Latkes

I’m not of Jewish descent, but I’ve adored the crispy creamy goodness of latkes every time they’ve landed on my plate.

And while I’ve had sweet potato latkes before, I really felt that the sweetness tipped them in the direction of a completely different kind of experience—delightful for what they were, but just not savory enough. Because of this, it seemed like the Fauxtato approach was a better option. In my experience combining turnips, rutabaga, and parsnips—at least two and preferably three—you’ll wind up with something that comes close to approximating potato flavor.

I think it does, but I’d be grateful for feedback from anyone with more experience.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 heaping cup each of 2 of the following: grated turnips, rutabaga, parsnips.
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • one heaping tablespoon flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • one small onion, grated

OPTIONAL

1/2 teaspoon black pepper (if you like them peppery; some don’t)

INSTRUCTIONS

1In a medium saucepan bring water to a boil. You’re going to use this water to lightly and sequentially parboil the grated rootstock. (This process and the idea behind it is outlined here LTK.) You’ll either need a method for dipping the gratings out, or a strainer and another container. For efficiency’s sake you don’t want to actually lose the hot water until you are done with parboiling. The order should be parsnips first, rutabaga second, turnips last. Each of these root vegetables has a unique astringency. You can’t remove it completely, but when you’re trying to mimic the potato it’s useful to dampen them.

2When the water comes to a boil drop in the first root vegetable. Return to a boil. After two minutes, dip out the vegetables and strain again, reserving the hot water for the next vegetable in the process. Drop the freshly parboiled material into cold water for a minute. Scoop out again and using your hands to squeeze as much of the liquid out as possible. It’s kind of a messy process. While you could, for example, use cheesecloth to remove even more water it is not desirable to excessively dehydrate.

3Put the grated root vegetables into a mixing bowl and form a simple well in the center. Crack the eggs into the well and fork mix the eggs in place to give them a more beaten consistency. Add the salt, flour, baking powder, and grated onion and mix well.

4Cook up on your favorite pancakes skillet. Cast iron is of course a highly desirable griddle for frying, but I also love my circa 1973 stainless steel electric skillet. Drop a dollop of oil and spread around. Then drop a heaping tablespoon of batter, shaping and flattening with a fork.

5The key to a proper latke is crispness, so technique matters here as much as ingredients. How much oil is one key element. Use as much as you need to get a good crisp on, but not so much that it’s drowning. (And if your grandmother taught you a particular way, probably ignore my directions and do that.) You want the oil just hot enough to crisp, but not so hot that it burns. Fry on both sides until brown, adding oil as needed as you work your way through the batch.

6As with all fried foods, the sooner you get them to table the better. Serve with sour cream, gravy, jam, applesauce, or with dal or other savory medleys of vegetables and/or meat. They can accompany a wide diversity of meals.

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