This Friday at Sunset, the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah begins. Also known as the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah honors an historical event, the struggle for religious freedom against the Greeks in the second century.
A small band of Jews risked their lives in order to preserve their heritage, and today Hanukkah, which means rededication, is celebrated by lighting the Hanukkah candles or oil lamps.
This group, the Maccabees, reclaimed a temple that had been overtaken by the Greeks. When they went to rekindle the eternal light, they could only find enough oil to burn for one day. Miraculously, however, the oil ended up lasting eight days (that is why Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days).
Besides the lighting of the menorah, Hanukkah is filled with songs, stories, games and food. Hanukkah dishes typically center around the theme of oil, due to the miracle of the menorah’s oil.
A favorite Hanukkah food is latkes, or potato pancakes. Latkes are made from grated potatoes mixed with eggs, onions, and flour, fried in vegetable oil. With a crispy outside and a tender inside, latkes are served hot, and are often dipped in applesauce or sour cream. Since potatoes weren’t available until the sixteenth century, traditionally, the pancakes were made of cheese, and later from vegetables or fruits.
12 large potatoes, grated
3 medium onions, grated
4 eggs, beaten lightly
5 tbs. flour
3 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
Oil for deep frying
If you want great latkes, make sure you remove as much liquid from the potatoes and onions as possible. Put the grated potatoes in a clean tea towel and squeeze the liquid out of the mixture. Do the same for the grated onions. Combine all of the ingredients and mix together well by hand.
In a heavy skillet, put a 3/4″ deep layer of oil. Heat until sizzling. Form individual pancakes by hand and carefully slide into the pan using a slotted spatula. Fill the pan, but leave room between the pancakes. When nicely brown on one side, turn them carefully until browned on the other side and crisp on the edges. Remove with a spatula and place on paper towels.
Let the excess grease drain onto the paper towel. For the best taste, serve immediately. You can keep latkes hot in a warm oven. Serve with applesauce or sour cream, or sprinkle with granulated sugar.