Holiday Feast Issue

Wild Hearth Whitefish Honors A Hanukkah Tradition

Crispy, fried potato latkes are not only a delicious holiday finger food, but also a celebration of the miracle of oil used to burn the menorah candles throughout the Festival of Lights

By Tristan Scott
Latkes cook in an iron skillet on Nov. 18, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Upon entering the home kitchen of Wild Hearth Whitefish, the sweet smell of grapeseed oil heating in a hot cast-iron skillet is at once the dominant aroma, as well as an instant reminder of an underrepresented winter holiday tradition — Hanukkah — and its attendant delicacies.

Soon, the sizzling oil is complemented with the textured fragrance of frying onions, grated potatoes and shredded beets, a marriage of hearty ingredients configured into palm-sized pancakes, or latkes, a traditional Jewish snack served alongside dollops of sour cream and apple sauce.

It’s an example of how simple foods can tell a unifying story, but the heart of the metaphor lies in the oil, which recalls the original intent of the Festival of Lights: for Jews to celebrate the centuries-old miracle dating back to 164 BCE when one day’s worth of ritual oil burned the menorah candles for eight. 

Latkes, sour cream and apple sauce on Nov. 18, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Today, Jews around the world prepare latkes to reconsecrate the oil and remember the miracle, as well as the historic fight for religious freedom, from the battle of Temple Mount to the Babylonian exile, by lighting one candle of the menorah each night for eight nights and by preparing some of their favorite holiday foods.

For Allie Maloney, the creator of Wild Hearth Whitefish, a pandemic-born, small-batch subscription-based micro bakery and food service she runs out of her home kitchen, latkes are a perfect holiday snack for Jews to honor their heritage.

Allie Maloney cooks latkes at her home in Whitefish on Nov. 18, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Because Hanukkah follows a lunar calendar, it overlaps with the Christmas holiday this year, which Maloney described as a perfect opportunity for Jews and non-Jews to share the tradition together.

“Latkes are traditional Hanukah treats, served with applesauce and sour cream, but even if you’re not planning on celebrating the Festival of Lights this year, they are also great for breakfast with a poached egg or made tiny as a party appetizer,” Maloney said. “They are easy to make ahead and re-crisp in the oven or air fryer.”

Wild Hearth Potato Latkes

2 Large baking potatoes, peeled

1/2 of a medium sweet potato, peeled

1 medium beet, peeled

1 small onion, peeled

1/2 cup flour or potato starch (or a mix)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Large pinch of black pepper

2 medium eggs

Peanut or grapeseed oil for frying

In a food processor or on the large holes of a box grater, coarsely shred the potatoes, sweet potato, beet, and onion. Wrap in a cheesecloth or a loosely woven dishcloth and squeeze as dry as possible. Let stand for 2 minutes, then squeeze out again.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour or starch, baking powder, salt and pepper, and egg together. Stir in the vegetable mixture until all pieces are evenly coated. Adding the beets last can help to keep the entire lakes from turning pink.

Turn oven on low and cover a large baking sheet with foil.

In a medium heavy-bottomed skillet, heat 2-4 tablespoons of oil until shimmering.  Take spoonfuls of the potato mixture and place into the skillet, flattening them with a spatula. Fry in the oil until the edges are golden, about 1 1/2 minutes; flip and cook until golden on the bottom, about 1 minute. Watch the oil temperature – you want the oil to stay hot but not smoke or burn the latkes.

Drain on paper towels and transfer to prepared tray, and transfer the tray to the oven to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining potato mixture, adding more oil to the skillet as needed.

To stay apprised of Wild Hearth Whitefish’s  seasonal offerings and see what’s cooking in their kitchen, follow along on Instagram @wild_hearth-whitefish.