Sweet Potato Latkes + Kosher Creme Fraiche
Lately, I’ve been staking out kosher dairy. It started with an inquiry from the Hazon Food Festival, where I gave a little talk. Then I heard about a Philadelphia caterer who requested a kosher cheese board from a cheesemonger I know. Kosher dairy? I was totally unschooled, so I skittered down to Di Bruno Bros. on a dead Monday and got a tutorial from Ian Peacock who pointed out every kosher product in the Italian Market store.
Big surprise: many of my fave products on the shelves carry a kosher symbol — from olive oils to dulce de leche — but I learned a hard truth about the cheeses at the counter. Even wheels that are certified Kosher lose their K-rating when they are cracked open in a non-kosher environment. Case in point: Point Reyes Blue. (Keep in mind that meat and dairy co-mingling is definitely NOT kosher — and at DB’s, Brie and prosciutto love to make out in the walk-in.)
Here’s where I am going to plug Vermont Creamery for what feels like the hundredth time this year (I think cheesemaker Allison Hooper slipped a chip in my brain when I stayed at her blogger chalet over the summer): Hooper makes kosher-certified cow’s milk products that stay kosher because they are individually packaged and therefore not exposed to the unkosher elements of your local cheese shop. Just look for the “k” rating on the back of the tub.
You want to have a Kosher-pa-looza? Grab your granny basket and load up on kosher crème fraiche, mascarpone, quark, fromage blanc and cultured butter. You can find Vermont Creamery products across the U.S. in markets big and small, and they are dreamily, creamily kosher. In a recent email to me about her kosher products, Hooper stressed that she uses milk and cream that are hormone-free, and she does not use any preservatives or stabilizers.
Hooper maintains her kosher certification — at her own expense — by following guidelines, like keeping kosher and non-kosher equipment separate. Her goat cheeses, for which she is famous, are not kosher for this reason. Honestly, this was fascinating news to me. I envisioned daily visits from a holy man who would bless stock rooms full of Vermont Creamery dairy. Hooper ensured me that there’s no such dial-a-rabbi.
In the spirit of Thanksgivvukah, I used Vermont Creamery’s kosher crème fraiche to top sweet potato latkes. They were remarkable, I must say. To read more about kosher cheeses, check out my post on the Di Bruno Bros. blog this week. I detail a few fabulous firm cheeses that are kosher certified, along with some vegetarian cheeses (no animal rennet) that aren’t kosher but are definitely in keeping with the spirit.
Sweet Potato Latkes with Kosher Crème Fraiche
This recipe comes from Serious Eats — I made very few changes. Note: these latkes are gluten-free. I’m a baguette addict, but I liked the idea of using rice flour instead of wheat flour here. I imagined that this little nuance would make the latkes lighter. So key! I have eaten my share of leaden latkes. Indeed, this recipe produces latkes that are almost billowy. Thwack a spoonful of crème fraiche on top, and you’ve got a sweet-savory supper.
1 pound sweet potatoes (two biggies), peeled and grated
1 large yellow onion, peeled and grated
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white rice flour
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 scallions, minced, for garnish
apple or cranberry sauce (optional)
Peanut oil or vegetable oil, for frying
1. In a large bowl, combine the grated sweet potatoes and onions. Your eyes will be red and stinging from grating the onion, so pour yourself a little nip of something before the next step.
2. Take an old but clean kitchen towel (or some cheese cloth) and lay it in the counter. Pile the onion-potato mixture onto it, gather the edges, and carry this over to the sink. Wring it out while you weep. The amount of juice that comes out will be pleasantly startling.
2. Set this messy business aside. In your large bowl, combine the salt, flour, and black pepper. Whisk in the beaten eggs. Then add your gratted tatties and onions.
3. Get out a frying pan and pour 1/4 inch of oil into it. Crank up the heat to medium-high, and get it good’n hot. When you think it’s ready, sprinkle a little water on the pan: if it sizzles, you’re ready to fry.
4. Form patties, using 1/4 cup batter per pancake. Fry latkes 2-3 minutes on a side, or until both sides are golden.
Serving Tip: If you put a cookie sheet in your oven and turn it on low (about 200 degrees), this makes a lovely warming tray. You can fry all your latkes at once, then serve them topped with creme fraiche and scallions. A little warm apple sauce on the side is nice, but these latkes are sweet enough without it. Cranberry sauce would be better and more Thanksgivvukah-appropriate.