Wednesday, December 20, 2017

We have a winner!


 I recall "days long ago" (yes that was a Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel reference in case you missed it) when my father stood in the kitchen and grated pounds of potatoes on a box grater.  As the gathered in a large bowl and turned pink, then brown, my mother frantically fried them to a golden crispness and the kids frantically ate them.
I have tried many vegan and gluten free latke recipes over the years, with varying degrees of success. I tried one that called for pureeing half the potatoes and shredding the other half. Using a slurry of potato starch and soy milk in lieu of eggs, and even trying to get a store bought mix to work in a pinch. But Isa Chandra Moskowitz came through with her great Rosti Latke recipe in her recent book, The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook,  that covers vegan food for just about every imaginable holiday. From Cinco de Mayo to Chinese New're covered! Plus lots of bonus content like, "Hosting for the Hopeless". Her irreverent voice (hey she is punk!), permeates the book.  Her easy to follow recipes sound like a friend is walking you through the steps. Best of all, Moskowitz chooses ingredients that are easy to find in any supermarket--not something I can say about all vegan cookbooks.

Like Moskowitz's other cookbooks, her latest one is consistently reliable. I also like that you do not have to jump through hoops to get a good vegan and gluten free dish.  The entire cookbook is not gluten free, but I've found substituting GF all purpose flour for the wheat flour called for in many of the recipes works fine.  I made her Rosti Latkes recipe twice this Chanukah and both times it was quick and easy with just 5 ingredients (plus oil for frying). Besides two types of potato latkes, you might want to try her Samosa Spiced Latkes or Gefilte Chickpeas to round out your Chanukah meal.

Another great recipe, which used up those half price candy canes you can get on December 26th, is her Candy Cane Fudge cookie (I subbed Freedom Delivered All Purpose Gluten Free Flour). The cookies are easy to make and visually appealing.  Overall I highly recommend the book as a great holiday gift for your favorite foodie!

Here are my annual frying tips to ensure you have golden and delicious latkes:
1) Make sure your pan is big enough--a 12 inch pan will comfortably hold 4 to 5 latkes at a time.
2)If your oil is hot enough (about 375F, that's medium high on the stove knob, or slightly left of center), you should have a golden, crispy product that doesn't absorb excess oil.
3) Test a small amount of batter to see if it's hot enough.
4) Put a piece of carrot in the oil to absorb the brown "yuckiness" that results in batch frying.
5) Set a wire rack on a paper grocery bag or a cookie sheet lined with paper towels. This allows the grease to drip down away from the food. If you set the food directly on a paper towel it just sits in the grease.
6) Pre-heat your oven to 275F, and have a non-stick pan handy to load up with the already fried latkes and keep them warm while you're doing the rest.

I found this is great with the usual applesauce topping, but my favorite new twist is with kimchi on top!   

Rosti Latkes
from Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, p. 372.

2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled
1 large onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup potato starch
1 teaspoon salt, plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Lots of canola oil, for frying

Whether you're using a food processor with a grating blade or a box grater, shred the potatoes and transfer them to the middle of the unfolded cheesecloth. Over the sink, twist the excess cloth to wring out the liquid from the potatoes. Get them as dry as possible. It can take a few minutes to really squeeze the liquid out. When done, transfer the shredded potatoes to a a large mixing bowl, along with the onion (note: I found I didn't need to wrap the potatoes in cheesecloth to get out the extra water. But, if there is a lot of liquid after grating, I suggest you follow this step. I also just halved the onion and put it in the processor with the potatoes).

Add the potato starch, salt, and black pepper and toss with your hands to get everything well combined. Even though you squeezed those potatoes so well, there will still be a bit of liquid left to absorb the starch.

Preheat a large cast iron pan (note: I used a non-stick GreenPan) over medium-high heat. Have ready some brown paper bags or a baking sheet lined with paper towels for draining the oil from the latkes. Add about 1/2-inch of ail to the pan. While the oil heats, form some latkes by pressing the potatoes into 3/4 inch thick cakes that are about 2 inches in diameter (note:  press the mixture into a 1/4 cup measuring cup or ice cream scoop, and place it directly into the frying pan). 

The oil is hot enough when you drop in a pinch of batter and bubbles rapidly form around it. If it immediately smokes, then the heat is too high and you should lower it a bit. IF the bubbles are really lazy, just give it a few more minutes or turn up the heat a bit.

Fry the latkes until golden brown, about 4 minutes on each side, checking the underside often so that they don't burn.

Transfer the latkes to the lined pan to drain, Sprinkle with a little salt, flip and sprinkle with salt again, the proceed with the remaining latkes. Serve warm.

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