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What are Latkes?

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What are Latkes?

As Hanukkah approaches, cooks and food writers begin their annual debate over the correct way to prepare the humble latke: Hand-grated or food-processed? With matzo meal or without? Yukon gold or russet potatoes?

Here is the history behind the debate. Latkes, or potato pancakes, are a traditional Jewish dish that hailed from Eastern Europe. They have become associated with Hanukkah because they are fried in oil, and oil is symbolic of Hanukkah.

As the story goes, the Israelites were ruled by the Assyrians. They revolted and reclaimed the temple. When they reopened the temple, there was only enough oil to light one day’s worth of candles. Miraculously, the oil lasted eight days. Thus, candles and oils have become Hanukkah traditions.

Although latke isn’t the only Jewish dish that uses oil, potato latke became associated with Hanukkah over the years, although it’s not clear when.

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Here are a few tips for making potato latke.

* There are many ways to make potato latke, including curried, sweet potato, apple-cinnamon and sesame-potato latke.
* To prevent the latke from sticking to the pan, make sure the oil is very hot. Turn the mixture when the edges start to brown. Don’t crowd the pan.
* Some cooks would never consider using a food processor, although it’s far easier to grate the potatoes.
* While you can freeze and re-heat the latke, straight from the frying pan is best.
* Potato latke is served best with sour cream or apple sauce. You can use fat free or light sour cream, if you wish.
* Potato latke makes a wonderful side dish or entrée.

Faith Dessauer contributed to this report.

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