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Eight Days of Latkes

A lot of people out there think they don’t like latkes. We think that’s because they’ve never had a good one. If you stick with boxed latke mixes, you may or may not get a good latke. But if you put just a bit more effort into the project, you’ll be rewarded with wonderful, crisp potato pancakes that are great to share with your family during Hanukkah and terrific to serve year-round as a party dish.

This year, we asked cooking teacher and cookbook author Judy Zeidler to share some of her favorite latke recipes. There is her “perfect potato latke,” which we printed last year and had to reprint this year because it really is the best latke we’ve ever eaten.

Then, in keeping with the theme of her upcoming book from Chronicle Books, “Master Chefs Cook Kosher,” there are latke recipes she received from three great chefs: Thomas Keller of the French Laundry in Napa Valley, Joachim Splichal of Patina in Los Angeles and Pinot restaurants and bistros all over California and Jonathan Waxman, who has headed kitchens in California and New York and is writing a cookbook and working as a food consultant.

To fill out the rest of the days of Hanukkah, we picked latke recipes from some of our favorite cookbooks.

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THOMAS KELLER’S POTATO LATKES (LOW-FAT COOKING)

Thomas Keller serves light mini potato latkes topped with salmon roe. Think of them as potato blini--you can even use real caviar instead of salmon eggs if you’ve got the budget.

1 1/2 pounds baking potatoes, peeled (about 3)

2 tablespoons flour

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2 to 3 tablespoons whipping cream, warmed slightly

2 eggs

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

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1/4 cup oil

1 (2-ounce) jar salmon roe

Cut potatoes into 2-inch chunks. Place in saucepan with water to cover and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until easily pierced with fork, about 15 minutes. Drain well.

Push potatoes through ricer or fine sieve into mixing bowl. Stir in flour and 2 tablespoons whipping cream. Add eggs and whisk until smooth. Add more cream if mixture is not pourable consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Heat 1 tablespoon oil over low heat in large nonstick skillet. Spoon batter with teaspoon into hot oil and flatten each with back of spoon to make small thin latkes. Cook until lightly browned, turning only once, about 2 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining oil and batter.

To serve, place 2 or 3 latkes on plates and top with salmon roe.

3 dozen. Each latke with salmon roe:

39 calories; 37 mg sodium; 22 mg cholesterol; 2 grams fat; 4 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0.08 gram fiber.

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ZUCCHINI PANCAKES WITH GARLIC AND YOGURT-MINT TOPPING

In these pancakes, from “Faye Levy’s International Jewish Cookbook” (Warner Books, 1991), the delicate green color of the zucchini shows through the golden brown crust. As Levy writes, “The Sephardic-style yogurt and mint topping is a refreshing complement to the light pancakes and is also good with plain sauteed zucchini or eggplant or with cooked green beans.”

YOGURT-MINT TOPPING

1/2 cup plain yogurt

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1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint

1/2 small clove garlic, finely minced

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

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PANCAKES

3 cups coarsely grated zucchini (about 3/4 pound)

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

Salt

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Freshly ground black pepper

1 egg, lightly beaten

3 tablespoons flour

Oil

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Mint sprigs

YOGURT-MINT TOPPING

Mix yogurt with mint and garlic. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside at room temperature.

PANCAKES

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Combine zucchini, garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Lightly stir in egg. Stir in flour.

Heat 1/2 cup oil over medium heat in deep, heavy, large skillet. Drop zucchini mixture by heaping tablespoons into skillet. Flatten slightly with back of spoon and cook until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side. (Turn very carefully so oil doesn’t splatter.) Drain on paper towels. Stir mixture before cooking each batch. Add more oil between batches if needed.

Serve hot with Yogurt-Mint Topping. Garnish with mint springs.

12 pancakes (4 appetizer or side-dish servings). Each pancake:

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36 calories; 64 mg sodium; 19 mg cholesterol; 2 grams fat; 3 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 0.17 gram fiber.

JONATHAN WAXMAN’S RED PEPPER LATKES

This was Jonathan Waxman’s house appetizer when he opened Jams Restaurant in New York.

