How can something as simple as a potato pancake cause so much anxiety? Many of the writing you find about latkes involves motherly advice about squeezing, draining, or spinning the potatoes in the quest for the ultimate latke: crispy outside, creamy inside, a culinary and cultural touchstone. As a guest in the world of Jewish foodways, I was fascinated when I found this recipe. My first thought was, “hey, no potato angst!”
My second was, wouldn’t it be nice to do something a little dressier-looking than applesauce? Thus was born this dish, Cheese Latkes with Roasted Apples.
Jim Taylor, our Web architect, is married to a woman who makes latkes every night during Chanukah, which seems to me like a prodigious undertaking. I thought Joanna might be interested in adding a few more recipes to her roster. Since the mitzvah is in the oil, there’s no reason you couldn’t throw some Scallion pancakes into the lineup, too.
But for now, let’s make some Cheese Latkes. They’re the perfect answer to those who feel intimidated by all the grating, squeezing, and kvetching that happens over potato versions. They’re very easy to put together, and the results are terrific.
Let’s make the apples first. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Generously butter a baking sheet or shallow casserole dish.
Quarter the apples (you can peel them or not, as you like, but I think the skin helps hold them together after they’re cooked, and they look mighty nice), core them, and cut into 1/4-inch slices. Put them on the baking sheet, and brush the tops with more butter.
Sprinkle the apples with sugar, then bake for 20 minutes, until the sugar melts and the apples take on some color.
You can brown them under a broiler for more color, if you like. I’ve been known to take out the propane torch to brulée the tops a bit (one of my Martha Stewart moments, but hey, I had to get them ready for their closeup). Once you take the apples out of the oven, you have to get them off the baking sheet pronto, before the sugar hardens.
I moved them off to a parchment-lined tray.
Now for the latkes. Couldn’t be simpler. Beat the eggs with the milk.
Add the remaining ingredients, and beat the whole business until combined. The cottage cheese will still be there in little lumps, but that’s OK. Let the batter sit for 10 minutes so the matzo can absorb the liquid. If you’re using flour instead of matzoh meal, you’ll need 1 1/2 cups.
Drop by the scant quarter cup onto a hot, greased frying pan over medium-low heat. If you cook these at too high a temperature, the milk solids in the batter will brown, leaving a gritty black residue in the pan that will ruin the look of your latkes.
Let the batter cook slowly for about 3 minutes, until you see some color at the edges. Flip over, and cook for another 2 minutes.
Drain the cooked latkes on absorbent paper, and keep them warm in a 200°F oven until you’re ready to serve.
There you have it. Cheese Latkes with Roasted Apples are a tasty side dish for your Chanukah meal, without the potato angst.