LESSON OBJECTIVES AND OUTLINE FOR TEACHERS
I. LESSON OBJECTIVES
A. The students will demonstrate their knowledge of proper cooking techniques by preparing potato latkes; thereby demonstrating that they know how to:
- Break and whisk eggs with salt and pepper.
- Carefully heat vegetable oil to the proper temperature observing safety practices.
- Peel potatoes.
- Grate potatoes to the proper consistency using a food processor.
- Drain and squeeze liquid from grated potatoes.
- Carefully spoon potato batter into hot oil.
- Brown and turn the latkes over in the hot oil carefully.
- Remove the latkes from the oil properly.
- Drain the latkes properly.
B. The students will demonstrate their understanding of the techniques involved in working with potatoes and oil and the relationship of this recipe to the holiday of Hanukkah by completing the Sample Test at the end.
II. KITCHEN ORGANIZATION: TIPS AND TECHNIQUES
1. It is not necessary to do any preparation before beginning the recipe in class.
1. It is absolutely imperative that the teacher be with the hot oil station at all times. The teacher should supervise as the work stations are being set up and explain what the students are to do, but his or her attention should be focused on observing safe practices when dealing with the hot oil. If the physical set-up of the kitchen or the size of the class requires the teacher to be a distance from the rest of the work stations, it would be advisable to have an assistant present to allow the teacher to focus in on keeping oil from splashing or spilling and causing injury.
2. A swivel blade vegetable peeler is very handy for peeling potatoes and causes less accidental injury than a knife.
3. It is convenient to peel the potatoes at the sink so that they can be rinsed easily when necessary.
4. Idaho potatoes are used because they are less watery than other types of potatoes and therefore give a better consistency in this recipe.
III. FOOD FOR THOUGHT
A. Foods fried in oil during Hanukkah are symbolic of the miracle of the oil which occurred when the Temple in Jerusalem was re-dedicated by Judah the Maccabee and his followers following its desecration three years earlier by the followers of the Syrian king, Antiochus. When the sacred Temple Menorah was rekindled during the re-dedication, only enough undefiled oil for one day could be found, but it continued to bum for eight days and nights until more purified oil could be obtained. Most students are familiar with lighting wax candles to celebrate the holiday, but may not be familiar with the type of hanukkiah that burns small pots of oil. If a hanukkiah of this type cannot be obtained to demonstrate, it can be fabricated by filling a pyrex glass bowl with water and pouring a thin (1/8-inch) coating of vegetable oil on top. The oil will float to the top as you pour. Cut some I-inch squares of heavy duty aluminum foil and poke a small hole in the center of each. Place a very short length of heavy cotton twine halfway through each hole and float each square on the oil: Light the wicks that protrude from the top of the foil squares with a match. They will burn by feeding on the oil. Ask the students how long they think the oil would burn before being consumed by the flames. How much oil would be needed to burn for 8 days?
B. Potato latkes are of Eastern European origin and were originally fried in rendered goose fat because early winter was the time when the geese which had been fattened all summer and fall were slaughtered. It is very rare to see potato latkes fried in goose fat today because of our understanding of the relationship between highly saturated fats and heart disease. How have other traditional Jewish dishes changed and evolved because of scientific discoveries about good nutrition?
MATERIALS FOR POTATO LATKES
- 3 doz. eggs
- 10 lbs. Idaho potatoes
- 1 gallon vegetable oil
- sour cream
- 3 2-qt. bowls
- wire whisk
- food processor with grating disk and steel knife
- 2 10-inch skillets
- deep fat thermometer
- several potato peelers
- rubber spatulas
- metal teaspoons
- metal forks
- slotted spoons
- roll of paper towels
- small bowls for dipping applesauce and sour cream
- dish cloths
- dish towels
- dishwashing liquid
FOR THE STUDENTS:
Potato latkes are really very easy to make, but the secret to making good ones is in understanding the techniques involved in working with potatoes. I think that most people would agree that potato latkes are well-made when they are white and crispy, but when I catered, I encountered people who preferred them gray and soggy, “like Bubbie used to make.” These people had Bubbies who were not very good cooks, but nostalgia has a lot to do with what people like and dislike. Many recipes for potato latkes call for adding flour and baking soda to absorb the liquid that accumulates when the potatoes are grated. This recipe is a little different. No filler is added because the liquid is drained away.
