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How to make and freeze latkes for this year's Hanukkah at home

Addie Broyles
Austin 360

What will your eight nights of Hanukkah look like this year? Virtual candle-lighting with family via Zoom? Take-out from Biederman's Deli or JewBoy Burgers?

For many people who are sticking close to home this winter, it might be the first Hanukkah that they try cooking a brisket or making latkes on their own. 

Evan Bloom, who co-founded Wise Sons Deli in San Francisco in 2010, has a new cookbook called "Eat Something: A Wise Sons Cookbook for Jews Who Like Food and Food Lovers Who Like Jews" (Chronicle Books, $29.95) that is rooted in Bloom's affection for tradition and reflects the energy and creativity of the wider modern Jewish food movement. 

Co-written with Rachel Levin, the book humorously uses recipes and essays to dive into 19 Jewish events, occasions and celebrations, from the long-held traditions, like Shabbat and Passover, to newer ones, like what to eat before heading to summer camp or what to make for your first at home meal with someone you met on Jdate.

Bloom includes lots of awkward family photos from his own upbringing — there's even a section called "The Awkward Years" — as well as sentimental muses on retirement and death. 

Some of the recipes are dishes that every Jewish cooks needs to have on hand, including challah, brisket and latkes, as well innovations like matzoquiles, babka milkshakes and the Wise Sons' Southern California spin on chicken salad that includes pickled ginger and sesame seed dressing. 

For Hanukkah this year, follow Bloom's advice and use a box grater to shred the potatoes and onion. Use a kitchen towel if you've never used a box grater before, and stop before you get to the end of the onion or potato. Better to save your knuckles and toss the last inch or so of whatever you're grating.

You can find potato starch with the gluten-free flours in the baking section, and you can use cornstarch as a substitute in a pinch. For an even smaller quantity of latkes, use one small onion, one larger potato and one egg mixed with matzo meal or breadcrumbs. 

You can also make a larger batch at the beginning of Hanukkah, which starts on Thursday, and freeze the latkes on a sheet pan. Store them in a plastic freezer bag and then reheat from frozen at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. 

Bloom offers a number of suggestions for mixing up your latkes over the eight nights of Hanukkah. You can add a little chopped kimchi and scallions to the batter to make kimchi latkes or you can add an extra egg to the batter and cook them in a waffle iron. For an Indian spin, add heavy pinches of turmeric, garam masala and minced fresh ginger to the batter and then serve with yogurt mixed with lime juice, cilantro and mint. 

Latkes for All Eight Nights

The smell of frying potatoes brings me right back to my grandmother’s kitchen at Hanukkah. These are great as a side to brisket or any roast meat and perfect with smoked salmon for a decadent holiday brunch. If there are any left over, crisp them in a pan for a breakfast hash.

Our recipe guarantees ultra-crispy latkes with a velvety interior. We have tried and tried to get the same texture using a food processor, and unfortunately, it’s just not the same. A trusty box grater and a little knuckle blood are neces­sary for superlative latkes. 

One last note: Salt matters. Diamond Crystal kosher salt is our go-to. While you can use other brands, or another type of salt, your recipes may not turn out the same because the crystal size, salinity and weight will vary. 

— Evan Bloom

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and trimmed, with root end intact

1 pound skin-on russet potatoes, scrubbed

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/4 cup potato starch

3/4 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Vegetable oil for frying

1 bunch fresh chives, thinly sliced, for garnish

To keep the latkes warm until they’re all cooked, heat the oven to 200 degrees.

In a medium bowl, grate the onion on the large holes of a box grater and set aside. (Hold onto the root end to help keep the onion layers together while you grate.)

Use the same grater (and holes) to shred the potatoes into a separate bowl. Wrap the grated potatoes in a clean kitchen towel or use your bare hands to squeeze out the water over a bowl or sink and discard the excess moisture. Make sure to squeeze out all of the water, so the pota­toes brown well and don’t steam too much in the pan; this will also reduce splattering. Work quickly once the potatoes have been grated to avoid discoloration. Transfer the potatoes to the bowl with the onion and fold together with a large spoon or spatula. Add the eggs, potato starch, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

Set a wire cooling rack over a rimmed baking sheet and line the rack with paper towels or paper bags.

Heat a medium cast-iron or other heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat and add oil to a depth of 1/4 inch. When the oil is hot (about 360 degrees), spoon about 2 tablespoons of batter per latke into the skillet, lightly spreading the batter into an evenly thick round. Don’t over­crowd the pan. Cook, undisturbed, until golden brown and crisp on the bottom, 3 to 4 minutes. Carefully flip with a wide spatula and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more. You’ll need to watch the temperature of the oil, being careful not to burn your latkes or, alternatively, end up with soggy and greasy clumps of potato if the oil is too cold.

Transfer the latkes to the paper towel-lined rack to drain, and season with another pinch of kosher salt. Repeat with the rest of the batter. Garnish with chives and eat them hot, or keep warm in the oven while you cook the rest of the latkes. Latkes freeze particularly well in a resealable plastic bag. Reheat at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. Makes about 10 latkes.

— From "Eat Something: A Wise Sons Cookbook for Jews Who Like Food and Food Lovers Who Like Jews" by Evan Bloom and Rachel Levin (Chronicle Books, $29.95) 

"Eat Something" is a new book from Evan Bloom and Rachel Levin.
Latkes for two, anyone? Making and freezing latkes is one way to cut down on the time spent in the kitchen this Hanukkah. These are from "Eat Something" by Evan Bloom and Rachel Levin.