11 December 2009

Jewish foods: Fry, fry again!

Tracing the Tribe wishes all readers a very happy Chanukah surrounded by family and friends.

Although this photo shows Israeli sufganiyot (filled doughnuts), this post isn't really about them, except to make you hungry. And if you scroll down, there's more on potato latkes. Yum.

Chanukah starts tonight (Friday) at sundown and we celebrate it for eight nights. Our hanukkiah is cleaned and ready.

Israeli sufganiyot are creative, offering many fillings and topped with chocolate, powdered sugar, dulce de leche and whatever they think of each year. Ordinary jelly doughnuts are not that fashionable and can be found in supermarkets. Many bakeries set up outdoor tents where they fry, fill and top the fresh doughnuts for the lines of customers.

My local bakery today had the following varieties: fillings of mocha, creme patisserie, pistachio, chocolate, halva, vanilla cream, banana and more, topped with chocolate, whipped cream, sprinkles and even more. We bought one of each. Pistachio was new this year.

Hungry yet? Here's more food for thought.

Why do some people eat latkes with sour cream or with applesauce? The simple answer is tradition - or not.

Many Ashkenazi Jews only eat applesauce with their latkes. Back in the shtetl, the only fats were chicken or goose shmaltz (rendered fat) - olive oil was rare. You couldn't fry something in poultry fat and then put sour cream on it - it wouldn't be kosher.

And, although these same families arrived in places where the preferred oil was olive, canola, peanut or sunflower - shmaltz wasn't even seen anymore - the old traditions still held firm.

There are as many ways to make these yummies as there are things to make them out of (potatoes, sweet potatoes, zucchini and various other permutations. I've even seen beet latkes), as well as things to mix into the batter (we've heard of some with raisins or nuts, but we think that's blasphemous) or to put on top (applesauce, sour cream, sugar, cinnamon or just grab them naked - the latkes, not the cook - out of the frying pan!).

Tracing the Tribe likes thin crisp ones, while others prefer thicker pancakes. With our latkes tonight, we'll have a roast turkey breast that's been marinating in a mix of dijon mustard and orange juice.

Of course, the very best way to eat latkes is to get invited to someone else's home who makes a fantastic recipe.

That way, you won't have to scrub the oil spatters off your cabinets, stove and counters and - yes - the floor. It can make a real mess, although for a delicious cause. Some extraordinarily organized individuals start making these a few weeks in advance and freeze them. All they need to do is heat them up - foil-covered - until they are hot and crispy.

It's a good thing there's only one week of Chanukah, as all that frying, oil and sweet stuff often produce a sensory overload.

We wait all year for a fantastic dulce de leche or pina colada or mocha-filled doughnut, covered in chocolate, and think we can eat 10 of them. After about the third one, we can't look at them anymore.

Well, I need to get back to the kitchen, so have a great holiday with your loved ones!

As you gather with family over the holidays, remember to talk to your relatives. Record conversations, make videos, ask questions, write down the details. The holidays are the best time of year to add to your research. Good luck!

Enjoy your holidays!

With best wishes,

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