BY NORMAN VAN AKEN, AUTHOR OF NORMAN VAN AKEN’S FLORIDA KITCHEN
The rich tapestry of Jewish cooking finally reached my born-in-the-farmland-of-Northern-Illinois consciousness in the town of Boca Raton, where many transplanted New Yorkers came to escape the winters but also held fast to many of their delicious culinary traditions. Latkes don’t have to only accompany applesauce. They are brilliant canapé holders for many ingredients. My very favorite two New Yorkers of all time (my mother and grandmother) taught me to appreciate them with caviar. Every chance I get, I honor their custom.
LATKES WITH CAVIAR AND SOUR CREAM
Yield: 16–18 latkes
Preheat oven to 375º
4 Idaho potatoes, scrubbed and peeled
1 sweet onion, peeled
2 large eggs
1/4 cup finely ground breadcrumbs
3 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
8 scallions, white part mainly, cut crosswise, small rounds
3 tablespoons roasted garlic
Canola oil to cook the latkes in, as needed
Caviar, as desired!
Shred the potato and onion on the large holes of a box grater into a large bowl.
Toss the shredded onion and potato mix to “season” the potatoes with the onion “juices.”
Gather the mixture up on a large section of rinsed cheesecloth. Allow the combination of potato and onion mixture to hang in a ball-like shape about 15 minutes. The gravity will rid most of the “water” from the potato and onion. Now twist and squeeze the cheesecloth to get the rest out. Carefully unwrap the ball of cheesecloth and place the potato and onion mix in a bowl. Fluff them out and gently pull out the strands somewhat as you do.
Mix the eggs, breadcrumbs, salt, baking powder, black pepper, scallions and roasted garlic all together in a bowl. Now pour that egg mix over the potato and onion combination and toss to balance out the ingredients evenly.
Heat a heavy sauté pan. Add in the oil and allow it to come up about 1/8 inch. When the oil is fairly hot form a loose ‘cake’ with the mixture. Carefully drop the cake down in the hot oil and continue to make more cakes. Cook the cakes about 1 1/2–2 minutes per side, allowing them to become crispy and golden. Remove them to absorbent toweling. Cook all of the latke cakes until done and sitting on the toweling.
When ready to serve, put them in the preheated oven for about 2-3 minutes to heat through.
Place sour cream on each latke. Top with the best caviar the budget will allow. Serve.
Norman Van Aken is chef-owner of NORMAN’S at The Ritz-Carlton, Grande Lakes, Orlando, and 1921 by Norman Van Aken in Mount Dora, Florida. Additionally, he is chef-partner at Three, a fine dining restaurant, and No. 3 Social, a roof deck lounge, in the Wynwood Arts District of Miami. His cooking school, In the Kitchen with Norman Van Aken, is also in Wynwood. Van Aken is the only Floridian inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America and was a 2016 MenuMasters Hall of Fame inductee with Jacques Pépin and Wolfgang Puck. He is the author of five cookbooks, including My Key West Kitchen: Recipes and Stories with Justin Van Aken, and a memoir, No Experience Necessary: The Culinary Odyssey of Chef Norman Van Aken.