Never mind the cultural appropriation, here’s the latkes and kugel

We’re about halfway through Chanukah! This Friday is the last evening. I guess some Christians have taken to lighting menorahs, which is weird, especially if you already have an advent wreath to light. So I wrote 760 words about why it’s weird. Then I deleted them! Because I have a better idea: Let’s eat. 

Food is almost never appropriation. It’s just food, and it’s meant to be shared. Individual dishes are meant to be shared with other people at your table, and recipes are meant to be shared with people all around the world. It’s food! Have some!

Here are three Chanukah-worthy recipes: Jelly donut puffs, latkes, and noodle kugel.

Last year, I made jelly donuts (sufganiyot) using this King Arthur Flour recipe, which doesn’t use yeast. They describe it as “light doughnuts with a crisp exterior and wonderfully tender, creamy interior,” and that’s accurate. It’s a simple recipe and it went great except for the part where you get the jelly inside the donuts. I made a complete hash out of this part, and got jelly and sugar everywhere.

Nobody complained, mind you; but nevertheless, this year, I opted to buy a giant tub of jelly munchkins at Dunkin’ Donuts instead, and again, nobody complained. (They actually do come in a tub.)

Jelly donuts are a traditional Hanukkah food because they’re cooked in oil, which is a feature of the Hanukkah story. The jelly part signifies that jelly is delicious. 

I also intend to make (or possibly stand back while someone else makes) a ton of potato latkes. I don’t go for a lot of add-ins with latkes, although there are a million crazy varieties.

The secret is to let the shredded potato drain in a colander for a while, and then squeeze the heck out it before you mix it into the batter, so it isn’t too soggy when you fry the latkes. You want a crisp outside and a yielding, mealy center. I like mine with a little sour cream and apple sauce. Here’s the recipe:

Potato latkes

Serve with sour cream and/or apple sauce for Hanukkah or ANY TIME. Makes about 25+ latkes

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs potatoes, peeled
  • 6 eggs beaten
  • 6 Tbsp flour (substitute matzoh meal for Passover)
  • salt and pepper
  • oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Grate the potatoes. Let them sit in a colander for a while, if you can, and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. 

  2. Mix together the eggs, salt and pepper, and flour. Stir into the potato mixture and mix well. 

  3. Turn the oven on to 350 and put a paper-lined pan in the oven to receive the latkes and keep them warm while you're frying. 

  4. Put 1/4 to 1/2 and inch of oil in your frying pan and heat it up until a drop of batter will bubble.  

  5. Take a handful of the potato mixture, flatten it slightly, and lay it in the pan, leaving room between latkes. Repeat with the rest of the mixture, making several batches to leave room in between latkes. Fry until golden brown on both sides, turning once. Eat right away or keep warm in oven, but not too long. 

  6. Serve with sour cream and/or applesauce or apple slices. 

This year, the last night of Chanukah is a Friday, so for a meatless meal, I’m going to make latkes and a cozy little noodle kugel.  Kugel, with a “u” like in “put,” is a sort of baked pudding, and it is not a dish of subtlety or sophistication. It is a dish of egg noodles and sweet cheese and plump little raisins, and you serve it in steaming wedges. Here’s a recipe that resembles the one my mother used to use. My mother was not a great cook, but her kugels were hearty and comforting. I may add in some apple bits and maybe soak the raisins in something interesting. 

Here’s a Wikipedia photo, since I haven’t made mine yet:

Stuart Spivack, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Some kugels are savory, with onions and vegetables, rather than sweet. Apparently it’s more common for Litvak-style kugel to be savory, rather than sweet; but more common for sweet kugel to be pronounced “kigel.” But my family, who were Litvaks, favored sweet kugel and pronounced “kugel.” Yet another thing I wish I could ask my parents about. My father keeps turning up in my dreams, and I generally say, “Hey, I thought you were dead!” and he just wiggles his eyebrows at me, so that’s no help. You know, I think eating kugel will help. 

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5 thoughts on “Never mind the cultural appropriation, here’s the latkes and kugel”

  1. “So I wrote 760 words about why it’s weird. Then I deleted them! Because I have a better idea: Let’s eat.”
    😁😅. This! This is part of why I read all your posts — yes, I learn things, and I also get the chance to see things from somebody else’s perspective, but another thing I get is just reading the fun ways you think and write. Score!

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