One of the best parts of Hanukkah is the latkes - crisp little potato pancakes fried in oil. Though traditional latkes are made with russet potatoes and topped with sour cream or applesauce, there's plenty of room for variation, both sweet and savory.
If you're new to making latkes, it's important to remember one fundamental step: Once the potatoes are grated, whether on a box grater or with the shredding disk of a food processor, they need to be squeezed dry to ensure the pancakes hold together. Sweet potatoes are exempt from this, but several other vegetables, such as zucchini, yellow squash, and eggplant should be squeezed dry too. Happily, no special equipment is necessary for this -- just use your hands.
If you're cooking for a large crowd, you can keep batches of finished latkes warm in a low oven on a rack, so the air will circulate around them and they won't get soggy. But if your family is anything like mine, there won't be any need -- they'll disappear in a flash.
More Hanukkah food and latkes:
Here's the traditional latke made for Hanukkah. The key is to achieve a texture that's crisp on the outside, creamy on the inside. Sour cream and applesauce are the toppings of choice.
Looking for something a little out of the ordinary? Try these potato-free latkes, made from traditional ratatouille ingredients, including eggplant, squash and red peppers. They're topped with a lively tomato-caper relish with fresh basil.
A mild homemade curry blend gives these sweet potato latkes an Indian twist, which is further enhanced by an easy-to-make mango topping (a combo of mango chutney, yogurt, cilantro and coriander).
Parsnips lend a sweet, earthy taste to these potato-based latkes. Choose small parsnips -- larger varieties can get woody and tough.
The savory combo of beets and rosemary is balanced by the sweetness of apple in these beautiful red latkes. To prevent your hands from picking up the color of the beets, wear a pair of kitchen gloves when you're peeling and grating.
Daikon radishes, available at many supermarkets and Asian grocery stores, have a crisp texture and a pleasantly sharp flavor. A pretty wasabi cream brings a little extra heat to the party.
Zucchini's texture is perfect for latkes. A liberal sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and oregano gives these pancakes an Italian spin.
These sweet latkes are perfect for either breakfast or dessert. Farmers' cheese is a somewhat dry, mild cheese usually found next to the cottage cheese in the dairy aisle. If you prefer, omit the confectioners sugar and top the latkes with your favorite jelly.
A latke reminiscent of lightly spiced carrot cake? Count us in. These sweet latkes make a nice addition to the dessert table or as part of a brunch spread. While the topping here is made of sweetened cream cheese, you could easily use some sour cream or yogurt for a less sweet topping.
Cinnamon and a touch of nutmeg tie the flavors of chocolate and sweet potato together. For an even more dolled-up version, melt a little semi-sweet chocolate and drizzle it over the finished latkes.