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International House of Festivus Latkes
Friday, 2008 December 26 - 11:53 am
Merry Christmas to my Christian friends, happy Hanukkah to my Jewish friends, and Yuletide greetings to my pagan friends. I suppose should add Kwanzaa to this list, but it's hard to recognize the legitimacy of a holiday that was invented in the 1960s. If you're gonna adopt a recently-invented holiday, I think Festivus is the better choice (which, by the way, was invented in 1966, ten months before Kwanzaa). Festivus is truly an American holiday: it's all-inclusive, not tied to any particular religion or race, and it's fittingly neurotic and weird.

We had our Festivus celebration at Anna and Erik's house, where I made an international variety of Festivus latkes. The basic recipe was a pound of shredded potatoes, a tablespoon of flour, and a beaten egg. (Grate or shred the potatoes in a food processor, soak them in cold water for a couple of minutes, then roll them up in cheesecloth and wring as much water out of them as you can.) Then:

  • For Costa Rican latkes, add a half cup of canned black beans, half a cup of finely chopped onions, and about 1/3 cup Salsa Lizano.
  • For Mexican latkes, add half a cup of diced or julienned roma tomatoes, two small habanero peppers (or two jalapeño, peppers, if you prefer), half a cup of finely chopped onions, a tablespoon of chopped cilantro, a splash of lime juice, and salt and pepper.
  • For Japanese latkes, add two tablespoons of grated cucumber, 2/3 cup julienned cucumber, two tablespoons of prepared wasabi, and a dash of salt.
  • For Italian latkes, add half a cup of diced or julienned roma tomatoes, half a cup of finely chopped onions, a teaspoon of chopped fresh oregano, a tablespoon of chopped fresh basil, and salt.
  • For French latkes, add 1/3 cup chopped onions, 1/3 cup chopped carrots, 1/3 cup chopped celery, a head of roasted garlic (peeled and chopped), and salt and pepper.
  • For traditional Jewish latkes, add 2/3 cup chopped onions, and salt.

The proportions are approximate; don't be afraid of adding a little more if you want more flavor.

Mix all the ingredients except the egg; then, add the egg and make sure the mixture is evenly coated. (You can use two eggs if you want the latkes to hold together better, but the result will be a slightly eggier taste.) Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a pan until it's hot but not smoking. Take a blob of the mixture (about 2/3 cup; just eye it) and put it in the pan, and press it down firmly with a spatula to flatten it. You should be able to get three or four blobs into a pan at a time. Fry it for a couple of minutes, or until you see the bottom edges turn deep golden brown; then flip and fry the other side for a couple of minutes until it's done. Transfer to a plate with a paper towel to drain. Add and heat more olive oil as needed for each round of cooking.

Traditionally, latkes are eaten with sour cream and applesauce, though with the international flavorings, you may want to experiment with different toppings.

Happy Festivus everyone!
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Posted by Ken in: foodlife

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