The Jewish calendar is filled with celebrations, each has its unique foods and traditions. What better way to celebrate than with columnist, blogger, cook author Jayne Cohen‘s Jewish Holiday Cooking? Ms. Cohen covers the spectrum of Jewish cooking around the world. Her dishes – though often traditional – include many a delightful surprise, an update in taste.
The recipes are peppered with quotes from the vast world of Jewish writing ranging from the Talmud to Nathan Englander, from Chaim Grade to Sholem Aleichem, from the Zohar to Shmuel Hanagid and more. It is obvious this is not just a cookbook, it is a paean to Judaism, its timeless spiritual and cultural values, with the recipes representing a way to celebrate it all.
As I browse through the pages, it is obvious the author loves many genres of books, her quotes, her references, her intros to the individual recipes, her writing in general becomes “unputdownable.” As you leaf through, as you read through, not only do you see yourself as the very locals she’s traveled but you can smell and taste as well. Written in the best tradition of M.F.K Fischer, Joseph Wechsberg, Hillaire du Berrier and Ruth Reichl, Ms. Cohen leaves you begging for more…
With Chanuka coming up in less than a month, what could be better than an interesting latke recipe to whet one’s appetite?
Garlic-Rosemary Potato Latkes
Yield: About 4 servings
These exceptionally fragrant potato pancakes require no topping or sauce as adornment. They are perfect as is, ready to accompany any roasted or grilled chicken or meat.
- About 1 1/2 pounds Yukon gold or 3 large russet (baking) potatoes, peeled
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1 tablespoon matzoh meal or unbleached all-purpose flour
- About 3/4 teaspoon salt
- About 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- Olive oil, for frying
- Sea salt (optional)
- Shred the potatoes, using the shredding disk in a food processor. (Don’t wash out the food processor–you’ll be using it again right away.) Transfer the potatoes to a colander or strainer and use your hands or a wooden spoon to press out as much moisture as possible.
- Remove the shredding disk from the processor and replace with the steel blade. Return about one third of the shredded potatoes to the food processor. Add the garlic and rosemary and process, using the pulse motion, until roughly pureed. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the remaining potatoes, the egg, matzoh meal or flour, salt and pepper to taste, and the baking powder to the bowl. Mix until thoroughly combined. Let stand for 10 minutes to mingle the flavors.
- In a 10- to 12-inch heavy skillet (cast-iron is ideal), heat about 1/4 inch of oil over high heat until hot but not smoking. Drop 1/4 cup of the potato latke batter into the pan and flatten with a spatula. Repeat with more batter, cooking no more than 4 or 5 latkes at a time; crowding the pan will give you soggy latkes.
- Regulate the heat carefully, reducing it to medium as the latkes fry until golden and crisp on the bottom, about 4 minutes. To prevent oil from splattering, use two spatulas (or a spatula and a large spoon) to turn the latkes carefully. Fry until crisp and golden on the other side.
- It’s best to flip the latkes only once, so that they don’t absorb too much oil. So, before turning, lift the latkes slightly with the spatula to make sure the underside is crisp and brown.
- As the latkes are done, transfer them to paper towels or untreated brown paper bags to drain.
- Continue making latkes in the same manner until all the batter is used. If necessary, add more oil to the pan, but always allow the oil to get hot before frying a new batch.
- Serve straightaway, sprinkled with a little coarse salt, if you’d like. Or if necessary, keep the latkes warm in a 200 degree F oven (arrange them in a single layer on a rack placed over an oven-proof platter or baking sheet) and serve when they are all ready to be brought to the table.
From Jewish Holiday Cooking: A Food Lover’s Treasury of Classics and Improvisations
by Jayne Cohen (print edition: Wiley 2008; e-book: 2012).
Enjoy, gentle reader, enjoy! And… don’t forget to tune in this coming Wednesday at 10:00pm (Eastern Time) when we will be talking with Jayne Cohen; we’ll be waiting!