Comingling Potato Latkes And Turkey
By Cheryl Giraud
Special to the Observer
At this year’s Thanksgiving Day dinner, instead of asking for the mashed potatoes, you might say, “Please pass the latkes.” Or, at your Hanukkah celebration, you can break culinary traditions of fried foods and dine on, with its air of gravitas, roast turkey.
Whichever floats your culinary boat, the centuries old celebration of Hanukkah begins at sundown next Wednesday, November 27, the eve of the widely celebrated American holiday, Thanksgiving Day.
Hanukkah, which usually falls closer to the Christmas holidays, hasn’t overlapped with Thanksgiving in 125 years when Benjamin Harrison was the 23rd president of the United States. But, mark your calendar because it won’t happen until 2070 and then again in 2165 according to Jewish and Gregorian calendar analysts.
Also known as the “Festival of Lights,” the eight-day celebration of Hanukkah begins on the 25th day of the Jewish month Kislev and is considered a relatively minor Jewish Holiday, because it has no great religious association.
Steeped in historical significance, the Hebrew translation for Hanukkah means ‘dedication,’ because the Jewish festival commemorates the re-dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem following the Jewish victory over the Syrian-Greeks in 168 B.C.E.
Ordering those of the Jewish faith to worship Greek gods, the oppressive and tyrannical Greco-Syrian ruler Antiochus banned Jewish religious practices and later captured the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Antiochus then dedicated the Temple to the supreme ruler of Mount Olympus, the celestial god Zeus.
Sparking a revolt, the astounding victory by a band of Jews led by Judah Maccabee, liberated the pillaged and sacred Temple that later became a symbol of religious freedom for the Jewish people.
After regaining possession of the Temple and with only enough holy oil for one day to keep a lantern lit by which to read the Torah, miraculously, the small supply of oil lasted eight days.
Since the victory, people of the Jewish faith have celebrated Hanukkah by lighting menorah candles for eight-days.
Today, modern celebrations are fun-filled, family-centric celebrations include lighting colorful candles for eight nights where blessings are recited, playing dreidel games, giving chocolate and gold gelt and exchanging other small token gifts.
So enjoy this rare culinary opportunity by celebrating the oil that lasted eight days by gathering together with friends and family over a festive meal.
Rooted in tradition, cooking with oil is a focal point of Hanukkah cuisine. This easy side dish for Classic Crispy Potato Latkes will serve as a perfect accompaniment to any main dish including the ubiquitous turkey.
Happy Hanukkah! (And Happy Thanksgiving!)
Classic Crispy Potato Latkes
3 russet potatoes
1 small onion
2 eggs, lightly beaten
¼ cup flour
1 tsp. ground black pepper
¼ cup vegetable oil
Salt- to taste
Chopped fresh chives – optional
Finely chop the onion and set aside. Grate potatoes using the large holes in a box grater. Rinse under cold water to remove some of the starch and then dry the potatoes well using paper towels. Squeeze lemon juice to keep potatoes from turning brown. Mix in the grated onion, the eggs, flour and pepper. Mix well. Heat the oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat until the oil is very hot. For each latke, use a measure of ¼ cup and carefully place the latke into the skillet. Press gently using the back of a spatula to flatten. Cook on both sides until golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt while latkes are hot. Serve immediately.
Serve with sour cream or applesauce.