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Hebrew Congregation of Somers Hosts 'Latkepalooza'

SOMERS, N.Y. – The Sisterhood at the Hebrew Congregation of Somers hosts an annual Hanukkah dinner, featuring turkey, tons of side dishes, desserts and the holiday traditional latkes, fried potato pancakes. As part of this year’s festivities, a “Latkepalooza,” or a latke taste-test, was held and a prize awarded to the best latke-maker.

One of this year’s contestants, Tal Hadani-Pease, said she incorporates some of what her grandmother used in her recipe. “I add a lot of scallions. Usually people grate the potatoes, but I shred them in the Cuisinart. I like them with a jagged edge and really ‘knakelah.’ That’s crispy in Yiddish.”

The Hadani-Pease family gets to eat latkes every night during Hanukkah and the week before. “Sometimes we have them for breakfast or lunch,” said Hadani-Pease. “They’re good with chicken soup. Sometimes I stray and make beet latkes or celery root or parsnip. I make them for my husband’s family during the holidays. They’re not Jewish.”

Another contestant, Amy Post, said she only makes latkes at Hanukkah. She shared her recipe, which includes eight large russet potatoes, peeled, shredded and soaked in cold lemon water, one large grated onion, ½ cup of matzo meal and a teaspoon of salt. The potatoes are well-drained, mixed with the matzo meal, onion and salt, divided into patties and fried in ½ inch of vegetable oil.

This year’s winner of the Latkepalooza was Martin Ashley of Somers. He tries to make them three or four times a year. “It’s a special treat for the kids,” he said. “It has to be crispy but not crunchy. I tend to make them thicker so they have a good potato flavor. That’s the secret to my success.”

Another secret to Ashley’s success is his Faye Levy cookbook, where he found the recipe. He credits his wife for buying the book. One of the judges lauded Ashley’s latkes for being “crispy” and another called them “soft” but all agreed they were great.

Faye Levy’s Latkes (8-10 servings)

  • 2½ pounds potatoes (about 8 large) or baking, boiling, or Yukon Gold
  • 2 medium onions
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground white pepper
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • About ¾ cup vegetable oil (for frying)

1. Preheat oven to 250°F. Line a tray with paper towels for draining latkes and have a baking sheet ready for keeping latkes warm.

2. Peel and grate potatoes and onions on the large holes of a grater or with a food processor fitted with a coarse grating disk, alternating onion and potato. Transfer grated onion and potato to a colander. Squeeze mixture by handfuls to remove as much liquid as possible.

3. Put potato-onion mixture in a bowl. Add egg, salt, pepper, and flour and mix well.

4. Heat ½ cup oil in a deep, large, heavy skillet. For each latke, drop about 2 tablespoons of potato mixture into pan. Flatten with back of a spoon so each pancake is 2½ to 3 inches in diameter. Do not crowd them in pan. Fry over medium heat four to five minutes on each side, or until crisp and golden brown. Turn carefully with two slotted spatulas so oil doesn’t splatter. Transfer to paper towels. Stir batter before frying each new batch. Add more oil to the pan as necessary, and heat it before adding more latkes. After frying about half the batter, put latkes on baking sheet and keep warm in oven.

5. Pat tops of latkes with paper towels before serving. Serve hot or warm. Accompany with applesauce, sour cream or yogurt.

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