Shalom! Peace be upon you this holiday season.
One of the themes of Hanukkah I learned as a Goy growing up in Shaker was the persistence of the Maccabean children, and the miracle of the olive oil that kept them alive.
Every blessed year at this time PBS would play the "Peter, Paul and Mary" holiday show and parade out their folksy ode to Hanukkah, "Light One Candle."
And every blessed year, one way or another, I'd be forced to watch the special. Year after blessed year.
So, I persisted.
At first I tolerated, and by my teens I could recite large swaths of the entire pageant from memory (and grew to understand the true meaning of Christmas, and Puff the Magic Dragon, wink wink). *
I also was lucky enough to spend many a Festival of Lights with my Jewish neighbors and friends noshing on the traditional potato pancakes, dill, applesauce and sauerkraut.
Honestly, the food is more Eastern European than Middle Eastern, where, you know, the Jews are from. I couldn't tell you what the Maccabees ate in the Second Century BCE, but I can tell you what the Ashkenazi from Europe ate after the great Diaspora.
I used olive oil and butter to fry mine, but if you want to go with Tradition! then use schmaltz.
- 1 small potato, baked and shredded.
- 1/4 cup of sauerkraut, squeezed dry.
- 1/4 cup of flour.
- 1/4 of thinly sliced onion or shallot.
- 1 egg.
- Pinch of salt.
In a hot pan, add fat and spoon out 1/4th or 1/3rd of the batter and fry one cake at a time until GB&D (golden, brown and delicious) on both sides.
I ate my latkes with apple and honey, a common Hanukkah snack.
Latkes with smoked sable and crème fraîche with dill are also a classic (and really, really delicious) combination.
If you can get your hands on some Ukrainian style pickled mushrooms, you're in for a savory treat.
* Okay, Puff the Magic Dragon is about the loss of childhood innocence. Riiiiiiight. I'll put that in my pipe and smoke it.