All kinds of uber-creative latke recipes appear around Hanukkah: apple-parsnip latkes, sweet potato-leek latkes, sweet cheesy latkes, savory cheese and chive latkes. But the truth is, you can’t go anywhere in the world of latkes until you’ve mastered the classic potato version, says celebrity chef Jamie Geller, who likes to fry the latkes, keep them warm, and then layer them with show-stopping toppings.
Geller — co-founder of the Kosher Media Network, publisher of Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller magazine, and author of the “Quick & Kosher” cookbook series — has released a new cookbook: “Joy of Kosher: Fast, Fresh Family Recipes” (William Morrow). Here are two recipes from the book.
Latkes with Caviar and Cream
Makes 20 latkes
Kosher status: dairy
Consider creating a latke-topping bar, so your Hanukkah party guests can mix and match or try them all. I like topping latkes with guacamole and an over-easy or poached egg, or doing Caprese latke towers with slices of mozzarella and tomato, plus a few fresh basil leaves. And I love a smear of brie cheese topped with a dollop of jam, or blue cheese, pear and arugula piled on top. You can go exotic or country or Brooklyn, but this super-elegant cream and caviar version can only be described as super-posh and simply divine.
4 large russet potatoes (about 2 1/2 lbs.)
3 large eggs, beaten
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
canola oil for frying
1 medium onion, quartered
1/4 cup Manischewitz matzah meal
1 1/4 cups crème frâiche or sour cream
caviar, for garnish
Fill a large bowl with cold water. Peel the potatoes, cut them into quarters lengthwise, and place them in the bowl of cold water to prevent browning.
Combine the eggs, salt, and pepper in a large bowl; set aside.
Heat about 1 inch of oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.
Put the onions and potatoes in a food processor and pulse until pureed. Transfer the mixture into the large bowl with the eggs. Add matzo meal and mix to combine.
Line a baking sheet with paper towels.
Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop up the potato mixture and carefully drop it into the hot oil. Use the back of the measuring cup to flatten the latke. Fill the pan with as many latkes as you can, but do not let them touch. Do not overcrowd your pan, or the latkes will be soggy instead of crispy. Fry until golden brown and crispy, three to five minutes per side. Drain on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining batter.
To keep latkes warm and crispy once fried, spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet and place in a 200-degree oven until ready to serve.
To serve, place the latkes on a large serving tray and garnish each with a generous tablespoon of crème frâiche and caviar.
Variation: Sweet Cinnamon Latkes
My friend Anita’s grandmother used to make her latkes with a pinch of cinnamon. Omit the onion and the pepper, reduce the salt to a pinch, and add 2 tsp. ground cinnamon and 3 Tbs. sugar. Mix 1 cup sour cream with 1/4 cup maple syrup and serve it on the side.
Make it parve: Use soy sour cream or serve with applesauce.
Cardamom-Scented Hanukkah Cookies
Makes about 24 2-inch cookies
Kosher status: dairy
I really feel like a good mom when I bake with my kids, especially for the holidays. Hanukkah cookies can also be a lot of fun to make, but they’re usually so blah and one-dimensional, no one really craves them. With just one touch of cardamom, this recipe immediately transforms those bland little cookies into something super special. You don’t even need to decorate them. Just pile them on your party tray and watch them go!
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 Tbs. fresh orange juice
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
Blue sugar or sprinkles, for decorating
Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cardamom and ginger in a small bowl. Beat together the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg and orange juice and beat until combined. Add the flour mixture and mix just until incorporated.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 15-30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Lightly flour your work surface.
Flour your rolling pin and cookie cutters. Roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thick on the work surface. Cut into desired shapes and place them on the prepared baking sheets. Reroll the scraps and continue until all the dough has been used. Bake until the edges are just golden, 10-12 minutes. Cool two minutes on the baking sheet, then move to a wire rack to cool completely.
Place the confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl. Add water, 1 Tbs. at a time, and whisk until a smooth, thick but pourable consistency is reached. Drizzle the frosting on the cookies and decorate them with blue sugar or sprinkles.
Variation: Use 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, or 3/4 cup of each.
Black and White Chocolate–Dipped Hanukkah Cookies
To make chocolate ganache bring 1 cup of heavy cream to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Place 4 oz. chopped milk chocolate in a small bowl and 4 oz. chopped white chocolate in another small bowl. Pour half of the warm cream into each bowl. Let sit for a few minutes, then stir with rubber spatulas to melt the chocolates. Let cool slightly before dipping your cookies. Divide the cookies into two equal batches. Dip the cookies in one batch in the milk chocolate, covering each cookie halfway; dip the cookies in a second batch in the white chocolate, dipping each cookie halfway. Sprinkle the frosted parts of the cookies with gold and silver decorating sugar.
Make it parve: These are so easy to make nondairy: just sub in margarine for butter. Because it’s traditional to eat dairy delicacies on Hanukkah, and I rarely have occasion to make dairy desserts, I seize the opportunity to use butter in this recipe. But it’s a great quick cookie recipe and shouldn’t be relegated to Hanukkah — just use cookie cutters that are not holiday themed.
Jamie Geller and Manischewitz have teamed up to offer several Thanksgivukkah recipes, which can be viewed at www.thanksgivukah.com.