Latkes Are to Hanukkah What Candy Canes are to Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Another great recipe from Susan Taves for HorsesDaily

We’re not all in Florida this season, but even if you’re up in the maritime climes and snow is falling, think of adding a Caribbean twist to the holiday season.   Pop in some reggae: it’s the best music for cooking, you fall into its rhythm…

Know Your Roots Latkes

So you shop at Whole Foods or dash in a local Mercado or tropical grocer and gaze longingly at the array of colorful and oddly shaped tubers, but you don’t know just what to do with them.  Here’s a crash course in Roots 101.  And you don’t have to be celebrating Hannukah to serve these.  Place a tray of minis on your next buffet and watch them vanish quicker than you can say, L’Chaim!

Latkes are to Hanukkah what candy canes are to Christmas!  Eaten by Jewish people across the globe, oil is king here.  History has it that after a synagogue was desecrated beyond recognition, the candelabrium or menorah that burns fervently and eternally, had only enough oil to burn for one day.  Outnumbered 100-1, a defiant group of Jewish militants descended from the hills to reclaim the synagogue and their religious rights.  Miraculously the oil burned for eight days, thus giving birth to Hanukkah or The Festival of Lights.

1 cassava (yucca in Spanish)
2 organic Russet potatoes
1 Boniato or garnet yam
2 purple potatoes if available
1 medium yellow onion
salt and pepper to taste
dash of hot sauce
3 eggs

Chop or grind the onion in a food processor.  Next, grate the tubers into a separate bowl.  Grating them gives them a better texture.  You can use the food processor, but it’s not the same.  Squeeze as much water out of them in small batches and place in dry bowl.  Do the same with the onion (you can use cheesecloth) and add to tubers.  Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.  It will oxidize or turn brown, but no matter; you are going to fry it anyway.  By doing this, you’ll have a crispier outcome.  Beat the eggs in a bowl and add a bit at a time, mixing with a wooden spoon until the mixture holds together.

Start with a heaping tablespoon of salt and a teaspoon of black pepper and hot sauce to taste (I like to use a dash of red Jamaican Pickapepa for this).  Form a latke in your hands.  It should be an inch or so in thickness so the inside is creamy and the outside crisp.  Pour one inch of oil in a heavy frying pan and heat over medium high heat.

The oil should sizzle when you add a piece of potato, but the pan should not be smoking.  Test one for seasoning and adjust if necessary.  Drain on paper towels and keep warm in a low oven until ready to serve.

Banana Chutney
Sacre Bleu! No applesauce?  Of course homemade applesauce is scrumptious and traditional, and adds the right sweetness for the upcoming year, but this is the year of change; remember?

Two yellow bananas, ripe but still firm, sliced into small dice
½ teaspoon of Jamaican Browning or Burnt Sugar; if this isn’t available, add 1 teaspoon of Blackstrap Molasses instead
Stir gently together so as not to break the banana. 
Note: Cassava or yucca is used widely throughout South America, the Caribbean and Africa.  It gives us tapioca and delicious Jamaican Bammy.  Typically, when you purchase it, it has a thick waxy coating.  The outside should be hard with no soft spots and you’ll need to cut away the skin with a knife.   The inside will be a creamy white and smell fresh.

Nutty As A Fruitcake

So you think you hate fruitcake, the quintessential most regifted holiday unfavorite (based on my own informal poll)!  Well, once you try this one, fawgeddaboudit. You’ll never turn back.  Grinding the fruit to a paste and tossing asunder the candied rinds and fruits (dip those in chocolate instead and serve as migniardises) will rekindle the fruitcake’s rightful place on the Christmas buffet.

The poor fruitcake suffered unthinkable prejudice in the latter half of the 20th century; even bearing the nomenclature of someone who is off his or her rocker.  Which may be attributed to the effects of the copious amount of alcohol infused in them.   Its history is long and virtuous and after you taste this one, you’ll know why.  Did you know that in England and throughout the Britsh West Indies the fruitcake is the traditional wedding cake?  Covered in marzipan and fondant, its vast amounts of alcohol and sugar preserved fruits to ensure its longevity and moistness.

1 10-inch springform or well buttered cake pan (it is best if you cut a piece of parchment paper to line the bottom.  Butter the underside so it sticks to the pan)

Soak 2 lbs. of raisins, currants or prunes in ratio of choice (I like it best with 1 lb. of golden raisins, ¼ lb. black raisins, ¼ lb. currants and ½ lb. prunes) in equal amount of good Port Wine for at least 24 hours.  Caribbeans soak their fruits for at least a year!  You can soak in rum for a stronger taste, but I prefer the subtle sweetness of Port.

2 sticks (one cup or ½ lb.) good quality salted butter
2 1/3 cups of dark brown sugar (Moscovado if you can handle the expense)
6 eggs

2 cups all purpose flour
¼ t. baking powder
1 t. allspice
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. ginger

1 cup Dark rum
1 cup dark brown sugar

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, over medium heat, cook rum and 1 cup of brown sugar to a dark syrup.  This will be beyond a a boil; the end result should be dark and still pourable, the consistency of molasses.  Set aside, but don’t refrigerate.

Grind the soaking fruits in a food processor adding soaking liquid in a steady stream until it forms a thick paste.

Cream butter and 2 1/3 cup sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time until incorporated, taking care not to overmix here.   Sift dry ingredients and add alternating with fruit mixture.  Finally, add the rum syrup until the batter is soft; not runny, not thick like cookie dough.  Reserve some of the syrup to pour over cake when it is finished.  Pour into a buttered 9”springform pan.

Bake in a 300 degree oven  covered with water in a bain marie (put water in your pan) so you are steaming.  Cover lightly with foil.  Bake for an hour and a half.  Then turn off the oven, leaving cake in for half an hour more.  Test the center; the cake will be moist and the tester may not come out clean, however, it should be relatively dry.  If not, let it bake/steam a bit longer.  Remove from oven and water bath*  and pour remaining syrup over the cake.

Believe it or not, in the Caribbean they eat the cake with a slice of cheddar cheese.  It’s quite delicious.  Or a scoop of vanilla ice cream always makes for a great ending!