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The Jewish holiday of Chanukah is known as the Festival of Lights. The candles on the menorah—or ritual candelabra—are lit to commemorate miracles that occurred long ago. Jews were not being allowed to practice their religion. A man named Judah Maccabee and his brothers mobilized the Jewish people to fight for freedom. After defeating the enemy—the first miracle of Chanukah—Maccabee and his tiny army returned to find that the Jewish Holy Temple in Jerusalem had been vandalized and desecrated. When they reached the altar, they found that the Eternal Light, a lamp that should be lit at all times, was not burning. The Brothers Maccabee found only a small vial of oil that remained intact. It was enough to burn just one day; not nearly enough to last until they could acquire more. It was then that the second miracle happened: the oil burned for eight days. That is why Chanukah is observed for eight days. Eight candles or eight small containers of oil are lit on the menorah, representing each day that the oil burned in the Holy Temple.

On Chanukah, it is customary to eat potato latkes (pronounced “lot keys”) because they are made with oil. These fluffy, golden pancakes are a real treat and are especially tasty when topped with applesauce, granulate or powdered sugar, or sour cream. They are a natural accompaniment to a deli dinner, but they work well as a side dish to almost any entrée. The following is an authentic latke recipe brought from Russia. Special care is taken to be sure the potatoes are not exposed to air, as this can turn them black in color. Double or triple the ingredient amounts, but be sure to make a lot. Once prepared, they seem to disappear off of the plate!

For 6 to 8 servings, you will need two large mixing bowls, a blender, a strainer, a frying pan and the following ingredients:

5 pounds potatoes
1 cup flour
3 eggs, beaten
1 onion, grated
½ teaspoon salt

Fill a mixing bowl with cold water. Peel and cut the first potato into small chunks. Immediately place it in the bowl of water to keep it from changing color. Repeat this process until all the potatoes are peeled and cut.

Grate 1 cup of potatoes and ½ cup cold water in a blender. Remove this 1-1/2 cup mixture to a second mixing bowl of cold water. Repeat this process until all of the potatoes are grated. Pour grated potatoes through a strainer to eliminate water and remove starch. Rinse out one of the mixing bowls and pour in strained potatoes. Be sure to cover the top with 1 cup flour so that no air can penetrate the surface.

Add the 3 beaten eggs, grated onion, and ½ teaspoon salt on top of the flour, and mix into the grated potatoes. The consistency should be somewhat thick; add extra flour if it seems too runny.

Pour ¼ cup of oil into a frying pan. When the oil bubbles, drop 1 Tablespoon of potato batter per pancake, leaving space between them so they do not run together. Turn the latkes over when the edges are golden brown. Be sure to add fresh oil as needed so that the frying pan does not get dry or burn.

When both sides are golden brown, remove the latkes with a slotted spatula so that the oil will drain off, and layer on a plate between paper towels which will absorb more oil. Continue until all of the potato batter is used. Serve hot.

Latkes may be kept warm or reheated in a 200 degree oven, arranged in a single layer on a cookie sheet.