Food & Drink

Hanukkah is time for family, tradition – and latkes

Potato latkes are a Hanukkah favorite.
Potato latkes are a Hanukkah favorite. The Wichita Eagle

Hanukkah isn’t the most significant of the Jewish holidays. Yom Kippur, which happened this year in early October, holds that spot.

But because Hanukkah is the Jewish holiday that coincides with Christmas, it’s the one that many non-Jews know the most about. It’s when the menorah is lighted, the dreidel is spun and the gifts are distributed for eight straight days.

It’s also when foods fried in oil are traditionally eaten, especially potato latkes and jelly doughnuts.

At Wichita’s Temple Emanu-El at 7011 E. Central, the congregation’s sisterhood will spend this week preparing for the temple’s annual Hanukkah dinner. Hanukkah started at sundown on Tuesday and will conclude on Dec. 24. The dinner at the temple is Friday night.

It usually draws around 150 people, who enjoy a main course of brisket along with potato latkes and jelly doughnuts, which the temple buys every year from Squeeks Donut Shop at 734 N. Waco. The oil in the food signifies a one-day supply of olive oil that lasted for eight days after a great Jewish military victory.

Perhaps the most anticipated dish at Hanukkah is the latkes, said Cyndie Ponder, who helps organize the Hanukkah dinner. It’s definitely her favorite part.

“There isn’t a potato I don’t like, so I love potato latkes,” Ponder said. “You can eat them for any meal.”

Latkes are similar to hash browns, but they’re topped with sour cream, apple sauce or even grape jelly.

Ponder recently demonstrated how to make them in the temple’s kitchen, which was used in November to prepare the food served at the annual Deli Day fundraiser.

First, she shaved fresh potatoes using a cheese grater, then put the shavings in a colander, which she submerged in ice water to keep the potatoes fresh and stop them from discoloring.

She filled a cast iron pan with a layer of canola oil and let it heat on a medium burner. She then drained the potato shavings, put them in a bowl and mixed them using her hands with an egg, some matzo flour, a finely chopped onion and some salt and pepper.

When the oil was hot, she put about a half-cup of the mixture in little piles around the pan and let them fry for about five minutes on each side, until they were crispy and brown, then drained them on a paper towel before serving with bowls of applesauce and sour cream on the side.

Latkes are a favorite at her house, Ponder said, but they’re a bit time consuming to make. And like many oily Hanukkah foods, the aroma sticks around the house.

Julie Fruhauf, another member of the sisterhood, says she remembers her house always having an oily smell around the time the Hanukkah gifts started arriving when she was a kid.

Now, she makes latkes for her family during the holiday, but she’s found a shortcut by using pre-shaved hashbrown potatoes available in the freezer section of the grocery store.

Fruhauf’s family ate their latkes topped with grape jelly when she was a child, and that’s still her preference, she said.

Hanukkah may not be the biggest holiday in the Jewish faith, Fruhauf said, but it definitely results in deliciousness she looks forward to.

“All holidays are centered around food,” she said. “Family time is food time.”

Potato latkes

4 medium potatoes peeled

1 medium onion

2 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

3 tablespoons flour

1/2 cup oil

Sour cream


Grape jelly

Grate or puree potatoes and onions into a bowl. Mix eggs, salt, pepper, and flour into potato and onions. Heat oil in a skillet and add scoop of potato mixture onto hot oil and flatten. Flip when brown and crisp. Remove when browned and crisp and drain on paper towels. Serve immediately with choice of sour cream, applesauce or grape jelly.

Courtesy of Julie Fruhauf

Zucchini latkes

4 cups zucchini, grated

1 medium white potato, grated

1 medium onion, chopped

3 eggs, beaten

3 tablespoons flour

4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

Pepper, to taste

Garlic powder, to taste

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Mix together zucchini, potato, and onion. Add eggs and mix. Mix in remaining ingredients. Heat large skillet with oil. Drop batter by spoonfuls into oil. Flatten and fry until crisp and browned, then turn over and brown and crisp other side. Drain on paper towel. Serve immediately.

Courtesy of Julie Fruhauf

Sandy Redler’s Beef Brisket

2 to 4 pounds brisket

Garlic powder

12 oz. jar of chili sauce

2 cups of diced onions

12 ounces water

Preheat oven to 225. Coat the entire brisket with a heavy layer of garlic powder and put it in a roasting pan. Pour the chili sauce on top of the garlic powder. Put the onions on top of the brisket, then pour the water into the pan. Bake for approximately 4-6 hours or until internal meat temperature is 185 degrees. Let brisket cool down for 30 minutes before slicing as described below.

The brisket is done when it is fork tender and has an internal temperature of around 185-200 degrees F. The amount of time it takes to cook a brisket in the oven depends on the weight of the brisket. Figure 1 1/2 to 2 hours per pound of meat. Remote thermometers are very handy and reasonably priced.

Let brisket rest about 30 minutes after you take out of the oven on a cutting board.

To slice, use a sharp carving knife and follow the direction of the muscle. Cut the meat against the grain (meaning, the finished cut of meat should not appear to have long strands of meat all running the same direction.)

Place back in oven with juices to reheat and serve. Brisket can also be cooled down in refrigerator and then reheated and served the next day.

Courtesy of Scott Redler