As we roll merrily along into Christmas, I started to get a craving for potato pancakes. See, we don’t have those around the holidays in my Catholic household. I’m envious of those who get to eat these on cycle at the same time each year. It’s probably no big surprise that I was yearning to have these, as there’s only been tons of recipes published lately for every type of latke, made with every variety of root vegetable.
I’d read an article someplace in the last week or so where “Christmas Envy” was mentioned. The author talked about the tree and lights and all the decorations that go with the [cough] Christian [stroke Pagan] version of the holiday that is typically depicted in Western culture. I had never heard of this before, but then was thrown right into it firsthand over the weekend at a holiday open house.
A woman was staring at the tree and mentioned how she’d always wanted to have one for the holidays. She gazed longingly at the array of ornaments, which I must admit were a great collection. I mentioned to her that it was entirely possible for her to have one, too. She said that she was Jewish, so that the tree is not part of her holiday culture. When I pointed out that it is actually part of the old Pagan/Druid culture that the Christians co-opted, I got a rather withering look as though that didn’t actually make the suggestion go down any better.
I guess I could have told her that she should look on the bright side of her religious holidays. Very few of mine have some sort of specific food attached to them, except for the very big ones: Christmas and Easter. I mean, have you ever had anything special to eat to celebrate any holy day of obligation other than the aforementioned? Even the foods we do have like eggs, lamb, and spring things, are actually taken from earlier civilizations’ feasts.
This brings me to my holiday envy. I didn’t think I had any until this year, when I realized that I wish we had something like latkes. Potatoes and things fried in oil are two main food groups. Fortunately, I had some potatoes I’d bought at the Greenmarket and wanted to eat up before I left to head south for the holidays. I grated them raw on a box grater to get about a cup of shredded potatoes, added about two tablespoons of onion grated the same way, and put both in a bowl, squeezing out the liquid beforehand. This was all seasoned with a couple of pinches of salt, about one tablespoon chopped chives, and about a half a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper.
I cheated a little bit and cooked it in a non-stick Calphalon pan in a butter and olive oil combo. It took about ten minutes to cook on the first side and about five or so more on the second. I just kept peeking underneath to make sure that it was getting browned and not burnt. You have to do the old flip-and-slide to get the pancake from one side to the other in the pan.
This is probably more technically a rosti, rather than a latke, but in my mouth, it was wonderful. Crispy, easy to make, and perfect for a weeknight dinner. I added some smoked salmon and crème fraîche,which made it extra indulgent for a Wednesday evening.