If your heritage is German or Pennsylvania Dutch, you probably call them bellinis. If you're of the Jewish faith, you never celebrate Hanukkah without latkes. They've been called Irish pancakes, Polish pancakes and I even found a Catholic recipe, but the bottom line is, nearly everyone loves potato pancakes.
When I was growing up, we simply called them potato pancakes, but after meeting my husband, he insisted they were bellinis, from the Pennsylvania Dutch side of his family.
I remember my mother getting out the metal grinder that she wedged onto the edge of the table and hand-cranking the potatoes into long, curly strings, and recently I had to smile when I saw a Food Network chef make potato pancakes from leftover mashed potatoes to show how to use up the last of Thanksgiving dinner. I have done this several times, especially as a newlywed and had to stretch leftovers into another meal when possible.
Potato pancakes have several names depending on the culture, but this recipe from the December 2012 issue of Vegetarian Times magazine boasts a chunky applesauce accompaniment that puts the traditional potato pancake over the top.
But while browsing through the latest issue of Vegetarian Times magazine, I came across an entire section celebrating what they called latkes, a traditional dish served during the eight-day Festival of Lights of Hanukkah. The article contains not only the ''classic'' potato latkes recipe, but several other alternatives to the dish.
What caught my eye was the additional chunky applesauce recipe that accompanied the classic recipe.
Although my northern European culture simply served butter or sour cream with our potato pancakes, applesauce is the traditional accompaniment to latkes. This recipe is less ''saucy'' and more chunky, and as soon as I saw it, I knew I had to try it.
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
5 large sweet-tart apples, diced (Braeburn, Fuji, Jonagold)
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
2 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add apples and saute for two minutes. Add cinnamon and cloves, cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook 15 to 20 minutes or until apples are tender. Add one to two Tbs. water if needed. Uncover and cook 10 minutes more or until applesauce has thickened. Stir in sugar and cook two minutes to dissolve. Stir in lemon juice and cool.
4 large russet potatoes, peeled (about 1 1/4 lbs.)
1 medium onion
3 Tbs. chopped parsley
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 Tbs. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground white pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil or more if needed
Sour cream or yogurt for garnish if desired
Grate potatoes and onion with coarse grating disk in a food processor or with the large holes of a box grater, alternating the onion and potato. Transfer to a colander and squeeze the mixture by handfuls to remove as much liquid as possible. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the parsley, egg, flour, baking powder, salt and pepper.
Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Spoon two Tbs. of the potato mixture into the pan for each latke. Flatten with the back of the spoon so each is about 2 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter. Fry four minutes per side or until cooked through, golden brown and crisp. Stir the potato mixture between batches while cooking. Be careful when turning over the latkes in the pan so the oil doesn't splatter.
Serve the hot latkes with sour cream or yogurt and the chunky applesauce.
I am not a vegetarian, but I love vegetables, which is how I happened to be a longtime subscriber to Vegetarian Times. Many of the recipes in the magazine, which is delivered to mailbox nine months of the year, are perfect for finding ways to use up the produce from my garden.
I found that most of the ingredients for both the chunky applesauce and the latkes were already in my kitchen. I didn't have fresh lemon for the finishing touch on the applesauce, but I did have a bottle of True Lemon crystals. I simply sprinkled a bit over top of the apple mixture and gave it a taste. Perfection.
I love this apple recipe. I will probably use it again and again even when I'm not making potato pancakes to go with it. It would make a great ice cream topping, pastry turnover filling or even could be eaten by itself in a bowl with a little whipped cream on top. It would make a great substitute for apple pie for those who can't tolerate the crust.
When I made the potato pancakes, fortunately, I didn't have to attach a grinder to my table. My food processor did the trick by quickly transforming the potatoes into the long strings I needed. Like the recipe says, I also grated a little onion with the potatoes for not just flavor, but for the acid content that helps keep the potatoes from turning brown. I also didn't have fresh parsley on hand, so I used dried parsley, but only about half the amount the recipe called for. The oils in dried herbs are more concentrated than fresh, so it's best to use less when substituting.
As written, the recipe says it makes 18 latkes, but I think I must have made mine a little bigger than expected because I ended up with 13. Before I put the food processor away, I just might have to whip up another batch.