The scent of the freshly baked apple cake and walnut cookies traveled through my pores and into me, faster than a good and delicious kind of virus.
My mouth watered sitting there at the kitchen table in my future in-laws’ apartment in Mexico City, 36 years ago. As they caught us up, in that cozy setting of deliciously permeating scents and family bonding, with the latest community news of who’d gotten married and who’d divorced, who’d had a baby and who’d passed away, I felt I was getting a glimpse into the old world. I imagined that this is what the tables must have been like in the small homes of the shtetls (Jewish villages or small towns in Eastern Europe) where Dora and Jacobo had been born, about a half century before. This exclusive club I was now privy to was somehow comforting. It was as if I had landed on an enormous down filled open palm where I’d always be gently held.
Just as comforting were the infinite dishes of food Dora prepared the next day for the open house, when I was to meet near and extended family and friends.
“Susie, meet Dovi and Marcela, and Sami,and Rosie, Frida, Jacobo and Ofelia, Samuel and Edith…” So many people came and went that day I could barely remember anyone’s name. I never knew a family could be so numerous; between siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends it was dizzying meeting about 150 people in one afternoon and evening, but I had the time of my life!
From that time to the present, my mother-in-law has taught me recipe after recipe; recipes for everyday, recipes for Shabbat and for the Jewish holidays, Eastern European recipes and Mexican recipes….
Even today, I continue to learn from Dora. Over Thanksgiving, we were blessed to have her visit us from Mexico City. A few days before she flew back home, and with Hanukkah approaching, I asked her to teach my daughter Ariela and me how to make the traditional Hanukkah potato latkes (potato pancakes prepared especially for the holiday) she’s been making for over 70 years.
Click on the link at the top to watch our Traditional Hanukkah Potato Latke Recipe Video, and see how from generation to generation treasured recipes have been passed down in our family.
- 1/3 onion
- 2 Russet Potatoes
- 1/4 cup matzoh meal
- 3 eggs
- Salt and pepper
- 1 cup canola oil for frying
- Sour cream
Place the onion in a food processor, blend and set aside. Grate the two potatoes on the fine side of a hand grater, strain liquid and place in a bowl. Add the processed onions and mix. Add the 1/4 cup of matzoh meal and mix. In a separate bowl Crack the 3 eggs, mix briskly with a fork, add to the potato mixture and mix thoroughly, add salt and pepper to taste. Heat the oil over a medium high flame and wait until it is very hot. Take a 1/4 cup measuring cup and fill it (a little less than full) with the potato mixture. Get very close to the oil and gently pour it in. Repeat until pan is full. After putting the latkes into the hot oil lower the flame a bit to allow the potato to cook inside. When the edges of the latkes turn golden brown flip each one over and allow them to brown on the other side, repeat until you have used one half of the potato mixture.
For Ariela’s Spicy Latkes add 1 tablespoon oregano, and 1/4 – 1/2 cup chopped jalapeño peppers from a jar, to the 2nd half of the potato mixture.
Garnish options for the Spicy Latkes:
- Avocado slices
- Salsa Verde: Recipe found on the blog
- Pico de Gallo: A mixture of diced onion, tomato, cilantro leaves, 1 Serrano chili pepper (optional) salt and pepper to taste, and olive oil.
Fry the latkes as you did the first batch. Remove from heat and serve right away.
This recipe makes about 20 latkes in total.
Thank you Dora, I am grateful to be the beneficiary of such a rich cultural and culinary heritage.
Enjoy and Happy Hanukkah everybody!