The Worlds Easiest Chanukah Potato Pancake Recipe With Variations to Suite Any Palette

Natalie Frank, Ph.D.

On Chanukah potato latkes are a must and these are the easiest to make, even last minute.

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Menorah by N1NJ4 on flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Chanukah is one of the most special holidays for the Jewish people because it is a time of miracles. The story of Chanukah is one that is inspiring and exciting. It also left us with some delicious customs for the present times.

As the story of Chanukah goes, during the years from 175-163 B.C.E., there was a Syrian king named Antiochus who was cruel and rather narcissistic. He actually had his subjects refer to him as Epiphanes which means god-manifest.

The province of Judea was under his rule and he was determined to Hellenize it by ridding if of all things Jewish. He outlawed customs such as circumcision, keeping the Sabbath, and even owning a bible. Torah study was prohibited as was keeping kosher dietary laws. The Temple was robbed of all of its treasures. Antiochus had pigs sacrificed in the Temple and he set up a statue of the Greek god Zeus, in the Holy of Holies, making the Jews bow down to it under threat of death. A huge number of people were massacred, and the survivors were heavily taxed beyond their means.

In the tiny village of Modin which was located a few miles outside of Jerusalem, one act of courage stopped the blasphemy and changed Israel’s destiny forever.
Mattityahu was the elder priest of the area and the patriarch of the priestly Hasmonean clan. He challenged the Greek soldiers and everyone who had agreed to their demands. Along with his five sons, he attacked the army and destroyed all the idols. With his sons, brothers and a few others, he attacked the troops, slew the idolaters, and destroyed the idols. A small group went with him into the hills where they made plans to over through Antiochus.

Under the command of one of Mattityahu’s sons, Yehuda, their army of less than six thousand defeated over forty-seven thousand Syrians. Yehuda was called Maccabee, a name comprised of the first letters of the Hebrew words, Mi Kamocha Ba’eilim Hashem, "Who is like You, O G‑d." His followers became known as the Maccabees. The Maccabees and their followers reclaimed the Holy Temple, cleared it of idols, and prepared to resume the Divine Service.

A main part of the daily service was the lighting of the brilliant golden menorah by the high priest. But when they got ready to rededicate the Temple, they could only find a small amount of olive oil amounting to a single day’s supply. It would take more than a week for the specially made oil to be prepared.

In perfect faith, the Maccabees lit the menorah with the small amount of oil they had and rededicated the Holy Temple. Miraculously, as if in reward for their faith both in going against an army anyone would say they couldn’t beat and lighting the menorah with a tiny amount of oil, the oil continued to burn for eight days. This was long enough for more to be produced.

This is why we celebrate the holiday for eight days and eat foods fried in oil in remembrance of the miracle that began the holiday of Chanukah.

Traditional Chanukah Foods

Because the story of Chanukah emphasizes the miracle of the oil, traditional Chanukah foods are usually fried. There are two common foods that grace the Chanukah table. The one most people likely know about are potato latkes (pancakes). While latkes may seem pretty ordinary, there are endless ways to add an unusual twist to make them special as you'll see below. T

The recipes for this traditional dish can take a while to prepare if you do all of the work yourself. However, there are some easy ways to cut corners to simplify this dish without sacrificing flavor. And the less time you spend in the kitchen the more time you can spend with your friends and family.

These recipes can also be cut in half if COVID-19 has shrunk your guest list. They also can keep if refrigerated and later reheated on a cookie pan in the oven.

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Easiest Potato Latke Recipe (Basic Mixture)

Preparation and Cooking Time: 20 min

Serves: 8 (2 pancakes each)

Ingredients

  • 4 cups refrigerated grated potatoes or frozen or refrigerated hash browns (potatoes only)
  • 1 medium-sized white or yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup milk of your choice
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Apple sauce and sour cream

If you are using frozen potatoes, put them in a strainer, and rinse with room temperature water until fully thawed. Drain and pat dry with a paper towel. Note: if using refrigerated potatoes, skip this step.

  • Place potatoes in a large bowl.
  • Add onion, eggs, milk, flour, garlic, salt, and pepper. Mix well.
  • Heat ¼ inch of oil in a skillet over medium heat
  • Use a measuring cup to drop the mixture by ¼ cup into the hot oil. Fry until golden brown on both sides.
  • Remove from oil and drain on paper towels
  • Add oil as needed when making several batches
  • Serve with sour cream and applesauce.

Variations

1) Sweet Potato Latkes

Substitute sweet potatoes for white potatoes in the basic mixture.

Add:

  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
  • Substitute two tablespoons of apple sauce for the milk.

Sweet latkes are best fried in canola oil as it has practically no flavor and won’t overpower the more subtle flavors of the pancakes.

2) Veggie Potato Latkes

Add the following ingredients to your basic mixture. Leave out the milk since the vegetables tend to give off liquid

  • 2 medium-sized carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 1 small zucchini, shredded
  • 1 red bell pepper, shredded
  • Add another ½ cup flour (for a total of 1 ½ cups)

Make sure to drain any liquid from the vegetables and pat dry with a paper towel before adding them to the mixture.

3) Savory Latkes

Add to the basic recipe

  • ½ cup of shredded parsnips
  • ¼ cup of chopped scallions
  • 2 tablespoons pesto

4) Sweet and Savory Latkes

To the basic recipe add half a cup of sweet dried fruits, such as shredded coconut, raisins, diced dates or cranberries (craisins). Fry in canola oil

5) Spicy Latkes

Add ½ a teaspoon of each of the following to the mixture:

  • · Powdered Ginger
  • · Curry powder
  • · Cajun seasoning

6) Butternut Squash Latkes (These pancakes are a bit different from the basic mixture)

Ingredients:

  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and shredded
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1 teaspoon powdered cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Canola oil for frying

Directions

1. In a large bowl, combine butternut squash, flour, garlic, eggs, baking soda, thyme, sage, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg; season with salt and pepper, to taste.

2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Scoop tablespoons of batter for each fritter, flattening with a spatula, and cook until the underside is nicely golden brown, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side, about 1-2 minutes longer.

3. Serve immediately.

Beat and Carrot Latkes

Ingredients

  • 1 cups grated peeled beets
  • 1 cup grated peeled carrots
  • 1 cup grated peeled potatoes
  • 1 cup grated red onion
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon ground clove
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon of honey, warmed so it will combine
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Sunflower oil for frying
  • Plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup

Directions:

1. Before making the pancakes, take 1 cup of plain yogurt and mix with 2 tablespoons of maple syrup. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

2. Place beets, carrots and onion in large bowl and combine

3. Mix in egg, honey, milk, and raisins

4. Add salt, pepper, ginger clove.

5. Add flour and stir until well blended

6. Heat 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat.

7. Take about 1/3 of a cup of the batter for each pancake and drop four into the skillet. Flatten each slightly.

8. Cook until brown to make sure they are cooked through, about 4-5 minutes on each side.

9. Remove and place on a paper towel lined plate. They can be kept warm on a cookie sheet in a 250 degree oven.

10. Serve with yogurt mixture.

. . .

I hope you enjoy trying out these recipes. While latkes are a custom for Channukah you don't have to be Jewish to try them. They can also be made all year around as a side dish or snack. For those of you celebrating Channukah, I hope you have a wonderful holiday. If you have other recipes for latkes that you'd like to share, please feel free to do so in the comments below.

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