Chanukah celebrations already well underway, we approach the sixth of eight nights this evening, bringing the holiday ever nearer to a close. Before many people have even had the chance to drag an evergreen tree into their living rooms or sing one carol, menorahs will be cooled and put away for another year. Crazy how fast it’s sped by this time around! I’m still struggling to keep up, injecting extra holiday cheer into what seem like otherwise ordinary winter days. That’s why I’d make the argument that it’s not at all too late for latkes- In fact, the early date of Chanukah means that these luscious potato pancakes should be fair game through the rest of the month, while everyone else is still celebrating Christmas, too.
Hopefully no one expects an average latke out of me by now. This year, my starchy spud cakes are thick, tender on the inside with a crisp exterior, perfumed throughout with rich Indian spices. Inspired by a favorite takeout dish, Bombay Aloo, this nontraditional take on the standard Chanukah staple will make it hard to go back to plain potatoes. Brightened with piquant jalapeno and a complex blend of garam masala, they’re just spicy enough to add excitement without setting the most timid of palates on fire. Pairing beautifully with the standard sour creme, you could also embrace the theme and switch out the typical applesauce for a sweet and savory apple chutney instead. Whatever you do, don’t let this opportunity to enjoy latkes pass you by.
Bombay Aloo Latkes
2 Pounds Yukon Gold Potatoes, Peeled and Shredded
1/2 Small Yellow Onion, Shredded
1 Medium Fresh Jalapeno, Finely Minced
1 1/2 Tablespoons Grated Fresh Ginger
4 Cloves Garlic, Finely Minced
1 1/4 Teaspoons Garam Masala
1 Teaspoon Whole Cumin Seeds, Toasted
3/4 Teaspoon Turmeric
3/4 Teaspoon Salt
2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
1 1/2 Teaspoons Lemon Juice
1/4 Cup Potato Starch or Cornstarch
About 1/4 Cup Canola Oil, for Frying
After running both the potatoes and onion through the shredder (the food processor attachment is easiest, in my opinion) place both in a strainer and press down firmly, extracting as much liquid as possible. No need to get too crazy, but you should be able to remove about 1/3 cup starchy potato water. This will help the shreds hold together better while cooking.
In a large bowl, mix together the minced jalapeno, ginger, garlic, spices, salt, and tomato paste until smooth. Add in the drained potatoes, drizzling them first with the lemon juice before tossing with the seasonings. Stir well to blend the paste throughout, getting in there and using your hands as needed. Sprinkle the cornstarch over last, tossing to coat and evenly distribute throughout the shreds.
Heat about half of the oil in a medium-sized skillet over moderate heat. Once the oil is shimmering, it’s hot enough to start cooking up the latkes. For large, thick potato pancakes, I use about 1/3 cup of firmly packed shreds, using the measuring cup to mold them into an even round. Press the potato puck out lightly, so that it’s about 1 cm thick. For more dainty latkes, use closer to 1/4 cup of loosely packed shreds, flattening them out to about 1/2 cm thick. Cook no more than 3 latkes at one time, giving them all enough space to comfortable flip when the time comes.
Allow the latkes to sizzle undisturbed for about 3 – 5 minutes on each side, flipping only once. When they’re golden brown on both sides, remove the latkes to paper towel-lined plates to drain. Add more oil to the skillet as needed for additional latkes. Serve immediately, or transfer to a wire rack and store in a 250 degree preheated oven until they’re all cooked and ready.
Makes 10 – 12 Thick Latkes, 16 – 18 Thinner, Smaller Latkes