Sara Mouton lightens up, spices up Hanukkah latkes
Sweet potatoes and Yukon gold go into Sara Mouton's Southwestern Latkes. She starts the potato patties in a fry pan and finishes them in the oven.
Traditional potato latkes are a widely loved staple of the yearly Hanukkah feast. And what's not to love about hamburger-sized hash browns topped with sour cream?
Still, wonderful as they are, latkes are not light. So as a latke-loving shiksa, I devised this recipe in the hope that all of us might enjoy our latkes and live to tell about it. My redesign employs both sweet potatoes and the more traditional white potatoes, significantly reducing the amount of oil required to cook these bad boys. I also substitute Greek yogurt for sour cream.
Sweet potatoes, especially the intensely orange ones, are a terrific source of beta carotene. They also are an excellent source of potassium, vitamin C and fiber. And despite their sweetness, sweet potatoes are not high in calories. But because they're also not very high in starch, they need a starch partner. Hence the white potatoes, along with a little egg, and some flour as a binder.
The ideal latke has a crisp crust with a moist interior. Traditionally, that crispness is achieved by frying in a lot of oil. Figuring out how to crisp up these latkes without a ton of oil was the hardest part of developing this recipe. After much trial and error, I realized I could develop a satisfactory crust if I added a little oil to the skillet for each side of the pancakes, 1 tablespoon for the first side and 1 tablespoon after I flipped them.
I then finish them off in a 350-degree oven because the recipe's sweet potatoes, with their high sugar content, turn the latkes too dark if left on the stove for more than a few minutes.
What gives this recipe its Southwestern flavor? The combination of sweet potato and the chipotle in the yogurt topping. Sugar and chilies do a happy dance, balancing each other off. Adding sugar to a dish that's too spicy doesn't make it taste sweet, any more than adding chili to a dish that's too sweet makes it taste hot. Rather, you can depend on these complementary flavors to make the dish just right. However, if you are not a fan of chilies, leave out the chipotle. Likewise, If you're not a fan of cilantro, substitute dill, parsley or chives.
And Hanukkah aside, these Southwestern latkes would be a great little side dish any time of the year.
• Sara Moulton was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years, and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows. She currently stars in public television's "Sara's Weeknight Meals" and has written three cookbooks, including "Sara Moulton's Everyday Family Dinners."
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