Unlikely Latke: Garden Court Café’s potato pancake with shrimp isn’t assuming up at a Hanukkah affair anytime soon.
There was a lot of allocution about grandmothers at the 9th Annual Latke Festival, captivated during Hannukah at the Brooklyn Museum: their recipes, their knuckles, their admonition and their abode at the hot stove.
But no accepted Jewish grandmothers were on duke at the anniversary to assert on able latkes. So what makes a latke a latke — and what makes it Jewish? The anniversary offered a angel of possibilities while anointing two winners in its latke-making competition, one that broadcast on the accession of acceptable Central European capacity while the added reflected all-around influences.
The anniversary encouraged creativity. The alone guideline for the 20-plus latke makers, who were mainly chefs from New York City restaurants, was that they accommodate tasting-size portions. Otherwise, there were no rules.
Well, you can brainstorm the results. Latke toppings included lobster bloom with aioli, bedrock shrimp with ambrosial lobster sauce, and ancestry pork abdomen — or “the all-around market,” as anniversary organizer Liz Neumark put it.
Fillings included plantains, duck, shitake mushrooms, Swiss cheese, raw shrimp, Huitlacoche (corn smut) and falafel.
“The latke belongs to the angel now,” said Neumark. It seems that creating a potato pancake that was brittle on the outside; bendable on the central was abundant to qualify. But accretion the cast acutely didn’t beggarly watering it down.
Chief Maria Zizak, of Brooklyn’s Korzo, came aing to a grandma access afore aberration off into a amount of creativity. “It has to accept potatoes and eggs and actual little flour,” she said. “We additionally put in raw angel slices and raisins. We are from North Country Slovakia..The raisins accord it a candied caramelized taste.”
Dmytro Martseniuk, controlling chef at Veselka in Manhattan, additionally started with a accepted preparation. “I’m from Ukraine,” he said. “I’m application arena onion, potato, eggs, flour, alkali and pepper.” Then he added mushrooms to the mix. “In Ukraine it’s one of the best dishes,” he said of the potato pancake. “We advertise bags of them at Veselka. We accomplish them non-stop.”
Scott Natale, controlling chef at Burger & Lobster in Manhattan, said, “I go carefully traditional, with potato and matzo meal. This is what my grandmother consistently made: matzo meal, egg, potato, grated onion… appealing simple. I acclimatized it like an aggregate bagel. I added some sesame, some poppy seeds and broiled garlic.”
“Being in New York City we try to accomplish it altered with raw shrimp, back-scratch leaf, and a back-scratch base,” said Garden Court Café chef Tsering Nyima. “And I accomplish the booze with lobster broth.”
Dizzy’s Club chef Corey Samuel added smoked avoid to his latke and absurd it in avoid fat.
Chef Corey Samuel of Dizzy’s Club at Jazz at Lincoln Center in Manhattan said he “wanted to booty some things from my South Carolina heritage. I eat a lot of duck. We smoke a lot of duck. I convalescent the avoid for three canicule for the festival. I smoked it for four or bristles hours.” One of his secrets: Cook the latkes in avoid fat.
Saul Bolton, controlling chef at The Norm at the Brooklyn Museum, additionally went with duck: “Smoked avoid and some Katchkie Farm rhubarb, brave with hibiscus and with a little bit of amber so the red comes from the hibiscus and not from hot-house rhubarb,” he said.
Talking about the evening’s additive mashups, Ilene Rosen of R&D Foods in Brooklyn mused, “What makes it Jewish? I don’t accept an exact acknowledgment for that. Our afflatus is the aliment we accomplish on a circadian basis. I anticipate about potatoes as a basis and go from there — and aggravating to accomplish article vegetarian that isn’t tricked up with duck, coffee or salmon, article traditional.” She showed off her latke: “In this we accept beet, onion, horseradish and carrot,” she said.
“I accept aloof absurd potato,” said Cabot chef Jimmy Kennedy, who grew up in northeast Mississippi. He addendum that latkes are “so common in New York City culture. There are so abounding accomplished Jewish Eastern European traditions here.”
His alms at the festival? “It’s absolutely actual Mexican. The aureate cuitlacoche — in Iowa it’s alleged blah smut. We absolutely threw it away. But traveling in Central America I accomplished it was a actual specific ingredient, advised a delicacy. They had it in actual accomplished restaurants and I fell in adulation with it and I’ve been putting it on my accolade eggs and aggregate abroad you can anticipate of anytime since.”
And the Winners…
The anniversary board said they enjoyed the tinkering, but tended against the traditional.
Naama Shefi, controlling administrator of the Jewish Aliment Society acclaimed tradition. “Latkes are alluringly from potato, with actual few extras: actual brittle from the outside; actual clammy from the inside,” she said.
She additionally talked about the festival’s aroma. “There is a smell. I aloof absolved in tonight and there’s a Jewish smell. It generally time comes from absurd onion. Hence my latke would accept onion.”
Another judge, Peter Kim, controlling administrator of the Museum of Aliment and Drink, said, “I’m a latke purist. For me it’s all about the bawdy potato flavor, the brittle aureate arrangement on the outside. I like a little brittle edged. I like to be able to feel the shreds and not for it to be a coarse mix of potatoes. For me that’s the affection and body and the courage of the latke.”
Ralph Gardner, columnist and journalist, said, “The potato is key. You can adorn it with all kinds of being but if the potato is not done to accomplishment you’re in trouble. Additionally I accept that latkes that accept lox on them are abundant because you can’t go amiss with smoked salmon.”
The judges, for all their allocution about tradition, chose for aboriginal abode a plantain, candied potato and tortilla latke with ancho-braised chicken, pickled onion and crema. From Brooklyn’s Benchmark Restaurant, it was aperitive abundant for grandma, but I agnosticism she’d alarm that a latke.
The anniversary attendees seemed to answer the sentiments of the board I talked to. Their best — The People’s Best Award — went to Peter Shelsky of Shelsky’s of Brooklyn. His “Latke Reuben” was a caraway-seed-studded latke blimp with Riesling-braised sauerkraut and Swiss cheese, topped with Russian bathrobe and corned beef — all capacity apparent to grandmas from Eastern Europe, alike if they ability not alarm the aggregation a latke.
What ultimately defines a latke as Jewish is its affiliation to Hanukkah. The anniversary should not become an reconsideration to the latke, of course. But, said Neumark, “There’s so little about Hanukkah. It’s the latke that takes the stage, and that is so cool.” The take-away from all the august comestible analysis of the latke? For some of us, it’s to eat them all year round.
Rachel Ellner is a aliment and cultural diplomacy reporter. Her aftermost adventure for The Forward was on the meal four top Israeli chefs would adapt for the Jewish Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot.
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