Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Inspector Green's Killer Latkes

There is a thin line between writers and food, even down on the meanest streets. Last Saturday I was at a mystery extravaganza hosted by Sleuth of Baker Street in Toronto, possibly the last mystery bookstore left standing in all of Canada and a wonderful venue for those seeking out that elusive Canadian crime novel. Six authors featured our newest releases at the event; myself, Erika Chase, Joan Boswell, Vicki Delany, Melodie Campbell and fellow Type M-er Rick Blechta. For Melodie and me, it was the launch of our brand new Rapid Reads books, my Evil Behind that Door, and her The Goddaughter

 The party was called Merry Mystery, so nestled amidst the Christmas tree napkins, mince tarts and miniature Santas was my platter of Chanukah cookies and a small menorah. It got me thinking that every year, amid the ubiquitous glitz and shimmer of Christmas decorations and the absolutely fabulous shortbread and fruitcake, I deck my house out in silver and blue and bake traditional Chanukah treats. Some of them, that is. If nothing else, Chanukah cookies and latkes make an appearance.

I am quite a traditionalist when it comes to holiday food, perhaps because I am relying on my in-laws' recipes and they died well before my children could ever share their holiday traditions and cooking. My husband too is dead, so I feel as if I am my children's link to their past and to keeping their memory alive. Nonetheless, Jewish food from the 40s and 50s was essentially Eastern European peasant food, heavy on potatoes, chicken fat, onions and cheap meats cooked for a thousand years to make them edible. So I do venture out into more modern alternatives, adding zucchini and sweet potato to the latkes, adding whole grains, brown sugar and ground nuts to the cookies. Especially after eight days! Eight days makes an inventor out of the most traditional cook.

But to start off the holiday (which begins this weekend) and to grace the major family get-together, I always fry up a batch of my father-in-law's classic potato latkes. Nothing smells as divine or tastes as tender as a potato latke deep-fried to crisp, golden perfection. Mixed with just the right dash of pepper and onion, and topped with sour cream.

Some years ago Crime Writers of Canada published a collection of recipes submitted by members in a book entitled Dishes to Die For, Again (there was an original before my time). Each recipe was to be linked to our books and/or major character, perhaps a recipe our character ate frequently or cooked in the books. Our bios explained the connection. Those of you who know Inspector Green, know he doesn't cook, and indeed barely finds time to eat. The only foods mentioned in the books are Montreal smoked meat on rye, and cheese blintzes. Smoked meat is best left to the experts, and only the most intrepid cook would dare to try their hand at cheese blintzes either. I tried once. Enough said.

So I turned my thoughts to holiday fare, and decided Inspector Green might very well try to cook latkes, under the eagle eye of his wife and with the fire extinguisher close at hand. Green too is a traditionalist, and would have used the recipe brought over from Poland by his immigrant parents after the war. Undoubtedly it would have been very much like my father-in-law's.

This was the recipe I submitted to the cookbook, reborn under the name Inspector Green's Killer Latkes, because in the wrong hands they could very well burn the house down.

5-6 medium potatoes, coarsely grated by hand (although I cheat)
1 medium onion, grated
3 eggs
1/4 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder (both the flour and powder would have been approximate)
1 tsp. salt or to taste
1/2 tsp. pepper or to taste

Strain grated potatoes to drain off excess water, mix with remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Heat about 1/2 in. vegetable or sunflower oil in a frying pan (cast iron works best) until a small drop of water spits. Drop potato mixture from a spoon and flatten slightly. Cook on both sides over medium heat until golden. Drain on paper towels, serve hot with sour cream. Or apple sauce if you must.

Enjoy. Happy Chanukah to all.

1 comment:

Rick Blechta said...

This looks like a very nice recipe. I do have one quibble, though: apple sauce, especially if it's homemade goes very well with latkes. One of our favourite things to do is add freshly grated horseradish to the apple sauce. Amazing. But that could just be my memories of Vienna, where they do this a lot.