Years ago, when I started writing about food, Hanukkah meant potato latkes. Period. Now, some of my favorite latke varieties include zucchini, sweet potato curry, or variations on the traditional potato that include such additions as celery root (also known as celeriac) and apple.
Two reasons have inspired these modern latke variations. First, today we are wildly curious about all foods; we constantly seek to reinvent the traditional. And second, we now have the food processor. I remember when I first heard about the Cuisinart. In 1974, Mexican cookbook writer Diana Kennedy was cooking outside Alps Drug Store on Ninth Avenue for the first Ninth Avenue Festival in New York City. She told me about a new machine that could, among other things, grate potatoes. Until then, I always used a hand grater, leaving me with bleeding knuckles by the time I finished. I immediately bought two food processors—one for my mother and another for myself. I have never, for one moment, had buyer’s remorse about that purchase.
Depending on how much you like potato, celery root, and apple, you can vary the proportions in the mix in this recipe. If you are having guests, make your latkes in the morning, let them drain on paper towels, and then crisp them up just as your guests arrive. I find this a much more festive way to spend an evening than frying latkes in the moment. And don’t forget the applesauce.
Joan Nathan is Tablet Magazine’s food columnist and the author of 10 cookbooks including King Solomon’s Table: a Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World.