It’s like some kind of wonky cosmic convergence – within the space of a weekend we get to celebrate Thanksgiving and get to celebrate Hanukkah. Oh, and even Black Friday, if you’re of that persuasion.
By the time you read this, most of you will have packed up (or polished off) the leftovers from Thanksgiving, so it’s a good time to turn to Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Light and fried foods, which begins at sundown on Sunday.
Hanukkah is a celebration of an ancient miracle. When the Maccabees set out to reconsecrate a vandalized temple, they needed to have an oil lamp burn at all times, but they had only enough oil to last one day. The miracle was that the oil lasted eight days – and that's why Hanukkah does too. I found a good and straightforward explanation of the holiday in an unexpected place: Town & Country magazine.
Knowing that Hanukkah commemorates the oil that burned longer than it should have helps to explain why foods fried in oil are part of every Hanukkah celebration. The most usual foods are latkes – potato pancakes (grated potatoes cooked in oil) – and jelly donuts. But just as I went for the untraditional when I gave you recipes for Thanksgiving desserts, I’m adding a bit of surprise to this holiday too.
Here’s my choice to welcome in this joyous celebration: Fried Potato Crackers!
I originally made this as a savory cookie to have with wine and called it a “cocktail cookie”. And since, as far as I know, there are no strictures against having a cocktail on Hanukkah, now’s the time to pull out the booze – and the frying pan.
I hope you have a great weekend and a Happy Hanukkah. I’ll see you back here on Tuesday with another behind-the-scenes look at making a cookbook!
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These are fun from start to nibble – they get their flavor from potato flakes (yes, instant mashed potato flakes); they’re rolled out wafer-thin, cut into finger shapes (or squares or trapezoids or anything else), slit just a bit, so that they don’t fold over on themselves, and then fried in olive oil until crisp and crunchy.
Munch them like potato chips or fancy them up with crème fraîche and some salmon roe. A glass of sparkling wine can only make a good thing even better.
Makes about 60 crackers
3⁄4 cup (102 grams) all-purpose flour
1⁄2 cup (33 grams) potato flakes
1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
1⁄2 teaspoon fine sea salt or 3⁄4 teaspoon fleur de sel
1 large egg, at room temperature
About 3 tablespoons hot water
Olive oil, for deep-frying
Fleur de sel or flake sea salt, such as Maldon, for sprinkling
Whisk the flour, potato flakes and baking powder together.
Whisk the butter and salt together in a large bowl until smooth. Add the egg and whisk it in (ignore the fact that the mixture will look like egg-drop soup). Switch to a flexible spatula, add the dry ingredients and mix, aiming to moisten the dough but knowing that there will be lumps and dry flakes. Pour 3 tablespoons hot water over the dough and mix until it comes together. If the dough still looks a bit dry, add more water drop by drop; stop when you have a soft, moist dough.
Turn the dough out, knead it a few times and divide it in half. Shape each half into a rectangle and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Line a baking sheet with parchment. Flour both sides of one piece of dough and sandwich it between sheets of parchment. Start rolling, turning the dough over to roll on both sides and dusting it with more flour as needed, until it’s paper-thin. I try to get a rectangle that’s about 8 x 12 inches, but it’s the thinness, not the perfect shape or size, that counts. Peel off the parchment from both sides of the dough and return it to one sheet.
Using a ruler and a pizza cutter or a sharp knife, cut the dough into long strips 1 to 1 1⁄2 inches wide, then cut across the strips at 2-inch intervals. (If you’d prefer, you can make long strips, triangles or squares; the yield will vary.) Cut a lengthwise slit about 3⁄4-inch long in the center of each piece. Transfer the pieces to the baking sheet, making layers as necessary and covering each layer with a piece of paper. Roll and cut the other piece of dough and layer the pieces. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
When you’re ready to fry the crackers, line a baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels. Pour 1 to 1 1⁄2 inches of olive oil into a Dutch oven or deep skillet and heat over medium-high heat.
When the oil is hot (it should measure 300 degrees F on a deep-fat or candy thermometer), drop a few pieces of dough into the pot. You want the oil to bubble around each piece, so don’t crowd the pot. When the crackers are lightly browned around the edges and golden in the center, about 2 minutes, turn and brown the other side, about 1 minute more. (It’s hard to give exact times for frying, so stay close.) With a slotted spoon, lift them out of the oil, letting the excess oil drip back into the pot, and onto the lined baking sheet. Pat off the excess oil with paper towels, sprinkle the crackers with salt and keep frying.
Serve the crackers as soon as they’re not burn-your-fingers hot or wait until they reach room temperature.
You can make the dough up to 1 day ahead and keep it well wrapped in the refrigerator. Packed airtight, it can be frozen for up to 2 months, but the most convenient way to keep the dough is to roll it, cut it and freeze the cut-outs; they can be fried straight from the freezer. The crackers are best eaten soon after they come out of the pot.
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