A traditional Hannukah favourite, latkes are prime for delicious new twists—but nothing beats the original.

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Phyllis Grossman may just make the best latkes in Toronto. If you ask Zane Caplansky, owner of Caplansky’s Deli and host of Toronto’s annual Latkepalooza festival, that is. It’s a dead heat between Phyllis, two-time winner of Latkepalooza’s Battle of the Bubbies competition, and Caplansky’s mother. Figures that man whose own latkes sell by the tens of thousands every Hannukah would cede pancake primacy to a bona fide bubbie and his own mom. Latkes are just that kind of good-for-the-soul comfort food that—whether you’re Jewish or not—brings back childhood, family and tradition.

So, against Phyllis, no one stands a chance. “You get all these young upstart kids with their newfangled latkes,” laughs Caplansky. “But the competition is by popular ballot…and Phyllis wins by a mile.” It’s not that twists on the classic aren’t welcome, or delicious. Caplansky himself is apt to play with colour, bringing in sweet potato for orange latkes, or beets for red ones, each variation adding sweetness to the savoury favourite. Mouth-watering possibilities just roll of the tongue, like using latkes as “buns” in a brisket slider, or slicing them into fries to make poutine, “or if you grate a little white truffle onto your latke—no bubbie ever did that, but you’d be the hit of the Hannukah party,” Caplansky says. “There’s a place for tradition and continuity and there’s another place for starting new traditions and creativity,” he says. “I’ve always loved melding those old-world and new-word sensibilities.”

Caplansky’s culinary success backs up his philosophy. But when the votes are counted, it’s Phyllis who wins every time—and with the simplest of recipes. It’s the mom’s-kitchen goodness of latkes that fuels their popularity. “People can’t or won’t divorce themselves from that memory,” Caplansky says. “So when Phyllis serves what she serves it just hits that nerve.”

This article is courtesy of The Kit.

Two-Potato Latkes

Prep & Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Serves: 8

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Ingredients:

5 baking potatoes, about 2½ pounds
2 sweet potatoes, about 1½ pounds
3 small onions, quartered
4 eggs, beaten
? cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon tsp pepper
Vegetable oil, for cooking

Directions:

  1. Peel baking and sweet potatoes and cut lengthwise into quarters.
  2. By hand or in food processor using shredder blade, alternately shred onions and potatoes.
  3. Transfer to colander; squeeze out as much moisture as possible, discarding liquid.
  4. Transfer potato and onion mixture to large bowl. Mix in eggs, flour, baking powder, salt and pepper.
  5. In 2 skillets, heat 1/4 inch (5 mm) oil over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking.
  6. Add ¼ cup (50 ml) mixture per latke to skillets, leaving space between each; flatten slightly.
  7. Cook for 3 minutes or until browned and crisp around edges; turn and cook until crisp and golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towel–lined racks to drain well.
  8. Repeat with remaining mixture, stirring to re-blend, removing any cooked bits from skillet and adding more oil as necessary.

Get more holiday recipes and tips here: The Kit Holiday Issue.