What to Eat this Chanukah: Latkes as the Main

Plus, my Backseat Salad and Sufganiyot recipes.

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It's Chanukah: Bring on the fried food! Crispy Latkes, right out of the pan, all sizzling with salty-deliciousness. And then doughnuts! Fried nuggets of dough, glazed and bathed in icing, chocolate and bedazzled like the coolest confections in Israel.

Usually a Chanukah buffet features Latkes as the center attraction accompanying a main course. Is there something wrong with just wanting a plate-no, wait; a HUGE plate-of latkes? I think not! So I am declaring that this is year of Latkes as the main. Anything else served will be as sides, with the crispy potato Latkes taking center stage.

Bonus for kosher cooks! The Latke in all its mouthwatering glory can be served with sour cream and applesauce. Choosing one or the other is an impossible task. The merits of each are temptingly delicious and now you can have your potato cake and eat it too.

In the interest of nutrition, and because a proper buffet needs some color, let's also include a salad.

May your Chanukah be bright and delicious!

My BEST Latke Recipe

The perfect Chanukah Latke is crispy, crunchy and delicious on its own, but also makes the ideal vehicle for sweet toppings like apple sauce and savory toppings like smoked salmon or just sour cream.

My best Latke recipe was featured by the Today show and went viral. The combination of crispy crust and the creamy potato center makes these Latkes irresistible. I use egg whites instead of whole eggs, because egg whites make doughs and batters crispy, while egg yolks make them "cakey." I also add potato starch to help retain moisture, with the final result being crunchy but also moist.

Yield: About 20 3-inch latkes

Ingredients:

2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, grated and placed in a large bowl of ice water (this keeps them from turning brown)
1 large yellow onion, peeled and grated
2-3 egg whites
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons potato starch
1/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus up to 2 tablespoons
Extra virgin olive oil for frying

  1. Drain the potatoes and transfer to a large, clean kitchen towel. Squeeze out ALL moisture; transfer potatoes to a mixing bowl. In the same towel, squeeze grated onion; transfer onion to the bowl with potatoes. Discard all liquid.
  2. In a large bowl, combine egg whites, salt, pepper, potato starch and flour. Add potatoes and onion and mix thoroughly. Add more flour, as necessary, to form a batter that is loose, but still holds together well.
  3. In a large skillet over medium-high, heat about 1/2 inch of oil until a shred of potato dropped into it sizzles immediately.
  4. Working in batches, drop Latke batter (2 tablespoons per Latke) into the oil. Flatten Latkes slightly with the back of a spoon. Fry Latkes, turning once, until browned, 1 to 2 minutes per side.
  5. Use a slotted spatula to transfer to a platter lined with paper towels. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve immediately with your favorite toppings.

Chef Laura's Backseat Salad

The bright, citrusy flavors of this colorful and nutritious salad cut through the fatty deliciousness of the Latkes.

Serves 6

For the vinaigrette:

Zest and juice of 1 orange
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon water
1 large shallot, finely minced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 teaspoons Dijon Style mustard
1 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 cup best quality extra virgin olive oil

  1. Whisk orange and lime juices and zests with apple cider vinegar, water, shallot, garlic, salt and pepper together. Allow to marinate for 15 minutes.
  2. Whisk in oil and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if needed.

For the salad:

6 cups chopped mixed greens (I like a mix of kale, romaine and arugula)
1 cup coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
2 oranges, peeled and cut into segments
1 grapefruit, peeled and cut into segments
1 fennel bulb, sliced very thinly
Several radishes, sliced very thinly
1 red onion, sliced very thinly

  1. Toss greens with parsley and dill and arrange on a platter. Arrange citrus on top of greens. Scatter fennel, radishes and onion.
  2. Drizzle vinaigrette over top of the salad.

Sufganiyot

These delicious pillows of fried dough, stuffed with sweet-tart jelly, are delicious with just a sprinkle of powdered sugar. Or try one of my glazes to amp up the doughnut glam as Israelis do, using sprinkles, pearly nonpareils, gummies, colorful cereal bits, chopped pretzels, etc.

