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POTATO-ONION LATKES with Cucumber Raita

MAKES ABOUT 16 (3-INCH) LATKES (6 TO 8 SERVINGS)

Prep Time:  40 minutes | Cook: 4 to 6 minutes per batch

Until I tried Joan Nathan’s method of preparing latkes—the fried pancakes of grated potatoes traditional at Hanukkah—my attempts were just so-so. But once I did as Joan instructed—grated the russet potatoes along with the onions so the onion juice keeps the potatoes from darkening—I became more proficient. And the iron skillet can be credited for my success, too, because it is made for shallow-frying latkes, allowing them to fry up crisp and light. Go ahead and serve latkes with applesauce if you’re feeling traditional. But when it’s not Hanukkah and you want to prepare these for a party, try slathering them with this Indian-inspired sauce. Why raita? Latkes remind me so much of the crispy Indian bhajis.

CUCUMBER RAITA

  • 1 cup plain full-fat or reduced-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (see Note)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced fresh tomato (about 1 medium tomato)
  • 1/2 cup diced, peeled cucumber (about 1 small cucumber)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro, chives, or mint

POTATO-ONION LATKES

  • 2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs or matzoh meal
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • About 2 cups vegetable oil

DIRECTIONS

1. For the raita, combine the yogurt, cumin, salt, a few grinds of black pepper, and cayenne in a small bowl and stir. Fold in the tomato, cucumbers, and herbs. Cover the bowl and chill until time to serve. (The raita can be made a day in advance.)

2. For the latkes, grate the potatoes and onions together so that the onion keeps the potato from darkening. You need about 3 to 4 cups grated potatoes and 1 cup grated onion. Wrap all this up in a thin kitchen towel and squeeze out the liquid over a large bowl. Let the potatoes and onions stay in the towel while the liquid in the bowl settles. The potato starch will filter to the bottom of the bowl, while the liquid rises to the top. After 10 to 15 minutes, pour off the watery liquid, but leave that chalky potato starch in the bottom of the bowl. Add the potato and onion mixture to the starch, along with the eggs and panko, season with salt and pepper, and stir to combine.

3. Pour the oil into a 12-inch skillet and heat to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with brown paper. When the oil is hot, measure .-cup spoonfuls of the latke batter and slide into the oil, working with three or four at a time. Press down on the mounds of batter

slightly to flatten them. Cook until well browned on the bottom, 2 to 3 minutes, then turn and fry until brown on the other side, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to the brown paper to drain, and sprinkle with kosher salt. Repeat with the remaining latke mixture. You can keep the latkes warm between batches by placing the baking sheet in a low oven—about 250°

NOTE: To make your own ground cumin, put 4 to 5 tablespoons whole cumin seeds in an iron skillet. Toast over medium heat, stirring, until the seeds turn darker in color, 3 to 4 minutes. Cool. Transfer the cumin seeds to a spice grinder and grind into a powder.