latkes and donuts (and in particular, jelly donuts) are consumed in mass quantities by those who celebrate this time of year (although I don’t think jelly has anything to do with the miracle).
Some people like their latkes “no frills”, just potatoes, a few eggs and some salt and pepper. Others prefer their latkes more savory – mixing in onion and other spices. To mix things up a few years ago, we made some with spinach mixed in, and others with carrots and beets mixed in.
Some people eat theirs with sour cream and others smother them in applesauce. Not sure what the applesauce has to do with the holiday (maybe a holdover from Rosh Hashana?) but that is generally my preferred way to eat latkes. It’s got the yin and yang of savory and sweet flavors at the same time that really works for me.
But I have to go back to the frying part. Many people try to limit their intake of fried foods these days so eating latkes is always this guilty pleasure made socially acceptable because we’re doing it for religious reasons (or so we tell ourselves). We have always used peanut oil for the frying. Why? I haven’t the foggiest clue. But it sure makes the latkes mighty tasty. In recent years, we’ve had to curtail our use of peanut oil based on which guests were coming to celebrate. Somehow, in the last 15-20 years, one out of every ten kids in America has developed a peanut allergy. Luckily, not my kids so it hasn’t impacted me all that much. Other than the latkes, of course.
So here’s the big secret (shhhhhh, don’t tell) – this year we baked our latkes rather than frying them. Once our guests get a look at the latkes, they will sense that something is different about them in terms of appearance. But taste-wise, they are pretty delicious. And I don’t miss the deep-friedness of them nearly as much as I expected. Our friends and family haven’t partaken in the baked latkes yet. Hopefully they won’t reject them because of tradition. They are mighty tasty and you don’t have to feel so guilty about putting a third or fourth (or fifth) latke on your plate because they aren’t unhealthy. Fingers crossed.
Oh, and we’ll still have the applesauce to smother them in so how bad could it be really?