Though my mother put the lion’s share of food on the dinner table growing up, my father stepped into the kitchen on a few choice occasions. Every Passover, he made his famous matzah brei, a savory, spicy one laced with garlic, onion, and ginger. One Mother’s Day, my dad darted back and forth through our small kitchen for the better part of an hour, finally emerging with a gorgeous split-egg omelet, in which the eggs had been separated, the whites whipped nearly stiff (by hand, no less), then the two parts recombined to make an omelet not unlike a good souffle.
But my strongest memory of when my dad wore the apron was on Hanukkah, when he filled our home with exactly as much smoke as 60 latkes tend to make. He made the straight-up potato latkes, while my mom made a batch with zucchini and a batch with sweet potato mixed in.
Though some would say my dad burned a fair number of the latkes he made, I never complained. The black-edged ones were always my favorite.
In honor of Thanksgivukkah, I’ve riffed on batch #3, using a mix of potatoes and sweet potatoes. I will admit that I momentarily considered incorporating toasted marshmallows into the latke recipe, but I think we can all agree that that was a terrible idea. Plus, I’ll be topping our soup with burnt marshmallows that evening: problem solved.
I’ll be serving these latkes with the perfect Thanksgivukkah condiment, cranberry applesauce. While I initially planned to spice the applesauce, I ended up using nothing but nutmeg. Instead, I seasoned the latkes with flavors I tend to add to my Thanksgiving sweet potatoes: warm ginger and allspice. Ginger and allspice are a pair that can go either way — sweet or savory — and as a result, they give the potato-sweet potato mixture just the right dose of warmth and spice without taking things too far toward pumpkin pie.
Also, because I can’t leave well enough alone, I fried half of these latkes in a mix of schmaltz and rendered turkey fat. Turkey fat-fried latkes? I mean, c’mon.
Building up a supply of poultry fat is quite simple. Remove the residual fat from a chicken or turkey, cut it into bits, set it over medium-low heat, and watch the fat start to melt. Spoon it off as it melts, and when all the fat has been rendered, you’ll be left with a pile of cracklings — the #1 chef’s snack. Of course, you can always fry the latkes in vegatable oil. Or even olive oil, which works quite well here.
More Thanksgivukkah recipes to come. Meanwhile, don’t wait for the holiday to make these guys. They’re quite tasty for a weekday dinner.
One year ago: Vietnamese Leek and Eggplant Salad
Two years ago: Ginger Brownies
Three years ago: Mojito Cookies
Four years ago: Zuni Roast Chicken and Bread Salad
Five years ago: Steel-Cut Oatmeal with Peach Compote
Six years ago: Challah French Toast
Serves 6 as a main course, 12 as an appetizer
2 yukon gold or russet potatoes (about 2 cups)
2 sweet potatoes (about 2 cups)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced or grated
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
vegetable oil or poultry fat
Grate the sweet potato and potato using the thick holes on a hand or box grater. Scoop up handfuls of the potatoes, wring out thoroughly over the sink, and transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Mix together the two potatoes, and add the ginger, allspice, beaten egg, and flour. Stir to combine. Season mixture with salt and pepper, and stir thoroughly.
Line a large plate or cooling rack with a couple layers of paper towel.
In a large cast iron or heavy-bottomed pan, heat 1/8-inch of oil or fat over medium-high heat. Test the oil by dropping a small spoonful of the latke mixture into the oil; it should sizzle immediately. When the oil is ready, scoop batter using a 1/4 cup measure, and drop into the pan leaving at least 1 inch between latkes. Use the back of a spatula or a fork to flatten latkes slightly, so that they have an evenly flat surface. Cook for about 2 minutes per side, until latkes are evenly golden (and okay, maybe a bit darker in some spots). Transfer finished latkes to the prepared plate or rack. If using a plate, make sure to lay down paper towels between layers of latkes.
Replenish oil as necessary, making sure to maintain 1/8 inch in the pan most of the time. Do not replenish oil while latkes are in the pan, or they won’t brown properly.
If you’re serving latkes immediately, set them on the rack only briefly, until some of their oil has soaked into the paper towel. Then serve while still hot and crispy. Alternatively, you can fry all the latkes in advance, and then reheat them in a dry cast iron or heavy pan until they start to sizzle. Be sure to reheat on both sides of the latke before serving.
3 pounds mixed apples, such as Cortland, Braeburn, Jonagold, Gala, and Winesap, peeled and cored
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg (if you don’t have whole nutmeg, you can use pre-ground, but you can also skip it and leave the sauce plain)
1/4 teaspoon salt
This applesauce can be made either in the oven or on the stove. The oven method takes much longer, but it produces a silkier, more mellow applesauce. If you’re pressed for time or oven space, the stove works well, too.
If using the oven, preheat to 400 degrees.
Quarter each of the prepared apples and transfer to a shallow baking dish. Sprinkle the cranberries overtop. Distribute the sugar, brown sugar, nutmeg, and salt evenly over the mixture, and wrap the dish tightly with foil. Transfer to the oven, and bake for 30-60 minutes, checking every 10 minutes, until apples are almost entirely soft and mixture is bubbling.
Turn the oven up to 500 degrees, uncover dish, and bake for 10 more minutes, until some of the liquid has evaporated and a couple of the apples start to turn brown at their tips. (If they don’t turn brown, it’s okay.) Remove dish from the oven, transfer the apples to a heatsafe dish, and use a potato masher or a large fork to mash the fruit, keeping some texture or mashing it smooth, depending on your preference. Taste (carefully – it’ll be hot!) and add more sugar if necessary.
If using the stove, simply combine everything in a large stock pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Then reduce the heat to low, and cook for 20-30 minutes until everything is soft and mushy. Mash to your desired consistency, then transfer to a heat-safe bowl to cool. Taste and add more sugar if necessary.
I like this sauce warm, room temperature, or chilled. With piping hot latkes, I like it best just colder than room temp.