This year, the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah begins at sunset on Dec. 24. After lighting the menorah and reciting prayers, families and friends join in a hearty Hanukkah meal. Like most of the traditional food eaten during Jewish celebrations, many of the most common Hanukkah dishes have a symbolic meaning. To understand the symbolism, you need to know the history of Hanukkah.
Hanukkah, or the Festival of Lights, recalls the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. There was not enough holy oil to light the candles in the temple. It should have lasted for just one day, but miraculously it burned for eight days. To remember this miracle, Jewish families enjoy fried foods during the Hanukkah meals. Usually, latkes are the favorite among the bunch.
What are Latkes?
Latkes, known as levivot in Hebrew, are shallow-fried fritters consisting of grated potatoes, onions and eggs, in addition to other ingredients. Each family has its favorite recipe, and extended family members will often debate whose latkes are the best. One thing which everyone can agree on is that no one wants to eat a soggy latke.
Make Crispy Latkes from Scratch
The secret to making crispy latkes begins in the supermarket by choosing the right type of potatoes. The best potatoes for latkes have a high starch content, like russets. Using russets will reduce the amount of binding agent you need to form your latkes. The less binder you use, the crispier the latkes will be. While you are it the market, don't forget to pick up a package of matzo meal! It is much better as a binding agent than regular wheat flour.
When preparing the ingredients for your latkes according to your recipe, make sure you squeeze as much liquid from the grated vegetables you can before adding the egg and matzo meal. A good technique is to gather all of the grated vegetables together in a clean cloth and twist over the sink until all the water is released.
The last secret to crsipy, golden latkes is choosing the right fat for frying. You will want to use a fat with a high smoke-point, like a canola oil as a base. But to create the taste of tradition, you need to add a spoonful or two of rendered chicken fat, known as schmaltz. As you fry each batch of latkes, be sure to add more fat.
Making latkes with your children is a great way pass on traditions to the next generation, but sometimes there just isn't time. PaNosh Kosher Catering in the Greater Chicago area has been making authentic kosher food the way you remember it for more than 12 years. PaNosh Kosher Catering fits all budgets and is the perfect solution for Bar / Bat Mitzvahs, weddings, Temple events and holidays. Give us a call today to schedule a catered meal for your family or event.