Last week I did a latke demonstration at the North Park Holiday Thursday Market. Because Chef Matt Gordon of Urban Solace was set to do one after me, making traditional potato latkes, I came up with a different version: carrot turnip. As far as I'm concerned, much as I revere tradition, latkes are a relatively new one so I feel liberated in taking some twists and turns in terms of ingredients. But there is one non-negotiable: the oil. Frying these pancakes are the whole point of Chanukah. You know the story: oil for only one night; instead it lasts eight; it's a miracle! Freedom! And a holiday (minor until we needed something to shimmy up to Christmas)! Add a menorah, a dreidel, latkes (if you're Eastern European), and chocolate coins we call gelt. That pretty much sums it all up. Eight nights of candle lighting and fried pancakes--and, of course, gifts.
But back to these latkes... To the carrots and turnips I add onion, of course--but here, green onions for color. And I add herbs and garlic. I'm looking for more flavor here, too.
Not a fan of carrots or turnips? Try sweet potatoes. Or parsnips. Or winter squash. Or apples. Add radishes or celery root. Mix, match, and grate. You can change up the flavorings, too. Curry, for instance, works well with sweet potatoes and apples. And they all go well with sour cream or applesauce as the go-to condiments.
Everything else you need to know is in this recipe.
Carrot Turnip Latkes
Makes about two dozen, three-inch pancakes
Here’s a colorful variation from the traditional potato latkes I grew up with. In winter, you can make these pancakes with any root vegetable. Try sweet potatoes, parsnips, or beets, separately or in combination. For a more traditional latke, use an onion instead of the green onions and leave out the garlic and herbs. My grandmother used to add two slices of eggbread, crusts removed, softened with water and then squeezed of the moisture. My mom still makes traditional latkes this way.
½ pound of carrots, trimmed and peeled
½ pound of turnips, trimmed and peeled (look for sweeter baby turnips if available)
6 large green onions, trimmed
3 cloves garlic
4 tablespoons matzoh meal or flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons fresh, chopped herbs (parsley, oregano, thyme, etc.)
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
Vegetable or peanut oil or duck fat
1. Grate the turnips and carrots coarsely, using the large holes of a box grater or food processor grater. Place in large bowl.
2. Chop the green onions coarsely and add to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the chopping blade. Add the garlic and pulse until the onions and garlic are minced.
3. Put all the vegetables in a large bowl and add the matzoh meal, baking powder, herbs, garlic, salt, and pepper. Stir it all together to fully mix the ingredients.
4. Add the eggs and mix well. The batter should be moist but not runny.
5. Heat 1/4-inch of oil or duck fat in a hot pan. Place a tiny bit of the batter in the pan. If it begins to sizzle, the fat is hot enough for the batter. Use a large spoon and drop the batter into the pan, then flatten into a pancake. Don't crowd the pancakes by putting too many in at one time. Cook for several minutes on each side until the pancakes are golden brown. Put the pancakes on a plate with paper towels placed on top to drain the fat. You can also heat your oven to 200 degrees, place the pancakes on a baking sheet, and keep them warm until you serve them.
6. Serve (with applesauce, sour cream, or creme fraiche).
Note: If you don’t want to stand at the stove frying when company comes, you can make latkes ahead of time, place them in a single layer on sheet pans, and place them in the freezer until hard. Then store them in a freezer bag and keep them in the freezer until the day you plan to serve them. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the frozen latkes on sheet pans in a single layer and bake for about 15 to 20 minutes until crispy. Turn them over about halfway through. Drain again on a paper towel-lined plate and then serve.