Archive for December, 2008

The Latke Variation: A clash with tradition

Posted in Portland with tags , , , , on December 25, 2008 by Donna Arriaga


That’s the image that kept swarming through my mind as I conjured up creative variations on the same, ‘ol traditional potato pancake.  I know, I know. For many, I’m already committing a massive assault against the beautiful crisp, wonderfully golden, already perfect latke. But I cannot help it.  I’ve never really been an adherent to traditions.

…and with food, I’m especially reluctant to permit creativity to be squelched by tradition.

But during this holiday season, I thought that perhaps I could arrive at a feasible compromise.  I’d take a traditional latke recipe and make some very minor changes… like adding some freshly chopped flat leaf parsley to the batter. And as for accompaniments, instead of the traditional dollop of applesauce or sour cream, I’d twist it up a bit.

Mini latkes would be topped with sourcream and a tiny bit of caviar — OR sourcream, a bit of smoked salmon and a sprig of chive. Essentially, I would exchange a blini for the golden crisp of a latke.  This is what I envisioned (exchange blini for mini latkes, of course):

But the definitive feedback was that latkes just weren’t meant to be eaten as appetizers. The holiday consumer was supposed to have free reign to pile multiple latkes onto one’s plate and freely add the accompaniments of sour cream or applesauce at his or her own free will.

So, I went back to the drawing board.

I focused on the fiery heat of beautiful chilies and decided to add this to the traditional batter:

  • minced jalapano
  • chopped fresh cilantro
  • garlic
  • toasted cumin
  • 2 options for sour cream garnish: 1) Chipotle sour cream and 2) Plain sour cream, for those who can’t take the heat <wink, wink>

It’s certainly not wildly creative or artistically eccentric, but maybe I’ll reserve that for next year’s latkes.

An interesting note: At the end of the traditional latke recipe, the author makes a number of suggestions for nontraditional latkes including vege latkes and the addition of jalapeno pepper.

In closing, I think it’s only fair to circle back to the beginning…  Sure, I have my challenges with tradition (“…and with food, I’m especially reluctant to permit creativity to be squelched by tradition”).  But I’ll give a little and allow Tevye — that philosophical milkman — to have the last word.

Without traditions, our lives would be as shaky as a fiddler on the roof.