Once again we enter the holiday season. It’s not quite cold enough to pull out the winter coat and hat, though I have them on deck, daring winter to try to freeze me out once more, but secretly not minding mild weather too terribly. Next week is Chanukah, typically a time to indulge in all things fried. The classic dish is potato latkes made with grated fried potatoes and onions. In an effort toward preserving heart health and because of my husband’s allergy to potatoes, I thought I’d try something a little different. Since potato latkes are usually topped with apple sauce to add an element of sweet to the savory, why not just make them with apples and fry them very lightly? The result is these sweet, savory apple latkes. They’re wonderful on their own, but also provide an excellent canvas for both the sweet and savory palettes. You can top them with salted caramel almonds or dulce de leche if you’re making them sweet. If you want to accentuate the savory nature, go with Greek yogurt and herbs or even caviar. No austerity here, I made every combination. Appetizer, dessert, sweet, savory, these are an upgrade from the original to me.
It’s hard to remember sometimes, but the foods we eat around the holidays are not just food. They’re symbols. I normally find trite symbols to be deplorable, the shallow lessons of unexamined fairy tales. But if you look more closely you’ll see the true symbols of food and festivities–overcoming hardship, of fortitude, strength and the power of digging deeper in the less hopeful situations. The foods we eat around the holidays celebrate miracles, company, friendship and represent the greater human lessons learned. Peel back the stories and they are lessons in the people and things around us that happen every day. We just have to see it and remember. We are part of a continuum, even if we personally are figuring it all out for the very first time– how to live, how to act and react, how to love, accept, deny and forgive, fight and pursue. The seasons keep coming back and give us another chance to see and grow. Rather than feeling overwhelmed and drab in comparison to the lights, sparkles and sequins, the true brilliance of all the fanfare may be in the remembering.
To get through the challenges of the season, I personally try to keep a positive internal monologue and cling to the things that bring me joy or at least make me happy in small ways like a good music list, working out, coffee, routine…and making apple latkes! These small things things really can brighten the day. They’re a way to stay the course when bare limbs reach longingly into the grey sky and when nights are at their longest. Apple latkes with whatever excessive topping you choose would bring serious warmth to a fun holiday party! Be well.
APPLE LATKES W/ SALTED CARAMEL ALMONDS
- 1 pound tart, firm apples such as Granny Smiths (2 large or 3 medium)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- Greek yogurt, caramel or fruit for serving
Peel and core apples and then grate them, either on the large holes of a box grater or in a food processor, on the shredding blade. You can also cut them into matchsticks if you don’t have devices or use a spiralizer. Transfer to a clean dishtowel or cheesecloth sling and wring out as much juice as you can into a small bowl. Set it aside if you wish to make a dessert sauce with it later.
Transfer grated apple to a medium bowl and toss with lemon juice. In a small dish, whisk flour, sugar, cinnamon and baking powder and toss with the apples, coating them evenly. Whisk eggs in this small dish until lightly beaten and stir into apple-lemon-flour mixture.
Heat a large skillet to medium with a few tablespoons of the oil. Once it has coated the pan, drop tablespoons full of apple batter in little piles, gently pressing them a bit flatter with a spatula. Fry until they are nicely brown underneath, about 3 to 5 minutes, then flip and continue to cook until they are browned and crisp. Drain briefly on paper towels and transfer to a plate. Add another teaspoon or two of the remaining oil for each new batch in the pan, and repeat with remaining batter.
You can keep apple latkes in the oven for up to an hour while you tend to more important things at 200F. To reheat you can place them in the oven at 200F for 10-15 mins.