2 roasted red bell peppers

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1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels

1 shallot, finely chopped

Olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

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Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup whipping cream

1 1/2 cups flour

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1 tablespoon baking powder

1 cup milk

3 eggs, separated

2 tablespoons minced chives

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8 sprigs cilantro, leaves only

Chop 1 bell pepper into small dice. Set aside. Cut remaining bell pepper in half. Cut 1 half into very thin strips. Mince other half almost to consistency of puree, and set aside.

Saute corn, diced bell pepper, bell pepper strips and shallot in 1 tablespoon olive oil and butter 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir in whipping cream. Simmer over medium-low heat 15 minutes. Set aside.

Sift flour, baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt into bowl. Stir in milk and egg yolks. Beat egg whites until they form soft peaks, then fold into egg yolk mixture. Fold in reserved minced peppers.

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Lightly brush skillet with olive oil and heat over medium heat until drop of water sizzles. Spoon or pour 3-inch latkes into skillet and cook over medium heat, 2 to 3 minutes per side.

To serve, place warm pepper-and-corn sauce on each plate and top with 2 latkes. Garnish with chives and cilantro.

8 servings. Each serving:

296 calories; 277 mg sodium; 131 mg cholesterol; 20 grams fat; 23 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams protein; 0.25 gram fiber.

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JOACHIM SPLICHAL’S CORN LATKES WITH SMOKED SALMON

The delicate corn latkes that Joachim Splichal serves at Patina have been on the menu since the day the doors opened. Splichal layers them with fresh marinated salmon, but smoked salmon can be the perfect replacement. They are served with a sour cream sauce.

SOUR CREAM-CHIVE SAUCE

1 cup sour cream

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1 red bell pepper, roasted and diced

1 tablespoon minced chives

LATKES

3 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (5 to 6 ears)

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Butter

1 1/2 tablespoons minced shallots

1 cup heavy whipping cream

2/3 cup whole milk

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2 eggs

1 cup unbleached flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Salt

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2 tablespoons minced chives

20 paper-thin slices smoked salmon

1/4 cup chopped chives

SOUR CREAM-CHIVE SAUCE

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Blend sour cream, bell pepper and chives in small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

LATKES

Blanch corn in boiling water to cover, about 1 minute. Drain and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons butter in skillet and saute shallots until soft, about 3 minutes. Add corn and whipping cream, and cook over low heat 15 to 20 minutes. Puree in food processor. Set aside.

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Beat milk and eggs together in small bowl.

Whisk together flour, baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt in large bowl.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter and whisk into flour mixture along with milk mixture. Stir in corn puree, chives and salt to taste.

Brush nonstick skillet with butter and heat over medium heat until drop of water sizzles. Pour in 1 heaping tablespoon batter for each latke and cook until golden brown, about 1 minute. Carefully turn latke with spatula and cook until golden brown, about 1 minute. Brush skillet with additional butter before each batch of latkes.

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To serve, spread large spoonful of Sour Cream-Chive Sauce in center of each plate, spreading evenly with back of spoon. Arrange 1 latke in center of sauce, top with smoked salmon and another latke. Sprinkle chives around each latke sandwich.

20 servings. Each serving:

133 calories; 178 mg sodium; 47 mg cholesterol; 9 grams fat; 10 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams protein; 0.24 gram fiber.

RICOTTA LATKES (LOW-FAT COOKING)

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Ricotta latkes may seem like a chef invention, but Gloria Kaufer Greene, author of “The Jewish Holiday Cookbook” (Times Books, 1985), from which this recipe is taken, writes, “It is very likely that latkes made from cheese actually predate the more popular ones made from shredded potatoes.” We like the ricotta latkes for their delicate texture. And as Kaufer Greene points out, they make a tasty breakfast or even a nice dessert, especially when topped with a good jam.

1 (15-ounce) container part-skim or regular ricotta cheese

4 eggs

6 tablespoons flour, preferably unbleached

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2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

1 to 2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Butter, oil or nonstick vegetable spray

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Jam, optional

Applesauce, optional

Plain or vanilla yogurt, optional

Sour cream, optional

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Process ricotta, eggs, flour, butter, sugar and vanilla in food processor or blender, in batches if necessary and scraping down sides of container few times during processing, until batter is smooth and consistency of thick cream. (Batter will be thinner than most pancake batters.)

Preheat griddle or large skillet over medium heat, and brush lightly with butter. Spoon 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons batter for each pancake onto preheated griddle. When few bubbles have risen to surface and bottoms are golden brown (pancakes will not rise), about 2 minutes, turn once and cook briefly on second side just until golden brown, about 2 minutes more.

