Chanukah is my favorite Jewish holiday, and not for the reason you may think. For me, it has never been about the gift giving aspect, it has always been about being with my family and eating great food. To be more precise, it is really about potato latkes. For many years I had been searching for the perfect potato latke and it wasn't until a few years ago that I found Mimi Sheraton's jewels. They are the best I have ever tasted— great potato flavor, not soggy with oil, and always crispy, the true qualities of a great latke. Mimi Sheraton is one of New York City's culinary treasures, who wrote a book on Jewish Cooking, From My Mother's Kitchen:Recipes and Reminiscences, Harper Collins 1991. Many years ago, before I found Mimi's latkes, we created a potato waffle for our menu. I remember how surprised I was when they turned out so golden and crunchy on the outside, and full of potato flavor on the inside. I love to eat them with cold sour cream and Chunky Apple Preserves (recipe can be found in Sarabeth's Bakery, From My Hands to Yours, Rizzoli 2010).
POTATO WAFFLES with Sour Cream and Chunky Apple Preserves
These should be prepared and fried as close to serving time as possible.
7 or 8 medium old potatoes (about 2 ½ pounds)
1 large onion peeled
2 eggs, separated
2 tablespoons potato flour or matzoh meal
1 scant tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon white pepper
Corn oil, for frying
Applesauce, as accompaniment
1. Peel the potatoes and cover with cold water until you are ready to make the pancakes. Grate the potatoes and onion into a strainer that is suspended over a bowl to catch the juices. If this is hard for you to manage, grate the potatoes into a bowl, then turn into a strainer suspended over another bowl. Grate the potatoes and onion alternately, as the onion juice will help prevent the potatoes from darkening. Using a wooden spoon, or picking up handfuls of the grated potato mixture, squeeze or press out as much liquid as possible. Reserve all liquid and let it settle in the bowl for 2 or 3 minutes.
2. Put the pressed potato and onion mixture in a clean bowl. Carefully pour off the watery part of the reserved liquid but do not discard the thick, starchy paste at the bottom of the bowl. Scrape that into the potato mixture. Add the egg yolks, potato flour or matzoh meal, salt, and pepper and mix thoroughly. Beat the egg whites to stiff and shiny peaks and fold them into the potato mixture.
3. Heat a ½-inch-depth of oil in a heavy skillet, preferably of black cast iron. Drop the potato mixture into the hot oil, about 2 tablespoons per pancake, and fry, turning once so the pancakes are a deep golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Total frying time for each batch of pancakes should be about 10 minutes. Keep fried pancakes warm while the rest are being fried. To do that, put the fried, drained pancakes on a rack in an open baking pan and place in a low oven (about 250 degrees). Do not hold for more than 15 minutes before serving or they will become soggy. Serve with applesauce.