One of my favorite Jewish holidays is Chanukah (also known as Hanukkah). It is a time when family and friends come together to commemorate the holiday by lighting a candle on a menorah for each of the eight days of the celebration. Chanukah means "dedication," and it notes the rededication of the Holy Temple at Jerusalem by Judah Maccabee
and his followers in 165 B.C.E. after its desecration by the forces of the Hellenistic King of Syria, Antiochus IV. This character invaded Judea, outlawed the Jewish religion and ordered an alter be erected to the pagan god Zeus, and pigs sacrificed on the alter.
Once the Maccabees ousted the invaders, they discovered there was only enough purified oil for one day. Miraculously, the oil lasted eight days; enough time for more oil to be purified. My father of late memory use to razz his Jewish friends by asking if the Jewish liberators used Goya or Progresso olive oil. That would get a laugh all around. Anyway, in America and Europe, the traditional dish served on Chanukah is latkes, basically, potato fritters. I love latkes, and I have my own variation on it. Call it the Puerto Rican way of doing things. I've discovered that if you add some grated carrots to the recipe, it enhances the flavor.
Another note: Judah Maccabee was also known as Yehuda HaMakabi ("Judah the Hammer"). I reckon that today he would have made a good linebacker.
POTATO LATKES (RIVERA FAMILY STYLE)
3 large potatoes
1 small onion, chopped fine
1/4 cup grated carrots
2 tablespoons matzo meal
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon oregano
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
Oil for frying (I use a combination of vegetable oil and olive oil, 1/2 cup or more)
1. Peel the potatoes and grate them into a bowl. You can do it by hand (the traditional method) or by using a food processor. Squeeze out the extra liquid into the sink.
2. Add onion, eggs, carrots, matzo meal, salt, pepper, oregano and parsley. Mix well.
3. In a large heavy skillet (I prefer cast-iron), heat the oil. Using a tablespoon, carefully drop the potato mixture into the hot oil and fry until browned on both sides, turning only once (about 3 minutes per side). Some people prefer to flatten each latkes with a spoon. Use whatever method you desire. The latkes should not only be golden brown but also crispy.
4. Drain on paper towels and serve with applesauce, sour cream or preserves.
Yield: about 2 dozen or more latkes.
Labels: Cast iron, Hanukkah, Jewish holiday, Judaism, Olive oil, Potato, Potato pancake, Temple in Jerusalem