Potatoes start to turn color as soon as they are peeled, so don't peel them until you have everything else ready. Cold water helps to slow the process of turning color, so as each potato is peeled, drop it into some cold water. Grating the potatoes makes them turn dark even faster than peeling and the liquid that accumulates when they are grated turns dark the fastest of all. Obviously, the secret to having white and crispy potato latkes is speed and organization. Therefore, try not to make a bigger batch of grated potatoes than you can fry immediately in one or two pans. Have the oil hot when the potatoes are ready so that they don't have a chance to sit around and turn color while waiting for the oil to heat up. If you need to make a lot of them, as I did when I was catering, just keep making fresh batches as you finish frying the previous batch. Don't try to peel and grate all the potatoes at one time and then have them sitting around turning gray while they wait to be fried. Once the latkes are fried and drained on paper towels, they freeze beautifully and can be reheated in a 350-degree oven, uncovered, in a single layer.
For this class, and if you want to make them hors d'oeuvres size, just use a heaping teaspoon to put them into the oil. If you want the regular size, use a larger spoon. The same techniques work if you want to make a potato kugel. Heat a small amount of oil in a pan in the oven and double the recipe for potato latkes. When the oil is the proper temperature, carefully pour in the potatoes and bake at the highest temperature your oven allows without broiling until the kugel is well browned.
Potato latkes are probably the most traditional of all the Hanukkah dishes, especially if you are of Eastern European descent. Long ago, Potatoes were very inexpensive and easy to grow and they kept well during the cold winter months. When oil was scarce and expensive, the potato latkes were fried in schmaltz, the rendered fat from geese or chickens, and served with gribbenes, the cracklings of skin that were left when the fat was rendered.
MINI POTATO LATKES
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 t. salt
- a few grindings of black pepper
- 3 large or 4 small Idaho potatoes
- (always use Idaho as the texture of the potatoes is important)
- Vegetable oil for frying
1. Whisk the eggs with the salt and pepper in a large bowl and set aside.
2. Pour enough oil into a large skillet to come about 3/4-inches up the side. Begin heating the oil to 350 degrees on a deep-fat thermometer. KEEP AN EYE ON THE TEMPERATURE OF OIL. OIL THAT IS OVERHEATED CAN CATCH FIRE AND BURN DOWN YOUR HOUSE! Once the oil is the correct temperature, if you are not putting food into it, take it off the heat temporarily.
3. Peel potatoes and drop into cold water as they are finished.
4. Grate potatoes through the grating disk of the food processor.
5. Turn out into a bowl and replace the disk with the steel knife.
6. Pour grated potatoes back into bowl and pulse approximately 8 times to chop a little finer. This process gives almost the same consistency as the ones that are grated by hand.
7. Pour potatoes into colander in the sink and squeeze them with your hand to remove as much of the liquid as possible.
8. Pour potatoes into the egg mixture and stir.
9. When oil has reached the correct temperature (the first latke should sizzle as soon as it touches the oil), slide portions of the batter into it by the heaping teaspoonful.
10. Fry until the bottoms and edges begin to turn golden brown, then flip over and fry the top side the same way. While you are waiting, rinse everything that has come in contact with the potatoes in COLD water. Hot water cooks the potato starch onto the dishes and utensils and makes them harder to wash.
11. Once all the dishes and utensils are rinsed, you may begin preparing another batch (from Step 1) if you wish, so that when one batch comes out, another is ready to go in. The oil may be used for at least three batches. After a while it starts looking burnt and starts to foam up when you add the potatoes. If this happens and you plan to make more, start with a new pan of oil.
12. When the latkes are golden brown on both sides, remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon, allowing the excess oil to drip back into the pan. Drain on paper towels.
13. Serve hot with applesauce or sour cream or both.