It’s Chanukah–The official week when you walk around smelling like a giant fried potato. I’ve been elbow deep in oil, celebrating the miracle of the holiday, but if you ask me, the real miracle is how anyone can still fit into their pants after eight days of eating like this.
There’s nothing quite like that first latke in the pan. Nothing like it except the next 57 latkes that look just like it over the next few hours. Scoop, sizzle, flip, repeat. It’s a labor of love, but since there’s nothing quite like tradition, I channel my great-grandmother, Nanny’s energy, and smile as I hoard all the extra crispy bits for myself. Shh don’t tell.
For the past few nights, Hubby and I have been entertaining family and friends who celebrate the holiday, lighting the menorah together, and relishing in MnM’s little voice saying, “Happy Chanukah.” She’s been cracking us up with squeals of “Wow!! So cute!” as she opens gifts, and thanks everyone with a hug. At 21 months, she’s much more involved than last year, spinning the dreidel and getting into the giving spirit.
As for food, I’ve been serving up rounds of TSJ’s beer battered latkes with sriracha mustard aioli, Nanny’s traditional latkes with sunny side up egg, truffle oil and parmesan or caviar and creme fraiche, and a toppings bar complete with my dried cherry applesauce, sour cream, chives, scallions, smoked salmon, spreadable goat cheese, caramelized onions, shredded cheddar and faux bacon bits.
For apps, guests enjoyed filo cups filled with spiced cranberry apple cheese or brie and raspberry jam, dill pickle flavored potato chips and everything bagel flavored hummus as a nod to our heritage, and a version of my horiatiki salad to balance out the fried and make us feel better about ourselves.
For dessert, we indulged in homemade chocolate chip donuts with dessert spreads (Nutella, Biscoff, Cookies and Cream, Reese’s, chocolate and vanilla frostings, jelly, chocolate and coffee sugar, blue and white non-perils, star sprinkles…the list goes on), then waddled into bed only to start it all over again the next afternoon.
My original menu plan was to make a few light salads in order to balance out the fried everything. One on my list included TSJ’s fennel and cauliflower salad, which would have been ideal if the grocery store wasn’t out of cauliflower. Minor detail.
Instead, I picked up sunchokes, also known as Jerusalem artichokes (how fitting for Chanukah!). They have a slightly nutty flavor, and you can eat them raw, so I thought they would be fun to experiment with. I also added endive, a crisp leafy green, to complement the slight licorice flavor of the fennel (or anise).
However, when I shaved everything into the food processor, I realized the brown skin from the sunchokes turned everything into a very unappealing color, not something anyone was going to pile high onto their plates. So, I decided feeling good about ourselves was overrated, nixed the salad idea, and turned the shredded veggies into latkes! A few eggs, salt, pepper and matzah meal in the bowl later, and we had a whole other meal.
Sunchokes have the look and feel of a potato, and their starchiness made for a perfect latke. I created two versions: fried and baked, and both came out very tasty! They are full of vitamins, high in fiber, and if you do choose the oven route, you’ll save a ton on calories. I paired them with an arugula and pomegranate salad, tossed in a light lemon, olive oil dressing for a happy accident that may just be a new tradition.
- I package sunchokes
1 head of fennel
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
About 3-4 tablespoons matzah meal (Add more if latkes break apart in pan)
2 large eggs
Canola oil for frying/Nonstick cooking spray for baking
- Wash fennel, endive and sunchokes.
Cut greens off fennel and hard ends off endive.
Chop into pieces to fit into food processor, and shred each one.
Transfer mixture to a bowl, and add egg, matzah meal, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
In a hot pan of canola oil, fry each latke on either side until golden brown and cooked through.
If baking, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Scoop each latke onto a non-stick foil baking sheet (I use an ice cream scoop to keep them even.)
Spray the tops with cooking spray and bake for about 15 minutes, until golden. Flip over, spray again, and repeat.
Eat and enjoy with creme fraiche or a sunny side up egg and arugula salad!