In our “blended” neighborhood, we are surrounded by Christmas decorations. Diversity abounds! But when it comes to food, there is one December favorite all the neighbors look forward to: my annual latke party. My latke party is a great way to entertain as well as to spread knowledge of Judaism. I can see the results of my efforts. One of my neighbors now hangs a lighted Star of David in her window in support of Israel. I make my latkes in advance and freeze them — about 100 or more! At party time, my table is laden with assorted menorah candles, chocolate coins and dreidels.
Brisket and/or chicken schnitzel are main dishes, but the latkes with assorted toppings always take center stage. I also keep some latke batter to make some fresh and hot, as people line up to assemble their plates. I use my electric frying pan (helps spattering grease) and the old electric glass-top hot plate to keep latkes warm.
My go-to latke recipe is a cinch. I use boxes of home-style potato pancake mix and enhance them with refrigerated shredded potatoes. (I use one heaping cupful of the shredded potatoes to one box mix.) Toppings are always pareve sour cream and cinnamon applesauce. I use either homemade or a jar of chunky applesauce that I cut into smaller pieces. Place the applesauce in a deep pot on the stove and add red cinnamon candies. Heat on low light, stirring until candies are dissolved and flavor is achieved. This will turn the sauce a beautiful pink color. Keeps for many days in refrigerator.
Leftover latkes? Use them for the base of recipes such as latke nachos or fried chicken and latkes. I know. Latke nachos. Who knew? Place a layer of halved latkes on the bottom of an oven-proof plate. Top with chunky salsa and lots of shredded cheese. Place in the oven to melt cheese and serve.
Dessert latkes: I drizzle latkes with maple syrup and hot sauce. Stack latkes with any sweetened mascarpone filling in between each latke and drizzle with maple syrup and hot sauce.
For the marinade:
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 heaping tablespoons of good quality mustard
3-4 garlic cloves, smashed
Fresh ground pepper
2 pounds boneless chicken breast, very thinly pounded
2 cups unseasoned bread crumbs
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
Fresh ground pepper and sea salt
3-4 lemons, quartered
Directions: Combine eggs, mustard, garlic and pepper in a large bowl. Add the chicken and mix until the chicken is completely coated. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a shallow bowl, mix together the unseasoned bread crumbs and sesame seeds. Season with fresh ground pepper and sea salt. Dredge chicken breasts in bread crumbs, patting slightly to help them stick. Pour oil into a medium skillet (cast iron is best) to about 11/2 inches high. Heat oil on high heat until very hot and add chicken breasts, adding just two to three at a time (depending on their size). Do not overcrowd them in the pan. Reduce heat to medium, and fry until golden brown on each side and chicken is completely cooked through. Repeat with remaining chicken.
Remove chicken from pan with a slotted spoon and place on a serving plate lined with paper towels, until all chicken is fried. Serve immediately with fresh lemon. 6 servings.
ILENE’S FABULOUS JEWISH-STYLE BRISKET
(From a rabbi’s wife’s recipe, tweaked by Ilene)
1 envelope onion soup mix
1/4 cup fine ground instant coffee or espresso
11/2 cups ketchup
1/2-3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2-3/4 cup or more, to taste, kosher sweet wine (grape or any
1 whole* or large thick first-cut beef brisket (always look for a thick one!)
1 small bag mini-peeled carrots,
optional but good
1-2 baking potatoes, cut up, optional
Directions: Combine the coffee and onion soup mix.
Rub brisket all over with the mix. Combine next ingredients, mixing well. Pour over brisket, fat side up in a 13-by-9-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 21/2 hours, uncovered, basting occasionally. Cover loosely with foil and add carrots and potatoes, if desired. Bake another hour or more, until meat is very tender. Remove meat and let cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, refrigerate sauce. When cold, remove fat from top of juice. Slice meat (can also be sliced at room temp) and return to casserole. Cover with sauce. To reheat, bake at 350 degrees, covered, for another 45-60 minutes. Leftovers are delicious cold on a roll as a sandwich (with some sauce). Freezes great! 10-12 servings, depending on size of brisket.
*If you use a whole brisket, trim off some of the thick fat, score the remaining fat, and you may want to go one-and-a-half times the sauce and seasoning ingredients.
“FRENCH PASTRY” DOUGHNUTS
Use day-old Krispy Kreme (or any thin-glazed) doughnuts
Sifted powdered sugar for garnish
Directions: Press doughnuts, two at a time, in heated Panini grille. Press until they are lightly browned. Carefully remove and place in one layer on a cutting board. When slightly cool, cut in half and sprinkle with sifted powdered sugar. Can be lightly layered on a serving plate. Use for breakfast or dessert. Makes a wonderful and fun “action station”
Tips & Tricks
- Freeze cooked latkes in one layer on a baking sheet. When frozen, place them in a zip-lock plastic bag and mark how many are in the bag.
- Use grape seed, peanut, safflower or canola oil to fry the latkes. Russet potatoes are the best for browning.
- Add a little baking powder to batter before frying for some fluffiness. Optional: Add chopped parsley, chopped sweet onion for color and flavor.
Ilene Spector is a local freelance writer.