Serve pancakes with jam, applesauce, yogurt, sour cream or other pancake accompaniment of choice.

30 pancakes. Each pancake without topping:

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48 calories; 28 mg sodium; 38 mg cholesterol; 3 grams fat; 2 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 0 fiber.

JUDY ZEIDLER’S PERFECT POTATO LATKES (LOW-FAT COOKING)

4 baking potatoes, peeled

1 large onion, grated

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1 tablespoon lemon juice

4 eggs

3 tablespoons flour

Pinch baking soda

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1 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Oil

Grate potatoes using food processor or fine shredder. Immediately transfer to large bowl, and add onion, lemon juice, eggs, flour, baking soda, salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

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Heat 1/8 inch oil in 4-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Ladle batter into hot oil with large spoon, and flatten latkes with back of spoon. Cook on 1 side just until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes, then turn and cook other side. Turn once only. Drain well on paper towels, and serve immediately, plain or with topping of choice.

1 dozen. Each latke:

75 calories; 220 mg sodium; 71 mg cholesterol; 3 grams fat; 9 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 0.23 gram fiber.

LOW-FAT SWEET POTATO LATKES (LOW-FAT COOKING)

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“The trick to making these latkes low in fat,” writes Faye Levy in her new “The Low-Fat Jewish Cookbook” (Clarkson Potter, $24.95), “is to fry them only briefly and to finish cooking them in the oven. This way they don’t absorb much oil as they cook through.” Serve the latkes with applesauce for a meat meal or with nonfat sour cream for a dairy dinner.

1 3/4 pounds orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, peeled

1 onion

5 egg whites

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1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

1/3 cup flour

Oil

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1 1/3 cups applesauce, optional

Grate sweet potatoes and onion in food processor with grating disk or through large holes of hand grater. Transfer to large bowl.

Beat egg whites lightly with salt and pepper and add to potato mixture. Mix well. Add flour and mix well.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat in heavy nonstick 10- to 12-inch skillet. Fill 1/4-cup measure with mixture, pressing to compact, and turn out in mound in skillet. Quickly repeat for 3 more latkes. Flatten each with back of spoon to form 2 1/2- to 3-inch cake and press to compact. Cook 1 1/2 minutes per side. Remove to nonstick baking sheet with slotted spatula.

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Continue with remaining batter, adding a little more oil to pan and stirring batter for each batch.

Bake at 450 degrees until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Turn over and bake 5 more minutes. Serve hot with applesauce if desired.

4 servings. Each serving, without applesauce:

287 calories; 384 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 2 grams fat; 59 grams carbohydrates; 9 grams protein; 1.95 grams fiber.

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APPLE LATKES

They look more like apple fritters than typical latkes, but apple latkes are a Hanukkah specialty. This recipe comes from Claudia Roden’s “The Book of Jewish Food” (Knopf, 1996). Beer or milk may be substituted for the water in the batter, and cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar may be used for garnish instead of superfine sugar.

4 apples

2 to 3 tablespoons sugar

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3 tablespoons brandy, dark rum or fruit liqueur

2 eggs, separated

Oil, preferably light

Pinch salt

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1 cup flour

7/8 cup water

Superfine or powdered sugar

Core and peel apples, then quarter each. Put sugar and brandy in shallow dish and add apple slices, turning to coat well. Let sit 2 hours, turning occasionally so apples absorb brandy evenly.

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Beat egg yolks with 2 tablespoons oil and salt. Stir in flour and mix well. Gradually yet vigorously beat in water, squashing lumps. Let sit 1 hour. Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into batter after it has set 1 hour.

Heat at least 3/4 inch oil over medium heat in large skillet. Dip apple slices in batter, about 5 at a time, making sure they are well covered with batter. Lift each out carefully with slotted spatula and lower into hot oil. (Oil must be sizzling, but not too hot, or fritters will brown before apple is soft inside.) Cook in batches until medium brown on both sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Lift out with slotted spatula and drain on paper towels before serving. Pass superfine sugar for sprinkling.

4 servings. Each serving:

272 calories; 91 mg sodium; 106 mg cholesterol; 4 grams fat; 47 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams protein; 0.78 gram fiber.

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