latke bar by Leah Koenig

latke bar by Leah Koenig

Potato latkes are my love language…

Like any Eastern European-descended Jewish gal (or heck, anyone with taste buds), I have precisely zero willpower around latkes. I enjoy them equally hot and crackling from the frying pan and nibbled cold from the fridge.

If I have one tiny quibble with my favorite Hanukkah potato fritters, it is that they can be tricky to construct a meal around. They are hearty, filling, and have center-of-the-table star appeal, but are not quite a main dish. Most often I serve them alongside brisket or some kind of braised chicken because the combo of tender, saucy meat and starchy fried potatoes is golden. But when I am really smart, I make a latke board.

As it turns out, surrounding latkes with a gorgeous and colorful medley of fruit, veggies, cheeses, olives and other goodies perfectly rounds out the meal while letting the latkes shine. And it is easier than you might think, even for the artistically challenged among us (raises hand). Here are some tips for keeping your latke board low stress while maximizing style and deliciousness.

Make The Latkes Ahead

The only active cooking involved in this Hanukkah-friendly board are the latkes themselves. And while nothing beats a freshly fried latke, they also reheat surprisingly well. I like to make a batch of latkes ahead of time, then store the well-wrapped latkes in the fridge (or freezer, if it will be more than a day or two). When Hanukkah rolls around, lay the latkes in a single layer on a baking sheet and crisp them up in a 350˚F oven. That way, you don’t spend the entire holiday flipping latkes at the stove. No one will know the difference, I promise!

Curate Your Toppings

Sour cream and applesauce are the two most traditional latke condiments, but anything that belongs on a cheese board also works for a latke board. Soft and hard cheeses, lox or caviar, pickles and olives are a great start. You can also layer on crisp veggies like sliced cucumber, snap peas or radishes, and seasonal fruits like pomegranates (latke + sour cream + fresh pomegranate seeds is an unbeatable combo!), citrus, quince paste, or dried dates and apricots.

Balance Your Colors

You do not have to be a trained artist to create a beautiful latke board. I usually start by laying down the latkes in a curving line, and then build out everything around them. Aim for a balance of color across the board — for example, anchoring one side with ruby pomegranate quarters and offsetting them with red-purple figs or berries on the other side, or placing green olives and snap peas throughout for verdant pops of green. If you need inspiration or design ideas, Instagram has you covered.

Don’t Forget the Chocolate

Give your latke board a touch of sweetness and holiday sparkle by tucking in pieces of foil-wrapped Hanukkah gelt throughout. I particularly love the chocolate gelt from Divine, which uses fair trade cocoa beans, sugar and vanilla; high quality ingredients; and no artificial flavors.

Potato Latkes
Recipe from my cookbook, The Jewish Cookbook
Serves 6 to 8

4 lbs russet potatoes, scrubbed, unpeeled, and patted dry
1 medium onion, peeled
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 to 5 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley, optional
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil (like sunflower), for frying
Sour cream and applesauce, for serving

Line two large baking sheets with several layers of paper towels, set aside.

Grate the potatoes and onion on the large holes of a box grater. (Or, cut them into quarters and shred using the shredding blade of a food processor.) Working in batches, wrap the shredded potato and onion in a tea towel or several layers of paper towels and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

Add the potatoes and onion to a large bowl along with the flour, 4 eggs, parsley, if using, salt, and pepper. Mix until the ingredients are fully incorporated. If the mixture looks dry, mix in the remaining egg

In a large frying pan, heat 1/4-inch of oil over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking.

Working in batches of 4 or 5, drop the batter by the 1/4 cup into the pan and press gently with a spatula to flatten. Cook, flipping once, until browned on both sides and cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Continue frying until all of the potato mixture is used up, adding additional oil to the pan if necessary, and adjust the heat up or down if the latkes are browning too quickly or not quickly enough.

Transfer the cooked latkes to the paper towels to drain. Serve immediately topped with sour cream, applesauce, or both. Reheat leftovers by laying the latkes in a single layer on a baking sheet and crisping them up in a 350˚F oven until bubbling and warmed through, 5 to 10 minutes.

P.S. The easiest way for a dinner to feel special and how to make a Trader Joe’s cheese plate.