Root Vegetable Latkes

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It feel likes we got cheated out of Hanukah this year. It happened so early and then by early December it was gone. There was Thanksgivukkah with its one batch of latkes (and it’s once-in-a-lifetime excitement). And then there were a few days of recuperating from The Biggest Cooking Day of the Year. And then the holiday was over. We only got one batch of latkes in this house.

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I’m not one to recommend making holiday-specific foods all year round. I like my seasonal foods in season and that includes things like latkes which aren’t seasonal because of their ingredients. The excitement of anticipation leading up to making and eating holiday treats is part of the fun. If you eat it all year round then what’s there to look forward to? But this year I’m making an exception for latkes, at least for the month of December. And perhaps through New Year’s Day.

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This particular latkes recipe came together while I was trying to think up a Thanksgivukkah mashup latke to serve with cranberry applesauce. The addition of celery root makes the latke a little more toothsome. Even the ones on the bottom of the pile that are usually mushy manage to keep their crispness. At the end of Thanksgivukkah we had leftovers of everything except for latkes; they were gone long before people got too full to eat them. Downsized slightly for a winter holiday party, I can’t imagine they’d last any longer.

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Root Vegetable Latkes
Makes about 30 3-inch latkes

2 celeriac roots, outer layer cut away (it’s too thick to peel)
1 lb potatoes (about 2-3 yukon gold will do it), peeled
½ lb parsnips, peeled and ends removed
¼ cup flour
3 eggs*
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp black pepper
Oil for frying

Using a food processor, grate the celeriac, potatoes, and parsnips, then turn them out into large bowl lined with a clean dish cloth. You can grate them by hand but be warned that it is hard and you may lose some skin off your knuckles in the process. Once you have all the gratings, gather up the ends of the dish cloth and twist it to squeeze out the excess liquid in the vegetables, getting rid of as much as you can. Then dump the now dry vegetables back into the large bowl and add the flour, eggs, salt, and pepper. Mix well with your hands to combine.

Heat about a half inch of oil in a large heavy bottomed pan (I like to use cast iron) over medium heat and then line a baking sheet with a grocery-store brown paper bag and top it with a rack. This will prevent ‘soggy bottoms’ while the latkes cool. When it’s hot, form a latke out of about ¼ cup of batter and place it in the pan. You can also make canape sized ones using 2 tbs of batter at a time. To make the latke you can either just gather up the batter (like I do) or gather it up and then squeeze out the liquid again (like Jeff does). The Jeff way will give you a slightly crispier latke but if you, like I, can’t be bothered it doesn’t make too much difference.

Fry the latkes three or four at a time (or 5 at a time for the small ones), cooking them for 2-4 minutes per side, until they’re golden brown on each side. I find that sometimes it helps to twist them around halfway through cooking each side so one half doesn’t get more brown. When they’re done, remove them to the brown-bag lined baking sheet topped with a rack. You can also sprinkle them with a pinch of salt while they’re hot.

Once they’re cool enough to eat you can eat them plain, or top them the traditional way with applesauce and sour cream, or go all out for a fancy party snack with caviar and crème fraiche.

*If you choose to cut this recipe in half use two eggs and 3 tbs flour in the half batch.

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