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Getty Images / Latkes, potato pancakes tile

I've always loved potato pancakes, but not until my Jewish son-in-law began making potato latkes for our Christmas Day brunch a few years back did I have some that were truly incredible and not pancakes at all. I discovered that there's a big difference between potato pancakes and potato latkes.

Potato pancakes are more rounded than potato latkes, and they're simple to make using leftover mashed potatoes. Potato latkes take a little more time because you have to shred the potatoes, a task made much easier if you have a food processor. Latkes also take on an irregular shape with the shredded pieces of potato sticking out here and there. Also, potato pancakes are thinner than potato latkes.

There's another difference, too. You can serve potato pancakes with ketchup or other condiments, but potato latkes traditionally require either sour cream or applesauce. Applesauce is the more traditional Jewish condiment, but as a Southern Episcopalian, I prefer sour cream.

Regardless, potato latkes have become a tradition in our mostly Christian household, but we also observe Hanukkah in honor of our son-in-law whenever they are here during the Hanukkah season, which this year begins on Thursday. And while our new tradition requires that he make them, I've found myself making them from time to time myself using a recipe I found in The New York Times. If you're serving several people, make plenty because these go fast.

Happy Hanukkah to all of you celebrating over the next week.

 

Classic Potato Latkes

2 large Russet potatoes (about 1 pound), scrubbed and cut lengthwise into quarters

1 large onion (8 ounces), peeled and cut into quarters

2 large eggs

cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt (or 1 teaspoon fine sea salt), plus more for sprinkling

1 teaspoon baking powder

teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Safflower or other oil, for frying

Sour cream and applesauce for topping

Using a food processor with a coarse grating disc, grate the potatoes and onion. Transfer the mixture to a clean dishtowel, and squeeze to wring out as much of the liquid as possible.

Working quickly, transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the eggs, flour, salt, baking powder and pepper, and mix until the flour is absorbed.

In a medium heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat, pour in about 1/4 inch of the oil. Once the oil is hot (a drop of batter placed in the pan should sizzle), use a heaping tablespoon to drop the batter into the hot pan, cooking in batches. Use a spatula to flatten and shape the drops into discs. When the edges of the latkes are brown and crispy, about 5 minutes, flip. Cook until the second side is deeply browned, about another 5 minutes. Transfer the latkes to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain, and sprinkle with salt while still warm. Repeat with the remaining batter. Serve sour cream and applesauce on the table and let guests choose which way they want to top their potato latkes.

 

FESTIVUS SYRUP

Maple syrup continues to be one of the hottest ingredients to add to recipes, from pancakes to pumpkin pie, compound butters to barbecue sauce. And now, Runamok, a Vermont-based producer of maple syrup, has a new syrup to add to its flavor lineup: Maple Festivus. The brand already includes intriguing flavors like whiskey barrel maple syrup and maple syrup infused with hibiscus flowers. The new one, created with the holiday season in mind, is infused with clove, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla.

Think Christmas morning French toast drizzled with some of that!

Runamok's syrups can be found online at runamokmaple.com. The Festivus flavor comes in 250-milliliter bottles for $16.95.

Email Anne Braly at abraly@timesfreepress.com.

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