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Latke 101 lesson is fun and delicious

by: REVIEW, TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - The latkes were made from grated potatoes and onions.My friend Michelle Minch has shared a great deal of the customs of her Jewish faith with me and I feel much honored that she does. Last week she and several members of Beit Haverim, calling themselves the Beit Haverim Latke Making Mavens, started a new tradition for Hanukkah; they held a latke making party. Figuring that many hands made light work, Leslie Bratschi, Naomi Angier, Robin Kay, Suzanne Causer, Deana Gutterman, Sue Greenspan and Michelle gathered in Claire Frye’s West Linn kitchen to make 400 latkes, enough to feed the 100 or so attendees expected at the meal planned for the beginning of the Festival of Lights. This year, Hanukkah started last Saturday and ends this Saturday.

Four-hundred potato pancakes — that is one tall order. The women were undaunted by the task, and after coffee had been poured and noshes set out, they dove into their work.

“Every person has their own recipe,” said Claire. “Some use flour or matzo meal to bind it together, some people peel their potatoes, some don’t.”

I found out that while the most traditional latkes are made of potatoes with a little onion added, you can make latkes out of combinations of potatoes, apples, zucchini, broccoli, sweet potatoes or just about anything you want. Traditional toppings are apple sauce and sour cream. One of the women said her husband likes his latkes with ketchup — and why not? You are eating fried potatoes and ketchup.

The recipe the women were using to make latkes called for potatoes, onion, eggs and flour.

“Simple as possible,” said Claire. “They are time consuming to make.”

by: REVIEW, TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - The Beit Haverim Latke Making Mavens showed Barb Randall how to prepare perfect latkes. They were making 400 to serve at a Hanukkah dinner.The women had considered using frozen potatoes but opted instead to use fresh, unpeeled potatoes to produce the best-quality latkes. They said mixes were available, but the quality was not nearly as good as latkes made from scratch.

Each woman had her own take on the perfect latke recipe.

“Everyone has a different style,” said Robin. “We learn to make latkes from our mothers and then learn our mother-in-law’s recipe, too. You know that when you get five Jews together you will have seven opinions!”

“She means we often like to debate issues,” said Michelle.

The women fell into a nice rhythm as they grated, mixed and fried the latkes.

Robin offered that she likes to fry latkes in peanut oil because it can withstand a higher heat, which cooks the latkes faster. She figures they spend less time in the pan so they absorb less oil. Other women preferred using canola or olive oil.

The latkes take longer to brown properly than you might expect, and you do need the half-inch of oil in the pan.

“Take the time to fry them, to brown them well,” said Suzanne.

They chatted about heat sources and attributes of particular pans, how long to fry latkes before flipping them, how large to make them and whether to mound them or flatten them.

They talked about the meals they would prepare during Hanukkah for family and friends, who was home from college and other details that friends share with each other while working in the kitchen.

Sue shared the tip to store the latkes vertically in roasting pans instead of stacking them on top of each other horizontally; it keeps them from getting soggy.

Before long the women had produced several trays full of beautifully browned latkes and it was time to sample the goods. They were just as delicious as they were beautiful.

The menu for the Hanukkah feast would include latkes, roasted chicken or a vegetarian entrée, salad, applesauce and jelly doughnuts. With all the care and attention being added to each latke, I knew the feast would be a success.

I am sorry you missed Beit Haverim’s Hanukkah feast; you would enjoy the food, the company and the celebration. Thinking you might enjoy preparing your own Hanukkah feast, Claire shared her latke recipe.

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-636-1281, ext. 101, or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .