Deck the halls with crispy latkes!


SO? Did you make green bean casserole for Thanksgiving, like I had so heartily suggested in my last post? Well, if not, you still have time to make it for Christmas. Mmmm, gooey, mushy green beans… So while we’re on the subject of food, I thought I’d share another holiday recipe with you. I know, where is the Heather writer-person who always writes about her blatantly honest self-deprecating motherhood experiences? I want her back. Yeah, me too guys. But I’m more than a mother and an introspective waif and I like cooking; so the Heather foodie-writer is going to share another well researched holiday recipe with you. She will resume her regularly scheduled programming ten pounds from now.

We celebrate two holidays in our house: Hanukkah and Christmas.

My husband was fortunate enough to celebrate BOTH holidays as a child. So as a result we are raising our kiddos as a pack of heathens right here in South Burlington. Kidding…we are a mixed religion family. So as I said, we celebrate the festival of lights and baby Jesus’s birthday. There’s Hanukkah Harry, Santa Claus, The Elf on the Shelf, dreidel dance parties.

It’s a lot of fun. A lot of cooking. A lot of presents…and boy oh boy…a lot of latkes!

If you don’t know what a latke is, let me school you. A latke is a potato pancake made from shredded (not mashed) potatoes that is seasoned with onion, flour, salt and pepper, and fried in a shallow pan of oil. It’s often served with sour cream and/or applesauce. Some people get all high class and serve it with caviar, but let’s be honest…we’re gonna keep it real around these parts. And yes, some people get crafty with their latkes and use shredded sweet potatoes and other various winter root vegetables to substitute for the ole yeller of a white potato.

Don’t do it!

Serve your latkes with a beet salad on the side. Keep the Jazzy Vegetarian away from Grandma Esther’s tried and true latkes. Jewish grandmother name-drop aside, my husband and I have used Martha Stewart’s recipe for latkes for the last 10 years (listed below). Shh, don’t tell Grandma.

Lots o' oil, lots o' potatoes
Lots o’ oil, lots o’ potatoes

Ok, before I give you the recipe for making perfect latkes you need to keep in mind a few important rules/tips. Also, just because you’re not Jewish doesn’t mean you can’t make latkes for you and your family. After all, I’m not Jewish. In fact, my cousin, a preschool teacher, and Catholic, makes them every year with her class. My husband would tell you she is a better Jew than he is. Onward :

  • Shred Shred Shred Baby: You want to make sure you are properly shredding your potatoes. We use a box grater in most cases. For large crowds (Challah!), we use the shredding attachment on the food processor.
  • No one likes a soggy latke: be sure to squeeze the bejesus out of your shredded potatoes. Martha recommends using cheese cloth to help you wring out as much of the potato water as possible. Listen up, if there is too much water left behind, your latkes will not fry crispy and your holidays will be ruined. Might as well start planning your New Year’s resolutions.
  • Proper Cooking Vessel: you need a heavy bottom frying pan to really cook the latkes properly. We use a lodge cast iron skillet and/or an electric frying pan, depending on how many latkes we are making.
  • Oil: Frying with the right temperature of oil is as important as removing as much water as possible from your shredded potatoes. We used to fry our latkes in peanut oil until we found out Ruby was allergic to peanuts. Now we use either vegetable or canola oil. You must make sure your oil walks the fine line between being too cool and starting a grease fire in order to cook your latkes properly. If your oil is not hot enough, your latkes will be extra greasy and extra soggy. Better to start off with hot oil and come down in temperature.
  • Making the perfect shaped latke: It doesn’t matter. But I will tell you that my “drop and smush” technique has worked for me for years. Get yourself an ice cream scoop. Scoop up a heap of shredded potato goodness and drop slowly into the shallow oil. Once the potatoes start frying you can gently smush the ball into a flatter patty as it fries.
  • Air out your house: If you’re sensitive to smells, like I am, you’re gonna want to really pay attention here. Cooking fried potatoes and onions generates the most mouth watering smell -sensations thru your entire house. It’s nice to smell in the moment. It’s not nice to smell them the next day or the day after. If your kitchen has an exhaust fan, use it on high speed. Close all your bedroom doors. Put all your coats in an airtight room. That latke smell permeates everything.

There you have it. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanza, or Festivus I hope you might find time to incorporate the latke lifestyle into your holiday traditions this year.

Here’s the recipe, from Martha Stewart that we use every year (oh and we don’t use the beer, we just drink it):

You see--i even fry my latkes outside in the winter to escape the fried grease smell.
You see–i even fry my latkes outside in the winter to escape the fried grease smell.


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Heather Polifka-Rivas
Heather is originally from upstate New York but her family returned to Vermont 4 years ago. They have lived in NYC and Chicago the past 10+ years and are happy to be back in Vermont. Heather's previous jobs as a starving actor in NYC, package design guru at Estee Lauder, and advisor to fortune 500 companies at Chicago’s top business school have not prepared her for her current job today: stay at home mom to Henry (7) and Ruby (3). A self proclaimed foodie, Heather spends her "many" hours of free time preparing elaborate meals, eating out, tending to her garden, canning it's bounty and willing her one tapped maple tree to weep more sap. She is also a mother runner.



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