Recipes : Sides
A Mexican immigrant cooking Thanksgiving and Hanukkah on the same night in the cold Eastern region of the United States may sound a bit odd to some. For me, it turns out to be an unexpected opportunity to bring all my pieces together. Which has my mind reeling about the just as unexpected possibilities for the menu.
See… ever since I can remember, I have felt like I am treading between worlds. The Mexican. The Jewish. The immigrant in the U.S. Not from here, not from there. Yet, as time goes by, the different parts of my identity feel increasingly solid, in all those worlds and their intersections. It turns out that where those intersections make the most sense is in the kitchen.
I admit, though, that I am a hopeless romantic. That’s why every year when my husband asks what I want for my birthday, I say: the most passionate love letter, ever. Haven’t seen it, since he has seen me everyday in one way or another for the past 17 years. So, when my birthday comes close, I offer to pack my bags and leave, just to pretend… so he can write that super duper passionate love letter.
That romantic nature of mine may be why little things mean a lot to me. Remember when 12/12/12 happened? I was wild about the beauty of the 1,2,1,2,1,2 pattern and the chances of that happening again being zero. Of course, realists immediately pointed out the fact that every single day in the calendar will never, ever, be repeated again. Yet, it is the highlighted uniqueness of the 1,2,1,2,1,2 pattern that brings us the opportunity to realize just how precious that day, and any other day, is.
No surprise, then, that I am beyond ecstatic about Hanukkah and Thanksgiving happening at the same time. The chances of that happening again are so few and far in between (the next time, in 2070, it will be pretty likely that neither I nor Daniel will be here, so that is another reason for getting to that love letter) that it allows us to see these holidays under a different perspective: an enhanced sense of light, an expanded feeling of gratitude, a new vision of what sharing at the table can mean, a new chance to continue to build bridges, and what’s best, we can eat it all along the way.
One dish that I came up with, for this once in a lifetime meal, are these Potato, Sweet Potato and Granny Smith Latkes.
It is a recipe that has no fuss. It lets these three ingredients shine through and, at the same time, complement each other with the help of a bit of ancho chile powder and true cinnamon. You can choose to eat them just like that, on their own, or you can serve them with a thick, chunky, fresh and citrusy Fennel and Lime Crema or with this rustic and nutty Salsa Macha.
Here’s a thought: you can do what I do. Eat them on their own as I am cooking them, and then eat them with both the Crema and the Salsa Macha once they are at the table.
1½ pounds russett potatoes (about 2)
1½ pounds sweet potatoes (about 1)
½ pound Granny Smith apples (about 1)
½ cup grated white onion (about 1)
1½ teaspoons kosher or sea salt
2 large eggs, well beaten
½ teaspoon ancho chile powder (preferably, but may substitute with another dried ground chile powder that you may have handy)
Pinch ground ceylon or true cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ cup all purpose flour
Fennel & Lime Crema
Wash and peel the potatoes, sweet potatoes, apple and onion and grate them, placing them as you go, into a large bowl filled halfway with ice water. After you are finished, let it all sit for a few minutes and thoroughly drain with a strainer. Wrap all the grated ingredients in cheesecloth or a clean kitchen towel and wring energetically, squeezing out as much liquid as you can.
Transfer to a bowl and combine with eggs, ancho chile powder, salt, cinnamon, baking powder and flour. Mix well.
Fill a large, heavy casserole or skillet with ½ inch of oil and place over medium-high heat. After 3 to 4 minutes, test the oil by adding a teaspoon of the mix. If it bubbles happily all around the edges, it is ready. Working in small batches, to not crowd the casserole, spoon latkes of about 3 tablespoons each into the hot oil. (I use large serving spoon or my hands and shape them in flattened ovals.)
Cook until the first side is crisp and golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes, and flip to the other side, letting it crisp and brown as well, about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Once you are finished, you may keep them warm in a 250-degree oven, or you may cover and reheat later on.
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