I once read many years ago, the only mitzvah that has increased among all the Jewish people was lighting candles on Chanukah. I'm sure it was because in most Jewish homes, candle lighting is followed by jelly doughnuts or potato pancakes (latkes in Yiddish).

It is customary that we eat foods fried in oil on Chanukah because the oil symbolizes the miraculous burning of a small amount of pure oil in the Menorah for eight days in the Holy Temple until new oil was prepared for its use.

In my home in Schenectady, New York, my mother would grate the potatoes and prepare the batter for latkes every Chanukah. It was a race to fry the potatoes before the mixture turned an ugly green. The other race was to make them fast enough to accumulate enough for a meal while everyone was visiting the kitchen to taste just one to see if they were any good. The latkes are still the high point of Chanukah for my family. It brings the family together and we sing and talk about the miracle. So I guess it is a good starting point.

Here are several good recipes for latkes. We would eat our latkes with maple syrup or salt or sour cream or apple sauce -- any combination, or nothing at all, or all of the above. Enjoy!

And Happy Chanukah! -- Chef Herschel

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POTATO LATKES AND ONION

6 potatoes
1 onion
4 eggs
3 tbsps. matza meal
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 tsp. baking powder

Grate by hand potatoes and onion. Add eggs and then dry ingredients. Fry in hot oil. Replace 2 of the potatoes with zucchini for lighter pancakes.

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LATKES (POTATO PANCAKES) (from The Flavor of Jerusalem)

A favorite eaten at Chanukah. Each cook has her infallible recipe, but we liked this version, which we found to be especially light.

3 large potatoes
3 tbsps. milk
1 egg
1/2 tsp. baking powder
salt and pepper to taste
cooking oil

If the skins of the potatoes are thin and unblemished, do not peel the potatoes but scrub them well. Otherwise, peel them; then grate 1 potato on the large holes of a grater and the other two on the medium holes. Beat in the milk, egg and baking powder. Season with salt and pepper; blend well, If there is a large amount of liquid in the mixture, drain off some of it. Heat a scant ½ inch of oil in a large skillet until it is very hot but not smoking. Drop the batter by large spoonfuls, flatten then slightly. Turn them once. When they are golden brown on the bottom side, cook them several minutes longer and drain them on paper towels. (The latkes will have crisp edges.)

Serve hot with sour cream or applesauce.

Makes 3-4 servings.

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NANA'S LATKES (from the New York Times)

2 lbs. Idaho potatoes
2 lbs. Yukon potatoes
5 eggs, beaten
1 cup flour
salt
vegetable oil for frying
sour cream
apple sauce

Peel potatoes, and keep in cold water until you are ready to grate them.

Grate the potatoes coarsely by hand (or with a Cuisinart using first the shredding blade then the blending blade). The mixture should be slighly lumpy and not too blended. Add the beaten eggs. Mix in up to 1 cup of flour. Add a little salt. The batter should be fairly liquid and not too thick.

Heat about a half-inch of vegetable oil in a frying pan. When the oil is very hot, use a soup spoon as a measure to put in small amounts of batter in the oil. Frying the pancakes on one side, then the other, until they have turned brown on both sides and are crispy around the edges.

Drain the pancakes on paper towels that have been placed on a platter atop a saucepan of simmering hot water or keep warm in the oven.

Makes about 80 3-inch latkes.

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(The following 3 recipes are taken from: The Settlement Cookbook)

SOUR CREAM POTATO PANCAKES

4 large potatoes or 2 cups raw, grated potatoes
1/2 cup sour cream or 1/2 cup hot milk
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs, separated

Grate the potatoes, place in a colander, set over a bowl and drain. When the starch has settled in the bottom of the bowl, discard top liquid. Place drained potatoes in a mixing bowl, add starch, cream or hot milk, and salt. Beat yolks well; add to potato mixture; fold in the stiffly beaten whites. Drop by spoonfuls on a hot, well-greased skillet. Brown slowly on both sides. Serve with apple sauce.

Makes 4 servings.

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POTATO PANCAKES

4 large potatoes or 2 cups raw grated potatoes
2 eggs
1/8 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsps. salt
1 tbsp. flour, bread crumbs or matza meal
dash of pepper

Peel potatoes, grate, drain. Beat eggs well and mix with the rest of the ingredients. Drop by spoonfuls on a hot, well-greased skillet. Brown on both sides. Serve with applesauce.

Makes 4 servings.

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BAKED POTATO PANCAKES

Mix as above. Heat a generous amount of fat in a skillet, add potato batter; bake in a hot oven, 400ºF, for 25 minutes.