Hanukkah without latkes? Unthinkable.
Anyone who likes to honor ethnic holiday traditions makes sure to serve this crowd-pleasing potato pancake this time of year. (Hannukah begins at sunset this Tuesday and runs through Dec. 28)
I visited the folks at Classic Catering People and was not surprised to find they were offering two innovative variations: Yukon-Gold-and-Fennel Mini-Latkes and Wild-and-Basmati-Rice Mini-Latkes.
Classic has been a fixture on the Baltimore food scene for the past 40 years, but the current partner and president, Harriet Dopkin, is as enthusiastic as a start-up entrepreneur. No aspect of food and culinary tradition escapes her interest.
When I went to visit their kitchen in Owings Mills, Chef Therese Harding presented a tray of mini-latkes and talked about the virtues of the little latke. As rich in taste as its larger cousin, the smaller version is a bit easier to cook – it’s easier to get a nice, crisp edge and you don’t wind up with an undercooked center.
The fennel variety is topped with applesauce and a fresh pomegranate seed for color and bite. The Wild and Basmati Rice Latkes are new to me; I will make them next week. If you’re in the mood for a veggie-loaded latke, these have carrots, celery and shallots, so this is the recipe for you. A dollop of easy-to-make smoked salmon mousse (simply whip together smoked salmon and boursin) goes on top of each one.
It was a pleasant visit – Classic Catering has one of the liveliest kitchens in town.
As Chef Harding was discussing a menu to serve with the latkes, Chef Donald Martin was working intently nearby, his knives a blur of motion.
Harding said the latkes can be served as hors d’oeuvres or as a side with dinner. If you like you can make them full sized as well.
She suggests a traditional chicken soup, a salad, and a choice of maple/mustard-glazed grilled salmon, oven-roasted beef brisket or a grilled capon breast with tomato chutney for the rest of your meal. For dessert, perhaps a sour cream cinnamon streusel cake.
What caught my eye, though, were their Wild Animal Sugar Cookies.
They were as good as they looked. Must be the kid in me.
Or maybe it’s just that, even at dessert, I’m still a carnivore.
YUKON GOLD AND FENNEL MINI-LATKES
(Recipe by Chef Therese Harding)
½ fennel – used white part of bulb
1 pound yukon gold potatoes, peeled
1 large egg lightly beaten
2 Tbsp flour
1 tsp lemon juice
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
Use the largest holes on a box grater to shred potatoes and fennel into a large bowl. Squeeze out the liquid from the fennel and potatoes. Mix in egg, flour, juice, salt and pepper.
Heat enough oil in a medium skillet to reach 1/4-inch. Work in batches: drop batter by tablespoon into hot oil and fry until golden brown, about 3 minutes on each side. Top with house made apple sauce and pomegranate seeds.
Yield: 36 +/- mini latkes
WILD RICE AND BASMATI RICE MINI-LATKES
(Recipe by Chef Therese Harding)
½ cup wild rice
½ cup basmati rice
2 1/3 cups water – divided use
1 tsp salt – divided use
¾ cup carrots – finely diced
¾ cup celery – finely diced
3 shallots – minced
2 Tbsp chives
1 Tbsp dill
¾ tsp thyme, dry, crumbled
3 Tbsp butter, unsalted
2 large eggs
¾ cup milk
1 cup all purpose flour
½ cup vegetable oil, +/- for brushing the griddle
In a heavy saucepan, combine the wild rice, 1-1/3 cup water and ½ tsp salt. Cover and simmer 45-50 minutes, or until the rice is tender and all the water is absorbed. Transfer to a large bowl and let it cool.
Meanwhile: rinse and drain the basmati rice. In a heavy saucepan, heat 2 tsp butter, then add the rice and stir. Stir in 1 cup water and ½ tsp salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cook 20 minutes, or until the rice is tender and all the water is absorbed. Add to the above large bowl to cool.
In a heavy skillet heat 3 Tbsp butter over moderate heat; add the carrot, celery, shallot, thyme, stir and cook about 10 minutes or until the carrot is just tender. Add the chives and dill, and transfer the mixture to the large bowl with the rice.
In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. Stir this into the rice mixture, and then stir in the flour, salt and pepper.
Heat the griddle over moderately high heat until it is hot enough that drops of water scatter over the surface; brush it with some of the oil.
Working in batches, scoop the batter onto the griddle by ¼ cup measures. Flatten the pancakes slightly and cook them for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden. Transfer the pancakes as they are cooked to a heatproof platter and keep them warm in a preheated 200 F oven. You may need to brush the griddle with additional oil between batches to prevent sticking.
SMOKED SALMON MOUSSE TOPPING
2-3 oz of smoked salmon whisked with 2 oz of boursin cheese. Pipe a dollop of the mousse onto the top of each pancake.
Yield: 36 +/- mini latkes
NOTES: To make a piping bag simply cut a small corner from a ziplock bag. Place topping in bag and gently squeeze a dollop out. You can make either of these recipes these larger by using up to a ¼ cup measuring unit and frying a minute or 2 longer on each side until golden brown and tender in the middle.
½ cup apple juice
¼ cup turbinado sugar.. to taste
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon cinnamon
5 granny smith apples – or what is available
Dash of nutmeg
In a heavy non-reactive saucepan with a lid, simmer the apple juice, cinnamon sticks and cinnamon over medium heat.
Wash and core apples, cut into eighths, and then each piece into slices. Stir into the juice. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Uncover and continue cooking another 10 minutes without the lid, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon and mashing the apples into a sauce. If there is too much liquid (apples vary) continue to cook over low heat until more of the liquid has evaporated and sauce is the texture that you want. Add a dash of nutmeg
Yield: 4 +/- cups