Dearest Michael,
My dear love. For me, one of the greatest pleasures since you came into our lives is including Judaism as part of it. We have never been religious Jews, but certainly cultural ones and of course this is where food comes into the story. The traditions of Jewish holidays were always important to me. Knowing that you have four sets of Great Great Grandparents who escaped Russian pogroms for both opportunity in America, but also religious freedom has been an important enough reason to be sure to keep the tradition of our history alive. The way this has translated besides Hebrew School, your Bar Mitzvah and your first trip to Israel has been to celebrate the holidays. I have not always been super consistent with all things Jewish for sure. But knowing that I made a mark and exposed you to the values and rituals from the time you were born has been enough for me and hopefully for you too. It has not been an easy task to keep the traditions alive raising you in a primarily Catholic community, but this is the part of Judaism that many Jews struggle with so we march forth. I hope that as you make your way through your twenties, Judaism is part of your essence and your guide. I love that I was raised Jewish and I have deep memories of this connection. Of course food has been a centerpiece that has surrounded the experience and has added to the delight.
One of the ways I have tried to keep tradition alive has been to have Holiday parties, Passover Seders, Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot and of course Hanukkah have all been part of your life and inviting friends to be a part of this has added to the fun. Your great grandmother Isabelle made some delicious food for the Jewish Holidays. I have already listed her BRISKET and ISABELLE’S CHICKEN in previous entries. Since Hanukkah is on its way, I thought it would be apropos to include her delicious Latke recipe. This is not really “her” recipe because pretty much every basic LATKE recipe is this one, but since she was the one who taught me how to make these, I give her the shoutout. This recipe is one of your favorites and since I only make them once a year, they are even more special to those tastebuds of yours.
I hope that you will try to make these sometime in your life when you have your own apartment; for now though, you can count on me at least once a year.
Love Mom
I only make these once a year mainly because they are time consuming, but also because they really make your house smell like onions for a few days. I make a gigantic batch and freeze them. I usually quadruple this recipe.
The food processor is your friend here, I know there are purists who use a regular box grater, but I have never done that. I always use the shredding attachment to the Cuisinart.
4–6 Russet Potatoes, peeled and shredded
2 onions, shredded
1–2 eggs
Matzo meal or flour (I always use matzo meal)
Salt and pepper
Peanut oil
Grate the potatoes and onions and put in a large strainer lined with a clean dishcloth
You will need to strain as much liquid out as possible so don’t be impatient with this. Keep squeezing out the liquid, you cannot do this too much, it will be your friend when you form them.
Get a large frying pan out and put a generous amount of peanut oil and turn the stove on to the higher side of medium. The pan needs to be super hot.
Once you get most of the moisture out, place into the bowl and add the egg and generous amounts of salt and pepper, mix with your hands until well blended. The mixture should be on the moist side but not over liquidy, add the next egg if your instinct tells you to.
Begin adding matzo meal (or flour) to get everything to stick together so that you will easily be able to shape into small thin patties. You will be tempted to make the patties bigger than necessary. Go small and flatter. They will cook better and get the crispy edges that make these delicious.
Once they are formed place in the very hot pan (they should sizzle) and press flat. Be patient. Don’t play with them, just let them fry.
Flip when super brown and crispy.
Place on a long rectangle pan lined with paper towels and cook all of them layering them in the pan layered with paper towels.
If you decide to freeze, allow to cool and layer between wax paper and wrap tightly. When you take them out of the freezer, place in an oven that is about 325 and cook until crispy and heated again.
Serve with applesauce and sour cream and remember to give the dreidel a spin too!

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