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I Never Met a Potato My Boyfriend Didn't Like.... Or, (I Love) Latkes and Favorite Potato Kugel

Posted Apr 23 2009 5:23pm
In the past few weeks, I've made latkes and potato kugel. I've made a you-couldn't-tell-it's-gluten-free (and lower fat!) macaroni & cheese. I had an awesome dinner at Luchita's Mexican Restaurant. I've made two batches of everyone's favorite flourless peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies. I've made a mixed berry pie. And I've taken pictures of it all. But for the past few weeks, my poor little blog has lain dormant and my food adventures have gone entirely unrecorded. Why? Four annoying little words: I. Have. A. Hernia. 

Seriously? A 22 year old girl with a hernia? I mean, if I was a champion weightlifter rather than an amature baker that might make some sense. Heck, I suppose I could've gotten a cooking related injury, if I was lifting some 50 lbs sack of (tapioca) flour, then at least there'd be a reason for this madness, but no such luck. Regardless of it's origin,  my mysterious hernia has left me somewhat bed bound, in serious pain, and much too frustrated to write about the joys of naturally gluten free Jewish cuisine or the difficulties of no bake fruit pies. 

But I'm sick of thinking about my hernia and you're not here for my gluten-free griping (I mention it simply for the "sorry I haven't updated in so long!" pity points), so on the good stuff, the food. 

I'd promised gluten-free Hanukkah recipes in time for the holiday and despite the leeway the lunar calendar provides, I missed my deadline. Sure, it's not technically Hanukkah anymore, but maybe you'd looking to extend your holiday to round nine days? Complete with a latke lunch? (Work with me people...)  And if you're questioning whether or not potato pancakes are midday food, I ask you to really question whether there's a time that you wouldn't eat a crispy, crunchy latke. Dig deep, be honest, you know there isn't. 

Despite my lack of timeliness as far as writing goes, I did make latkes on the Hanukkah's first night. 

 " So what....its fried potatoes and onions?What's the difference between the latke things and hash browns?"   my skeptical boyfriend asked. I couldn't quite answer the question. I mean...they're latkes, what more is there to say? Unable to verbally explain the difference between something that comes in an Ore-Ida bag in a local grocer's freezer case and a fried potato cake with 5770+ years of history behind it, I realized I'd just have to show  him. Drat, latkes for us both. 

Though I generally use my dad's latke recipe, I googled latkes until I found a tempting looking version over at NYCnosh.com. Most recipes are basically the same potato-onion-egg-matzo meal mix, but this recipe was a departure from my father's in that 1) it subtracted an egg (my dad tends to use 3) and 2) you hand grate one half of the potatoes while pureeing the other half (contrary to convention, I grew up on latkes made solely of pureed potatoes and was pretty confused by the more popular grated potato cousin popular at delis the first time I saw them). 

I, of course, had to sub in all purpose GF flour mix for that traditional, Jewish matzo meal, but I changed nothing else - I mean, this recipe was offered up by New York Jews  and was
 touted as mind blowing. Mind blowing. I mean, who knows Jewish food better than New Yorkers? No one, that's who. 

So latkes I made, and latkes we enjoyed - me with traditional low fat sour cream and cinnamon applesauce, him with a goyish topping I promised not to name. And how did the boyfriend like his introduction to Hanukkah food? " It's fried potatoes and onions, what's not to love?!" But upon asking if it tasted like hash browns, he answered a correct "definitely not". Well good, there may be hope for him yet. 

Having a little batter left over, and being too tired stand over the stove flipping and frying, the next night I baked the remaining mixture in a thin casserole pan and introduced my boyfriend to potato kugel. To my surprise, he liked it even better than the latkes, adding that if we kept eating like this, he'd be a Jewish convert in no time. A few days later, we were craving a home cooked meal and still had half a bag of potatoes left. I decided to try out the whole recipe as a kugel and I'm amazed to say that this produces the best potato kugel I've ever had. (Sorry Dad). 

(I Love) Latkes ...or Favorite Potato Kugel 
adapted from nycnosh.com

2.5 lbs of potatoes  (4 medium potatoes or about 8 smallish potatoes) 
1 large white onion
2 eggs
1.5 - 2 tablespoons of GF flour mix 
1/2 teaspoon of salt 
1/4 teaspoon of pepper
1/4 teaspoon of paprika (for kugel, though you could use it in the latkes)
 
vegetable oil for frying latkes (no olive oil please!!)
1/4 cup vegetable oil (for kugel only)
baking spray 

Peel potatoes. Cut half of the potatoes in to 1 inch chunks and boil for 20 minutes, until tender. Meanwhile, grate the remaining potatoes and the onion in to a medium sized bowl. This mixture will be extremely soggy and you'll need to drain it as much as possible. I recommend straining it in a colander while pressing it down with paper towels. You may loose a few shreds of potato, but don't worry about it. If you have one, NYCnosh recommends placing the shredded vegetables in a cheesecloth and wringing it out (I don't think I know anyone who actuallyhasa cheesecloth in their kitchen, but this sounds far easier than my strainer method, so perhaps its not a bad investment). Return the shredded onion/potato to a dry bowl.

Beat the two eggs in a separate bowl and mix them into the shredded vegetables. Stir in the spices as well. 

Drain the cooked potatoes and puree them in a blender or food processor. Sprinkle the mixture with the flour. Finally mix the puree into the shredded vegetables to complete your latke batter / kugel base. 

For The Latkes....
Cover your largest frying pan with vegetable oil,  1/4th to 1/2th inch thick (Oy! The oil! I know!). Grab a handful of your batter and make a palm sized patty about 3/4 of an inch thick. Gently - and carefully! - slide the patty into the oil and repeat until pan is filled. Cook for 5 -7 minutes on each side, flipping with a spatulaanda fork, so as to prevent as much break
age as possible. 

When both sides have evenly cooked, place latkes on a plate covered in paper towels to drain the oil from them (patting the tops will also be necessary). Serve with applesauce, sour cream, or other favored topping. 

Latke Notes
*If your latkes are browning too quickly - 2 minutes or so on the first side - your oil is too hot. If your latkes seem like they're taking forever to cook, you'll need to turn up the heat. 
* Since you're using GF flour, the latkes are a little more fragile, so be careful when flipping them and make sure they're fully cooked before turning. 
*I didn't have any on hand, but a 1/4 teaspoon of xanthum gum may aid in firming the latkes up. 

For the kugel...
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8 inch casserole dish with GF baking s
pray / canola oil (again, NOT olive oil). Pour kugel into the dish and bake for 45 minutes. 

At this point, the kugel will start getting crispy around the edges, but will still be quite white on top. Spray the stop of the kugel with the baking spray / canola oil and bake for an additional 20 -30 minutes, or until the top browns (looks crispy). 

Serve squares along side apple sauce, sour cream, or on it own. Enjoy! 

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