On Friday night, G. and I were lured to midtown by a Mexican restaurant advertising a Hanukkah menu. Being two very enthusiastic Mexican food lovers, we bundled up and headed north. The menu featured a Mexican latke trio, brisket tacos, and a jelly donut with dulce de leche dessert. The latkes were thin and crispy, and were paired with Mexican dipping sauces (cilantro and lime, chipotle, and I think the last one was some sort of horseradish cream). G. loved the brisket tacos (I ordered mushroom), and we opted for churros over the jelly donut, which, while not traditional holiday fare, were delicious nonetheless.
Saturday was spent prepping for our party, and preparing a menu of our own: applesauce, jelly donut cupcakes (which I think were the crowd favorite), latkes, and mulled wine.
My applesauce is essentially a non-recipe. I used six pounds of apples (mix varieties), peeled them, chopped them, tossed them in a soup pot and cooked it all down over medium-low heat for about three hours. The longer you cook the sauce, the more the apples will break down, so just remove it from heat whenever you like the consistency. Normally, I like it with chunks of apples, but I let this batch cook down further because it was going with latkes. You can also easily add any spices you like: cinnamon, cloves, allspice. If your apples start to stick to the bottom, or if the applesauce gets too thick as it cooks down, add water about ¼ c at a time, stirring as you go. The water will keep cooking off, so check it occasionally and give it a stir to prevent sticking.
For the latkes, we’d planned to do two batches, one vegan and one with eggs, but the vegan ones were such a hit that we just went with it. In place of eggs, the thickening/sticking agent is cornstarch (you could also use potato starch), and they are seasoned simply with salt and pepper. To make these gluten-free, you can substitute an alternative flour, though I haven’t tried it, so I can’t vouch for their texture.
3 lbs potatoes, peeled and shredded
1 medium white or yellow onion
¼ c cornstarch
about 1 c flour
salt and pepper
If you have a food processor, fit it with the grating disc and shred all the potatoes and the onion. If you’re hand-grating, grate the potatoes, then dice the onion as small as you can get it. Rinse the potato shreds well, then squeeze out as much liquid as possible. (This step is important, and will keep your latkes crispy and not soggy.) Mix together the potato and onion and add the cornstarch. Mix well and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Season well with salt and pepper. Add flour gradually until the mixture becomes sticky and holds together.
Heat a cast-iron skillet with vegetable oil over high heat. You want the pan and oil to be hot, but not smoking. Form small balls of the potato mixture and press them very flat. (You want them pretty thin, or else they’ll be doughy and mushy on the inside.) Fry the pancake on both sides until golden and crispy, adding oil as necessary. Drain latkes on brown paper bags (they hold more oil than paper towels). Sprinkle with additional salt to taste.
Serve hot with sour cream and applesauce.