Today began like most other mornings: a wet, cold nose against my ear (that would be Chaser, not the HH) rousing me from sleep; a quick (warm, dry) kiss to the HH; and popping (okay, more like fizzling) out of bed before stretching, going through the usual ablutions and tramping over to the office to turn on the computer and check out some blogs. For our lazy Sunday morning (after shovelling the additional 15 cm./ 6 inches of snow that arrived overnight, of course), I thought I might make some pancakes for breakfast–maybe banana; maybe apple.
Then I read Ruth’s Hannukah (or, for us Canadians, Chanukah) post and before I knew it, I was craving potato pancakes (aka latkes).
Which is weird, because I hate latkes.
Let me explain. Over the years, I’ve sampled many different kinds of potato latkes in many different kitchens; and I can honestly tell you I haven’t enjoyed a single one. (Sorry, Mrs. D who kindly invited me to her Rosh Hashanah table back in university; sorry, all my friends who’ve been generous enough to share; sorry, Aunty M. and CBC; sorry, all those caterers whose miniature pancakes I’ve sampled at festive tables in the past).
Given that I adore home fries and even hash browns, this latke enmity always seemed odd to me. But whenever I’d try again, the results were the same: the pancakes in question were very heavy, very greasy, and fairly bland, with a high-gloss exterior and mushy, mealy insides. Was I missing something? Is there some kind of Freemason-like secret latke society that knows something those of us using the regular latke recipes don’t know? Or was I simply hanging around with horrible cooks?
After a quick tour using Veg Blog Search, I uncovered a large selection of options. There were traditional potato latkes, those made entirely from sweet potatoes, traditional latkes with cool toppings, and a whole bunch of trail-blazing atypical latkes. I decided to base my own version on Bryanna’s fat-free potato and sweet potato pancakes. I loved the combination of both types of spud, both for color and nutrition, and I thought a lower-fat version would be good at this time of year as well (I did add 2 Tbsp./15 ml. olive oil to the mixture to enhance the flavors a little). This was also the perfect excuse to use my cast iron skillet yet once more–something I’ve been doing at every available opportunity the past few weeks as I endeavor to render it truly non-stick (so far, no luck).
I’m happy to report that the Latke Loathing has been vanquished, once and for all! (Must have been those sweet potatoes). The HH was also a fan. We had ours with a slightly unconventional topping, a balsamic-fig sauce that was given to me a few weeks back (more typical accompaniments include sour cream or applesauce). What a fabulous combination! The cakes were decidedly not mushy, as I remembered latkes of old; they were crispy on the outside and supple on the inside, the potatoes just cooked. They held together beautifully and offered up an alluring aroma of caramelized onion and fragrant dill as they were grilled. With the sweet-tart contrast of the fig sauce slathered over the top, these were the perfect Sunday breakfast.
Now, it seems the Sunday pancake options are limitless. So glad I start my days the way I do.
To those who celebrate, Happy Hannukah! (and Hanukkah, AND Chanukah!)
Two-Toned Potato Latkes
adapted from Notes from the Vegan Feast Kitchen
While we ate these for breakfast, latkes are more often eaten as a side dish or appetizer with savory foods. They’re great both ways.
3 small white or Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and grated
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and grated
1 large onion, grated
2 Tbsp. (10 ml) extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup (110 g) kamut flour or (100 g) whole spelt flour
2 tsp. (10 ml) baking powder
3/4 tsp. (7.5 ml) fine sea salt
1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) finely ground flax seeds
2 Tbsp. (30 ml) water
1 tsp. (5 ml) garlic powder
1 Tbsp. (15 ml) dried dill weed
1/2 tsp. (2. 5 ml) smoked paprika
Using a food processor or box grater, grate the potatoes and sweet potatoes and place in a large colander. Squeeze the mixture with your hands as if squeezing a sponge to get out as much of the starchy liquid as you can. Place in a large bowl.
Grate the onion and add it to the potato mixture along with the remaining ingredients. Mix together very well, using your hands if necessary.
Heat a cast iron or other nonstick skillet over medium heat. Using a large ice cream scoop or 1/3 cup measuring cup, scoop the mixture into the pan, flattening the pancakes with a spatula (they should be fairly flat). Cook about 3-4 minutes, until bottoms are golden; flip and cook on the other side another 3 minutes or so, until golden. Keep pancakes warm as you continue to cook them. Serve immediately with apple sauce, sour cream, ketchup, cranberry sauce, chutney, or other topping of choice.
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