Latkes & Margaritas, a Hanukkah Fiesta
I opened the gift box and stared at the contents in disbelief. Nestled in the tissue paper was a pair of white plastic Mexican maracas with royal blue Jewish stars (Stars of David) on them. I started to giggle. This “prize” from my former Atlanta neighbors, Becky and Carl, had to have some significance. Or maybe it was a new gag gift to replace the giant sausage we used to ship to one another for the holidays.
“I don’t know what they’re for,” said Becky over the phone. “I thought you’d know since you are Jewish. I found them at a party store.”
Hanukkah, which means “dedication,” has to do with the re-dedication of a holy Temple in Jerusalem during biblical days. It is a holiday celebrated for eight days and nights, includes the lighting of a candlestick called a menorah, the spinning of a dreidel (a top), and the eating of latkes (potato pancakes). Maracas don’t enter the picture…except in our home. Thanks to Becky and Carl, we host Latkes & Margaritas, a Hanukkah Fiesta!
My husband and I have an interfaith marriage and no children. So, we often treat holidays with a sense of humor. This year the universe has a sense of humor. Rather than occurring in December like it usually does, Hanukkah coincides with Thanksgiving, and talk of “Thanksgivukkah” is in the air. From what I’ve read, the lunar-based Jewish calendar is out of sync with the secular calendar, and this phenomenon will not take place for another 70,000 years.
Despite “Thanksgivukkah,” we are going to stay true to our Hanukkah fiesta plans. We serve traditional foods like brisket and latkes and nontraditional margaritas. They go surprisingly very well with latkes. The décor is Hanukkah meets Fiesta with the maracas as part of the centerpiece. Oy vey! Ole!
Our good friend, Bob, is a seasoned latke maker. Here is his recipe and his advice:
Bob’s Fabulous Latkes
2 lbs. Idaho potatoes, scrubbed but unpeeled
1 medium onion
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Salt & pepper to taste
Vegetable oil for frying (“Use good oil and a hot pan,” says Bob).
In a large bowl grate potatoes alternately with the onion. Season with salt and pepper. “Cover with plastic wrap to limit browning,” advises Bob, “then give the potato, salt & onion mixture a few hours together in the fridge. The salt weeps water out of the potatoes. When you fry, you replace water with fat, so the less water going in, the less fat in the end. I squeeze the mixture hard to expel as much water as possible.”
Next, mix in the eggs, then flour, until blended. Using a large tablespoon, form round pancakes about three inches across, flattening them in the pan with the back of the spoon. Fry in about a quarter-inch of oil until golden on both sides.