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The Cookstr 10: Ten Pancakes and Doughnuts for Hanukkah

November 29, 2010

This year, at this moment, those of us who are Jewish have to-do lists that look slightly schizophrenic in nature, due to the fact that the first night of Hanukah is a mere 5 days after Thanksgiving Day. Tasks like “stuff turkey” and “make pies” are interspersed with “buy Hannukah candles” and “wrap presents.” There will likely be leftover turkey in the fridge while we’re frying that first batch of latkes.

Roasted Apple Beignets with Cinnamon Sugar

But we’re on the case. By the time this issue of The Cookstr 10 goes out, Thanksgiving will be underway, and after we pack up the remains of the day we’ll be ready to turn our attention to the food of the Jewish Festival of Lights. This holiday remembers the rededication of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem in the 2nd century BCE. The story of Hanukkah tells of an oil candle that was lit in the temple, and while the oil was supposed to last for only one day, it inexplicably burned for eight days and nights.

Michelle and Philip Wojtowicz's Doughnuts

To commemorate the miracle of the oil, Jews all over the world eat fried foods on Hanukkah, including the classic potato pancakes, called latkes, and doughnuts, sometimes jelly-filled, which are called sufganiyot. Here are 10 latkes, pancakes, fritters, doughnuts and even a beignet that are fitting for the holiday. And, P.S. if you’re not Jewish, it’s still highly likely that you might not mind a doughnut or a potato pancake or two. In fact, you’ll notice that while this whole newsletter is dedicated to foods cooked in oil, we’ve happily wandered off the beaten path in a few cases to find fried foods from hither and yon, since we like tradition, but we like churros, too.

1. Sharon Lebewohl’s Vegetable Latkes. Though potatoes are the standard ingredient for Hanukkah pancakes, it’s always fun to see what other kinds of veggies find themselves at home in this dish. These green latkes feature finely chopped zucchini, broccoli, and spinach, and orange flecks or carrot, bound together with an eggy batter. Pretty, and–as far as fried foods go–pretty nutritious, too.

2. Molly O’Neill’s David (The Latke King) Firestone’s Latkes (In His Own Words). This is a nicely straightforward, albeit opinionated, recipe for classic potato latkes that relies on the food processor to ease the burden of the potato shredding. Don’t forget the applesauce.

3. Jon Ashton’s Sweet Potato and Apple Latkes with Ginger Orange Dipping Sauce. These are fun, and definitely not your everyday latkes. Curry powder and thyme flavor the sweet potatoes and apples, a really nice autumnal combo, and panko bread crumbs add some crunch. The dipping sauce has a lot of personality as well; no shortage of flavors here.

4. Claudia Roden’s Potato Fritters. This is a super-streamlined version of potato pancakes, made from just potatoes, eggs, and salt, plus the oil they need to crisp up gorgeously. You can add onion or parsley as you wish, or just take pleasure in their simplicity.

5. Linda Zimmerman’s Potato Chive Cakes. Grated onion and minced chives give these potato pancakes a little color and a little bite.

6. Faye Levy’s Soofganiyot with Jam. All doughnuts are symbolically appropriate on Hanukkah, but jam-filled Israeli soofganiyot are in a class by themselves. Use any flavor preserves you like, and make sure to let them cool before serving to avoid any hot jam injuries.

7. Michelle and Philip Wojtowicz’s Doughnuts. This is a great, classic, delicious doughnut recipe, with a bit of nutmeg (that’s the spice that makes doughnuts taste like doughnuts). Then it can be taken in any number of directions. You can coat them with a simple glaze, fill them up with jelly, or play around and invent your own house Hanukkah doughnut.

8. Kate Zuckerman’s Roasted Apple Beignets with Cinnamon Sugar. These are actually rings of roasted apples coated with a fluffy tempura-esque batter. The beignets puff up thanks to a mixture of beer, whipped egg white, and cream of tartar. The cinnamon sugar adds a sweet crunch, and the optional drizzle of rum caramel sauce turns these into a full on dessert.

9. Sam Choy’s Banana Fritters. This is the part where we shake things up a bit. How about banana fritters instead of doughnuts…all the way from the South Pacific. They are creamy, crisp, lightly seasoned and sweet. Oh, and yeah, if you have some chocolate sauce around the house, don’t be shy.

10. Regan Daley’s Lemon Anise Churros. If you’re living in Mexico, this is what you might be nibbling over the 8-day festival. Churros are Mexican doughnuts, often flavored with just a touch of citrus, and in this case a kiss of star anise (though you can try other flavorings as well). They don’t have much sugar in the batter, but once fried they are tossed with sugar while still warm, which bestows sweetness and a bit of crunch on the exterior.

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