Thursday, December 2, 2010


We finished the first platter before I realized I wanted a picture of these tasty Laktes.

Mimi Sheraton's Potato Latkes (recipe from The Essential New York Times Cookbook)

The food pages of the Oregonian and The New York Times the last two days have been full of features about latkes, in anticipation of Hanukkah, which begins today, December 1st.  I haven't made latkes in years, and because I had a bag of russet potatoes on hand, and some delicious apple butter I had made with my buddy Trish earlier in the fall, a plate of these delicious potato pancakes was long overdue.

The last time I made them must have been in New York in the early 80s. Everyone was using their food processors to make them, but since I had just finished reading THE ESSENTIAL NEW YORK TIMES COOKBOOK, I turned to it and found my inspiration.  Amanda Hesser's headnotes said the recipe came from a former Times restaurant critic, the fearsome Mimi Sheraton.  The potatoes and onion for the recipe required hand-grating, and while applesauce was acceptable, sour cream was dismissed as an unacceptable accompaniment.  The interesting technique in Sheraton's recipe is the draining of the potatoes.  You grate the vegetables into a strainer set over a bowl to catch the considerable moisture from the potatoes. Then you drain out the water while leaving the potato starch that sinks to the bottom of the bowl.  When you scrape this white substance into the potatoes and onions (which also include chopped fresh parsley, salt and white pepper, matzoh meal, and an egg yolk), it has the consistency of Elmer's glue!  Into this mixture you add egg whites, which are beaten until stiff and incorporated into the latke batter by hand.  The latkes are dropped by tablespoons into hot canola oil and fried until crisp and brown, then turned over and fried the same way.  They are drained on paper towel and then placed on a rack over a baking sheet in a warm oven while you finish the rest of the latkes.  Hesser says the resemble fried soft-shell crabs, which indeed they do.  They are fabulous and I even used sour cream (what does Mimi know?).  Kyle had never had them before, and we inhaled the half portion I made which was about 10 pancakes between us.  Happy Hanukkah indeed!

This eye-catching poinsettia would cost me at least $40 in New York.  

As for the Christmas side of the equation, I'm forcing narcissus, amaryllis and at Fred Meyer found two gorgeous and very inexpensive poinsettia plants for my holiday decorations and a lovely evergreen wreath for the door.  It's time to look for a new Christmas tree.  My little four-foot fake tree no longer wants to sit up straight in its base, and after decorating the tree last night, it slumped over to one side and bulbs went flying.

I love to force narcissus, but the smell drives me nuts after a few days.

The amaryllis is on the small side, but the poinsettia is huge and really a gorgeous shade of tomato red.

I brought out my old fake Christmas tree from New York and put it up last year, but it's very wobbly in its stand and I was tired of the optic fibers which were never really a good substitute for lights, so off I went in search of a new tree.  As much as I love freshly cut trees, I just can't seem to justify the fact that trees lose their lives for us and after four weeks are discarded.  They are a mess to handle and are potentially hazardous, so I like the idea of a fake tree.  I found one at Wal-Mart of all places. I swore I'd never shop there, but find myself occasionally searching for things there.  Six and a half feet tall, the tree comes already pre-lit.  Talk about lazy.  In the end it takes as much work to deal with a fake tree as it does a real one.  The results were very festive.

The new fake Christmas tree all trimmed.

The wreath comes from Trader Joe's.  I put the ribbon on it. 

Chili pepper ornament purchased in Santa Fe last month.

I can't believe I still am like a kid about the Christmas holiday season!

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