"Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority ... the Constitution was made to guard against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters." - Noah Webster

"There is no worse tyranny than forcing a man to pay for what he does not want just because you think it would be good for him."
-- Robert A. Heinlein

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Whole Latke Makin' Goin' On

Of the many things that Twyla and I share that tell us we were destined for each other, we both started cooking around age ten.  Even more amazing is that we figured out on our own that finely shredding potatoes and turning them into a kind of pancake was a pretty good idea.  Neither of us knew at that tender age that we were making something that had been a staple of the Jewish diet for centuries:  Latkes.  Pronounced, "Laht-kuhs."

"Grater love hath no man . . . that he giveth up his potato for latkes."

Of course, my first attempts were very basic.  Just the shredded spuds with some beaten egg to hold it together, which of itself isn't bad at all. But then I discovered the subtle delights of things like evaporated milk and flour and baking powder and minced garlic and a whole host of other things that could be mixed and matched to make new and interesting versions of the basic latke.  You can even make sweet versions of latkes with sweet potatoes.

I suppose you could make good latkes using the Cuisinart™ or it's equivalent device, but I find that the fine grater like what you see above facing out, works the best; especially when I'm only doing a couple of potatoes.  I use russet for myself because they are half the price of the red.  Twyla needs the red because they have half the sugar/starch content.  Gonna be growing a bunch of them this summer.  If I were doing a big platter of latkes for a dinner party or potluck, I'd use the food processor in a heartbeat.
Shredded spud with rye flour and baking powder

Once I shred the potato onto the flexible cutting mat, I take a small handful and squeeze most of the starchy liquid out through my fist.  You can do this with a mesh sieve, but for me, that's just one more thing to wash.  I set the shredded and squeezed tater to the side and then whip the egg.  Depending on your desired dryness, this can be one egg per potato or one egg per two potatoes and adjust with some milk or water.  I would finely mince some onion to go with the minced fresh garlic, but Twyla doesn't like onion in the morning for some reason.  I don't question, I just deal with it.

Along with a little cumin and maybe coriander and some fresh ground black pepper goes a couple of tablespoons of freshly ground rye flour (wheat flour, whatever you want) and a teaspoon of baking powder.  When the herbs were growing well before the cold, I would finely mince some basil, oregano, parsley, dill, sage.  Never the same way twice.  I think somebody said, "Variety is the spice of life."

There is a great "secret" ingredient that just about every Bubbie (Yiddish grandmother) knows about.  Think of it as the Jewish version of kosher bacon bits.  Fried chicken skin.  You see, we just don't let anything go to waste.  I take all the fat trimmings and skin from the chickens I butcher and it gets slowly sauteed in the iron skillet until the liquid fat is all rendered out and that gets poured into a mason jar to be used for other cooking oil.  The skin is mostly protein with some fat flavor left in.

Got to have some skin in the game.
Finely chopped flavorful goodness.
I keep a little container of these crunchy chicken skins in the fridge for various dishes where it fits well, but it mostly gets used for the latkes.  Not always, but mostly.  I'll pull out a small handful; just enough to end up with about a tablespoon per potato once chopped up.

No, we really don't miss pork.  When I discovered that I'd been misled all these years about it being okay to eat pork, I thought it would be hard to give up pork, but I really don't miss it.  I think it was harder to give up shellfish, but even that hasn't been too difficult.  I know that I'm much healthier, and my conscience is clear knowing I'm being obedient.  Besides I get to compensate with beef, venison, lamb and all kinds of other great food.

 Yeah, all this chopping seems like a lot of work to some, but for me, it's a labor of love that I don't mind doing.  Besides, I learned early on how to sling a chef's knife quickly and efficiently, just like the pros do.  I can do many chopping and slicing jobs faster and better than Twyla can with various other gadgets in the kitchen.

Once all the ingredients are combined, it only takes a minute to heat up the iron skillet on the gas stove.  Only medium heat is used because I fry these babies in extra virgin olive oil, which has the lowest smoke point of all cooking oils that I use.  There are probably a few others that have a lower smoke point than olive oil, but they are probably too exotic and expensive for me to use.

As Emeril would say, they're gettin' happy
You just can't beat all the different ways you can make these delicious patties.  You just can't beat cheap, easy, and oh so delicious.

You can also add to the variety greatly by the various toppings.  Sour cream is the default topping and I certainly love using it.  Twyla tends to opt for her mixture of ketchup and hot sauce.  I also like Twyla's homemade tarter sauce for fish which is heavy with fresh dill.  Be adventurous.  Why not some A1 sauce or a fancy mustard?   If I made the sweet potato version I could see myself topping them with some raisins and honey or some of those blackberries we picked this past summer.

Just look at that plate of two scrumptious latkes and a turkey bacon and cheddar cheese omelet with my own farm fresh eggs and tell me your mouth isn't watering.

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