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My husband’s family is (part) Jewish. I had never even heard of white fish or kugel before I met him, but quickly adapted to this whole new branch of culinary history. One afternoon while visiting his grandmother, I asked her questions about the recipes she used. She began to describe dishes that I had now heard of, but never cooked or baked on my own: matzah ball soup made with broth from scratch and lemon drizzle cake. Hamantashen filled with jam and crispy, crunchy latkes.

A few weeks later, I received a cooking lesson from my husband’s aunt, who demonstrated the secret behind these potato pancakes (secret included below). Now, whenever I make latkes, I think of my husband’s family, and the traditions of his childhood as well as my own, and our ever-expanding lessons about food. It always surprises me how often cooking brings all types of people together – generations of families (whether you are born into them or enter into them) spending time together in the kitchen, and at the table.

These are best cooked in a cast iron pan. Keep warm in the oven as you make each batch.

  • 3 1/2 cups peeled and shredded russet or yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 cup grated onion
  • about 6 tablespoons whole wheat flour
  • 1 large egg
  • a pinch of dried thyme, to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil for the pan

The big secret while making these is to squeeze as much liquid out of the potatoes as possible. After shredding the onion and potatoes (with a cheese grater) place them in the middle of a square of cheesecloth. Gather the quarters of the cheesecloth around the potatoes and onions, and squeeze out all the liquid (over the sink). Combine the potato mixture, flour, seasoning and egg in a large bowl and toss to combine. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add a few tablespoons of olive to to coat the pan. Spoon about 1/3 cup of the potato mixture into the pan, and flatten with the back of a spoon to form a ‘cake’. Repeat to fill the pan with 3-5 cakes (however many fit in your pan). Saute each side about 4 minutes, or until brown.Repeat until the potato mixture is gone. Serve with ketchup or applesauce.

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