Latkes, etc.

We had our big almost-annual Hanukah party yesterday. (Almost annual because there have been a few years when we haven’t had the energy to make it happen.)  We wound up with a nice mix of people, none of whom knew each other — which I think actually makes for a better party than ones where some people know each other and others don’t know anyone but us.   At one point when the RSVPs were trickling in, I thought that no one Jewish but us was going to attend, but Jews wound up being about 1/3 of the attendees.

As always, I wound up wishing that I had more time to talk with everyone.  That’s true about throwing parties in general, but is even more true for our Hanukah parties, where one of us is pretty much always in the kitchen working on the latkes.  I just don’t think they taste as good made in advance and kept warm in the oven.

We made both standard latkes and the curried sweet potato ones from Jewish Cooking in America.  For my standard latkes, I grate both potatoes and onions in the food processor, and don’t even bother peeling the potatoes.  Instead of adding matzoh meal, I use instant mashed potatoes to soak up the extra liquid.  I tried making a batch on the griddle, but the insides weren’t getting as cooked as I think they should be, so we then reverted to the high-greese method.  (I may try Elswhere’s idea of parboiling the potatoes some time, which might make the griddle work better. (via Crunchy Granola) The sweet potato ones are really good, and also have the advantage that they’re not competing with the platonic ideal of latkes that you grew up with.

Tonight we went to our congregation’s Hanukah party, and had some amazing latkes.  The cooks said that their tricks are to a) squeeze out all the excess liquid through cheesecloth and b) separate the eggs and beat the whites until stiff before adding them back to the mixture.  My mother always squeezed out the liquid, which makes for lovely crispy latkes.  But it’s an awful lot of work for a crowd.

My boys are not the paragons of restraint that Phantom’s kids are, but they’re doing reasonably well.  When D started to pout over not getting to open ALL his presents on Friday night, we told him that he was making it hard for us to have a happy Hanukah, and he did a pretty impressive job of controlling his attitude.  And when N opened his present from my folks tonight, he told me that he’s always wanted a blue robe with clouds and moons.  (Yes, we’ve been reading A Pocket for Corduroy; how did you guess?)

I seem to have relaxed a good bit about the whole Christmas thing this year.  I’ve decided that I’m not allowed to complain about the public school teaching "Santa Claus is coming to town" in music class when I’ve shown the boys Miracle on 34th Street (the original, of course).  I’m more disturbed that the celebration of holidays around the world scheduled for this week includes "America, Israel, Mexico and Africa" as countries.  D got a reprimand for talking too much in class on Friday; he was trying to explain to his classmates that Santa Claus wasn’t going to come to our house for Hanukah.

8 Responses to “Latkes, etc.”

  1. Genevieve Says:

    Happy Hanukkah to you and D and N and your husband!
    I’ll have to remember the cheesecloth next year. We do the parboiled potatoes thing, and I really like it.

  2. Ailurophile Says:

    Mollie Katzen, in Still Life With Menu, also recommends parboiling the potatoes. I guess it’s common for them to not cook all the way through when just fried.

  3. Jody Says:

    Happy Hannukah! Your party sounds fantastic and my mouth is watering at the thought of the latkes.
    Our school seems to have stayed away from making the holidays “international” — it seems so unnecessary, given that there must be kids in the classes at your school too who celebrate all these different festivals. (Is the Mexican one there Las Posadas? because it’s not exactly separate from Christmas, but I can’t think of another December Mexican tradition.)
    I confess to being sort of amused by the holidays highlighted in our schools: Christmas, the Christian re-appropriate of Yule/Solstice, with its long-contested (albeit no more) status in the Protestant world; Hannukah, elevated in the USA by virtue of its proximity to Christmas; and Kwanzaa, COMPLETELY invented by an American sociologist. By high school, you could do a whole unit on the nature of festivals and the invention of tradition.

  4. Phantom Scribbler Says:

    I’m totally laughing at Jody’s second paragraph.
    I’m so impressed that you take on the challenge of making latkes for a party’s worth of people. I’ve never even been tempted to try it. Especially since my kids wouldn’t actually eat the latkes. Sigh.
    Happy Hanukkah to you all!

  5. Mieke Says:

    Happy Hanukkah! We also had our party this weekend. Good times.

  6. landismom Says:

    My dh made latkes tonight–he does the sweet potato ones too. They are great. I don’t have a childhood ideal to compare them too, but I love them anyway.
    Have a happy Hanukkah, Elizabeth!

  7. elswhere Says:

    I think I got the parboiling idea from Mollie Katzen! (And Phantom, my kid wouldn’t eat the latkes, either– but that just meant more for us ;-)
    I also had some Christmas Angst this year, but I think I’m not as zen about it as you, at least not yet…

  8. dave.s. Says:

    Sometimes, a Christmas tree is a good thing: http://www.flickr.com/photos/22603354@N08/3094387561/

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