Yields: 16 doughnuts

Ingredients:

1/2 cup warm water (between 90°F and 100°F)
2 (1/4-ounce) packets instant or active dry yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)
6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for bench flour
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 cups whole milk, at room temperature (whole milk makes a tender dough)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, or 1/4 cup mild-flavored oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Zest of 1 orange
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
9 cups oil for frying (I use extra virgin olive oil)
1 cup seedless red berry jelly, such as strawberry or raspberry
1/3 cup powdered sugar or glaze (recipes below)

  1. Place the water, yeast and 1/2 cup of flour in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed just until combined. Allow mixture to sit for 20-60 minutes until the surface resembles a sponge.
  2. Add milk, melted butter or oil, vanilla, and zest to yeast and mix on medium speed until fully combined.
  3. Add eggs and mix on low speed until fully combined. Switch paddle attachment to a dough hook.
  4. Add remaining flour, sugar, and salt on low speed, 1 to 1 1/2 cups at a time, increasing the speed to medium and mixing until fully combined.
  5. Knead dough on low to medium-low speed until shiny, very smooth, soft but not mushy, and noticeably elastic, 6 to 7 minutes.
  6. Transfer the dough to a clean, very large bowl or reusable plastic bag and cover lightly with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel. Refrigerate for 2 to 2 ½ hours. It will increase in size to almost 1 1/2 times the original volume.
  7. Dust a work surface and rolling pin lightly with flour and scoop the dough onto the work surface.
  8. Divide the dough in half, each half about 30 ounces. Wrap 1 portion in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Roll out the other about 3/4-inch thick. Dip a 3- to 3 1/4-inch round cookie cutter or 3-inch-wide drinking glass into flour and cut out 8 rounds. Place the scraps in a resealable plastic bag, seal, and refrigerate.
  9. Cover doughnuts with clean kitchen towels and allow to rise until they expand about 25 percent, about 15 minutes. Cut remaining dough.
  10. Pour 8 cups of the oil into a deep, wide 6-quart Dutch oven. The oil should be at least 2 1/2 inches deep and no more than halfway up the side. Fit a deep-fry thermometer in the oil, making sure it does not touch the bottom of the pot. If you are using an instant-read thermometer, position it up near the stovetop.
  11. Heat the oil over medium heat until it reaches 355°F to 360°F. Adjust the heat as needed during frying to stay within this temperature range.
  12. Using a mesh spider or slotted spoon, gently place 4 doughnuts, one at a time, into the oil, being careful not to splatter the hot oil and making sure they don't touch each other. When they are golden-brown, after about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, carefully turn them with the spider or slotted spoon, and fry the second side, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, until they are deep golden-brown on the other side, crisp on the outside, and cooked through. Transfer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Fry remaining doughnuts. Fry scraps if desired (chef's treat for all that work!)
  13. Transfer jelly into a pastry bag fitted with a small, sharp tip or a squeeze bottle with small, firm tip. Insert into the side of one of the cooled doughnuts and squeeze for 2 to 3 seconds, or until you see a small dab of jelly at the point of entry. Place the filled doughnut back on the cooling rack or on a clean plate and repeat.
  14. Liberally dust filled doughnuts with powdered sugar or drizzle with glaze.

Leftover doughnuts (as if!) can be stored, covered, at room temperature for 1 day.

Luscious Vanilla-Bean Glaze:

1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons whole milk
Pinch of sea salt
1 vanilla bean, scraped

  1. Whisk sugar, milk, salt, and vanilla bean seeds in a medium bowl until smooth.
  2. Spoon over doughnuts. (If glaze becomes too hard, add a teaspoon of milk at a time to thin it out.)

Bittersweet Chocolate Glaze:

1/2 cup heavy cream
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Heat cream in a small saucepan, over low heat until you see a whiff of steam, but not boiling.
  2. Pour hot cream over chocolate and allow to sit undisturbed for 10 minutes before whisking.
  3. Stir in butter and vanilla.
  4. Spoon over doughnuts.



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