Cheater’s Latkes

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We had to celebrate Hanukkah late this year; we didn’t have both of our girls home until the 19th. But it’s better late than never, and part of the celebration always includes Cheater’s Latkes (potato pancakes).

I’ve been making these for many years, and was highly amused when one of my favorite food bloggers, Chungah An at damndelicious.net, blogged back in October about her way to make Easy Potato Pancakes. There are some definite similaries between our two recipes. (Do explore her blog; I’ve made a number of recipes from it, and ALL of them have been wonderful.) I have to say, however, that mine came out of an overwhelming need to be lazy. Grating potatoes (with or without onions) is not my idea of a good time. It takes forever, and if I have to go through that much bother just to prep them, I won’t make them. Hence, Cheater’s Latkes.

Do not assume that these are healthy for you in any way, shape, or form. My mother reduces oil in her latkes to almost nothing by baking them in the oven. They are ok, but not what I expect from a latke. If you don’t use a lot of oil, why are you bothering making them for Hanukkah? It’s the oil holiday, and what better way to commemorate it than to fry, fry, fry? I figure I’ll just do this once a year, and be sure to take my Lipitor. Fried potatoes, what’s not to love? (Also note that I do not use onions in this recipe. Years ago, I remember my mother complaining that all the oil and onions were heartburn-producing, so my Uncle Irving suggested baking the latkes and using onion powder instead. I’ve just adopted the onion powder.)

So how do I get around that pesky grating of potatoes task? Use thawed, frozen shredded hash browns. Any brand will do. I’m also too lazy to crack a bunch of eggs, so I used egg substitute. (I’m not plugging the brand, any carton of liquid eggs will do.) Measurements are also not my strongest suit, particularly with this recipe, so the measurements I’ll use are mostly approximations. Nothing is cast in stone, a little more or less of any of the ingredients will work just fine.

Here’s what you need:

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(Plus flour, somehow that didn’t make it into the photo. )

I almost never make this in reasonable quantities, I typically use 2 or 3 bags of shredded hash browns because I need to feed family and guests, elementary school classes, and co-workers.

Add flour to the hash browns.

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Next add the egg substitute.

033Add onion powder, garlic powder, and salt. Stir well. If you find that the potato mixture is too wet, you can add more flour, or use a slotted spoon when you go to fry the latkes. (If you like ground pepper, this would be the time to add some. I typically don’t.)

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This is what three bags of potatoes looks like. I’ll include my standard recipe for 2 bags, which will still feed an army. This metal bowl is the largest bowl I own.

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Heat up a frying pan and add about 1/4″ of oil. I use canola oil. Drop potato mixture by heaping spoonfuls (I just use our standard soup spoons) into the hot oil. Be careful, splattering is likely. Flatten each latke down with the back of the spoon.

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Once the latkes start to turn brown on the bottom, carefully flip them over. Remove when both sides are equally browned, and place on paper towels to drain. Looks pretty inviting, huh?

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My friend Elaine actually fried this batch; we figure that since she’s part Irish, her potato-related skills are genetic. She is also more meticulous than I am, and these latkes turned out to be fairly uniform in size and stunningly beautiful. Use paper towels between each layer of latkes when you remove them from the oil.

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It was a rather LARGE batch …something like the Leaning Tower of Latkes.

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Serve with applesauce and/or sour cream. I like both.

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Cheater's Latkes
 
Prep time
Cook time
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The ultimate fried for Hanukkah and beyond. It's great as a main dish or a side dish.
Author:
Cuisine: Jewish
Serves: enough to feed a small country
Ingredients
  • 2 bags shredded hash browns
  • 1 pint container egg substitute
  • ½ cup flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • canola oil
Instructions
  1. Mix all ingredients except oil together in a large bowl.
  2. Heat a frying pan, add about ¼" of canola oil.
  3. When oil is hot, drop potato mixture by spoonfuls into the pan.
  4. Turn latkes over when bottoms are golden brown.
  5. Cook other side of latkes to the same doneness.
  6. Continue cooking the rest of the potato mixture the same way, adding more oil as necessary.
  7. Remove latkes to paper towel-lined plate. You can stack them up as long as you put paper towels between layers.
  8. Serve with applesauce and sour cream.

 

Beef Veggie Soup from Memory

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Many years ago, when I still lived in Maryland, my parents and I used to frequent a lot of craft shows, festivals, and the like. One of our favorite shows was the annual fall festival in Thurmont, MD. Invariably the weather would be cool and brisk, and there’d always be some vendor who was smart enough to serve a phenomenal beef vegetable soup.

Then I discovered that one of my co-workers, Liz Smith (are you out there, Liz?) regularly made this soup up at her farm in West Virginia. She had a big garden and did lots of canning, so she always made huge quantities of this soup. But she used a pressure cooker to cook the beef, and that always intimidated me, so I never got around to making it.

Years passed. I moved to California and lost touch with Liz (although thankfully I have reconnected with many of my other old buddies from the National Agricultural Library). And as I’ve become increasingly adventurous with cooking, I decided to see if I could recreate this soup – a dish I hadn’t tasted in over 30 years. I am convinced, however, that there is a distinct connect between taste buds and memories, and figured this would be a reasonable experiment. So I dug out Liz’s recipe and made some modifications. Here’s what I started with:

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And then there was the beef…

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The first potential problem was cooking the beef. I still didn’t have (or want) a pressure cooker, so I seasoned the beef with salt and pepper, and then opted to brown the chuck roast in a big pot and then finish cooking it in the oven. Liz’s recipe cooked the chuck roast in a cup of water with a bouillon cube; I opted for a can of consomme and about a half a can of water.

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While the beef was cooking, I started prepping and assembling all of the veggies. Liz’s recipe called for quantities like “quarts of tomatoes” and “quarts of green beans.” I didn’t have any of that. So I took some wild guesses and started throwing ingredients together.

Once the beef was cooked, I took it out to rest for a few minutes on a cutting board. Then I skimmed off the surface fat from the broth.

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Next, I chopped any veggies that needed to be chopped,  and then added them to the broth.

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Then came all of the veggies.

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Next, I cut the beef into small pieces and added them back into the broth along with the remaining seasonings.

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Oops! This pot wouldn’t hold everything AND the remaining liquid (still to be added)…how about another pot?

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Much better! Finally, I added the tomato juice and mixed everything together.

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Yup, that fit a LOT better!

I brought it all to a boil, and then let it simmer for an hour (it’s done once the potatoes are tender).

Liz and the various festival vendors always added some sort of noodles (e.g. elbow macaroni) to the mix at the end, but I decided to leave it out. I like it both ways.

Served with some crusty bread, it makes a great meal on a sloppy winter’s day.

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Beef Veggie Soup
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: American
Serves: a small country
Ingredients
  • 2 lb. chuck roast
  • 1 can consomme
  • ½ can water
  • 1 package frozen green beans
  • 1 package frozen corn
  • 1 package frozen peas
  • 4 handfuls baby carrots, sliced
  • 2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • tomato juice
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • handful of dried parsley
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 can lima beans, drained
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1-2 cups elbow macaroni noodles, cooked (optional)
Instructions
  1. Brown chuck roast in 2 TBSP oil in a dutch oven. Add consomme and water. Bake at 350 degrees for 2 hours, or until tender. Remove beef from broth, skim fat from surface. Chop/shred beef, return to pot.
  2. Add remaining ingredients to the pot.
  3. Bring to boil, then turn down heat and simmer for an hour or until potatoes are tender.
  4. Optional: add cooked noodles at the end of cooking time.