The Festival of Oil

On Tuesday the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah begins at sunset. It celebrates the reconsecration of the Temple in Jerusalem, and a miracle that occurred when the sacred oil burned for eight days when it should have only lasted for one. Today that miracle is symbolized by lighting a nine-branched menorah (one for each day plus a shammos, or helper-candle) and the partaking of things fried in oil. In Israel, that usually means jelly doughnuts, but among American Jews of European descent, it means latkes—shredded potatoes fried in oil.

Everyone has their family recipe, but this isn’t mine. Rather, this is the way I like to eat them, super crispy on the outside and just a bit of creamy potato goodness in the center. The secret is big shreds of potato loosely held together so the oil bubbles all around it and through it. Try these Super Crispy Latkes with sour cream and applesauce.

Latkes cook best when you have extracted as much water from the mixture as possible. Paper towels and strainers just don’t work. The best way to get out liquid is by using a tea towel as a screw press to compress the potato shreds. Drape the towel over a big bowl and add the potato mixture on top, then gather the ends to make a bundle. Start twisting the top ends and the liquid will be squeezed through the cloth. You might even grab the bulging sack and massage more liquid out by squeezing it that way too. It’s possible to get 2 cups or more of liquid out of the potatoes in the recipe we are featuring. All of this is done before any other ingredients are added.

Beware of one thing though. Latkes have a short half life, Leaving them in a warm oven soon makes them stale-tasting. Oddly enough, letting them cool and then reheating them works much better. In fact, I have found that making them a day before and quickly reheating all of them in a hot oven brings back most of the flavor and crunch. Still, like just about any pancake, there is no substitution for one fresh out of the pan. They are addictive.

Here are some behind-the scenes shots of preparing the latke photo in DxD:

The Spice of Life

This image came in the other day from Florence Sumaray—one of the lucky people who attended the Launch Party and received a bottle of AURAS Spice Mix. Here’s one of the many uses for this versatile blend—sprinkled on popcorn, it adds a kick. The AURAS Spice mix came about as an attempt to create a less-salty and more sophisticated alternative to McCormick’s Season-All, and to balance the flavors of salty, peppery, floral and spicy. It’s a mix of salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder, paprika, chili powder and lemon peel, along with a bit of cumin, allspice and cayenne pepper. The AURAS Spice Mix is great on meats and fish, and adds a zing to vegetable sautés. It mates really well with brown sugar to create salty-sweet rubs for chicken or pork.

People have found lots of other uses for the Mix. Add a 1/4 cup to a bottle of ketchup and create a new flavor sensation. Use it as a topping for deviled eggs, or mix it with sour cream to have with latkes. What other good ideas will you discover using the Mix? We would love to hear about all of them.

It’s pretty easy to make the AURAS Spice Mix yourself (as well as the Savory Spice Blend featured on the same page) but we were wondering if it might be good enough to sell as a product all by itself. Sure, there’s no mystery to the recipe, but it is nice to have it ready-to-go. Is this a product that’s good enough for Prime Time? I know it’s great with Prime beef.

The Perfect Recipe for Christmas (or any other) Morning

What is the perfect dish for a cozy holiday morning? It would be something rich, flavorful and—let’s be honest—easy to prepare. One of my favorite brunch dishes is French toast, but just like pancakes, it requires a lot of last-minute stovetop attention. So, here is all the yumminess of French toast in a version that puffs up in the oven and makes an incredible centerpiece to your festivities. The French Toast Soufflé—the latest DxD Extra recipe—is sweet, chewy and a little bit salty. Paired with some sausage from Edwards (http://virginiatraditions.com/Smoked-Sausage-Links.aspx) and a fresh citrus salad of grapefruit, and orange segments, it’s a perfect way to enjoy your Christmas or New Year’s morning, not to mention a Hanukkah Brunch. You can have fun trying your own additions to the basic recipe. I’ve suggested a few, but use your imagination. And since the recipe multiplies well, you can serve a big crowd.