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Potato Latkes with Tomato-Lemon Confit
by Eddy Robey
Shining Candles, spinning Dreidls, and Latkes. Oh how we look forward to the Latkes. We love all sorts of them: whether from White or Sweet Potatoes, Yams, or Carrots. There will be endless debates, Sour Cream or Applesauce? No matter how rigid our diets, at Chanukah we must eat food cooked in Oil, to commemorate the miracle.
Chanukah is certainly a holiday for modern times; a celebration of freedom and diversity which also includes tradition. The Latkes are the tradition; the Tomato-Lemon Confit brings a bit of something exotic to your holiday table. The cultural roots of this dish reach back to France. Sweet and tart, it will be enjoyed by all. This should be made ahead of time so it can chill, and will keep in the refrigerator for a month. When Latke time is over, try it with Roast Chicken.
Some of us will use a Grater handed down for generations, and laugh about how bits of finger improve flavor. Some will use a Food Processor, and still others will start with ready grated Potatoes from the Produce or Frozen Food sections of the market. Regardless of how the basic ingredients are shredded, our families will be full of smiles, when they gobble every bit of the finished product.
Ingredients for the Latkes
4 cups grated White or Sweet Potatoes, Yams, or Carrots
1 grated Onion
1/2-3/4 cup Flour or Matzo Meal
Oil for frying (Not Olive Oil)
If grating your own Potatoes, the first step is to get the water out of them. This is most easily done by putting them in a towel and squeezing so it absorbs and drains the liquid. Sweet Potatoes, Yams, and Carrots: are not watery, and do not need this step. Place the basic grated substance in a large mixing bowl, add all the other ingredients, and mix thoroughly. You may wish to adjust the amount of Flour or Matzo meal to the consistency you prefer. There is no salt in this recipe. That is because the potatoes keep getting more watery if you use it. Salt after cooking, if you want to.
Put a large bowl of ice water next to the stove. This for use if you get burned by any splashing oil. With that in mind, save your sleeveless dresses for another time and wear an apron if you don't want your clothes ruined. Oil burns are horrible and any stains are usually permanent.
Heat about 1/2 inch of Oil in a deep skillet. If you use a shallow one, you will be scrubbing the stove for a long time. Heat the Oil until a drop of water dances on it. Use medium rather than high heat to do this. Scoop some of the Potato mixture with a heat proof spatula. Use another spatula to slide it into the oil. DO NOT put it in with your hands or you will get burned. Let the Latkes cook until browned, then turn using both spatulas, so the Oil doesn't splash. When browned, remove and drain on paper towels.
For those of you who must be very careful about Fat intake, here is another method of cooking. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking pan with Vegetable Oil. form patties and place in the pan. Spray the tops of the patties and then bake for 30 minutes or until brown. These will not be the same as fried Latkes, but will allow you to enjoy something without upsetting your Cholesterol count. The spray contains oil, so you will be eating food cooked with oil as tradition asks.
Ingredients for the Tomato-Lemon Confit
3 pounds Plum Tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped coarsely
2 large Lemons, sliced as thinly as possible
8 cups Sugar
First, I will tell you how to peel and seed Tomatoes, a much easier process than you might think. Place a large pot of water on the stove at high heat, and bring it to a boil. Next to it, on the counter, place a large bowl of ice water. A few at a time, drop the Tomatoes into the water. Boil 1 minute, then remove them with a slotted tool and put them in the ice water. Repeat with all of them. The skins will slip right off the Tomatoes. To seed the Tomatoes, cut them in half and scoop out the seeds with the tip of a butter knife. Discard the seeds, and chop the Tomatoes.
Place the Tomatoes, thinly sliced Lemons, and Sugar in as large a non-reactive pot as you have. Non reactive means that it is coated in some way, either with enamel or a non-stick finish. Acidic ingredients taste metallic when cooked in an uncoated pot. Stir, and allow to sit for an hour. This will be enough time for the Sugar to draw the juices from the tomatoes and Lemons.
Place the pan over a medium-high flame and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. The mixture will foam, so watch out for runover. Boil and stir for about 20 minutes. As the juices evaporate, the mixture will thicken and the foam become less. You are watching for the moment when the foam will disappear into the mixture. Remove from the heat and allow to cool before putting the Confit in the refrigerator. Sugar boils at very high temperatures, and it is safest to wait before pouring the confit into another container. Chill and serve.