Hanukkah is coming to an end– have you had your latkes yet? Whether or not you celebrate the Festival of Lights, a crispy fried vegetable pancake served with sour cream and applesauce is a special fall treat. I’m Jew-ish myself and appreciate connecting to my cultural heritage through traditional foods. Every year, I like to have vegetable latkes for Hanukkah in addition to classic potato latkes, (zucchini, carrot, sweet potato, etc) but this year while on the GAPS diet, I’m avoiding potatoes all together.
To top it off, I’m sensitive to eggs, which are a key ingredient in keeping latkes of any variety from falling apart. I usually cheat and eat eggs during the holidays… but no… not this year. This year I’m finding all the willpower I have in hopes that someday I might be able to happily eat eggs without negative reactions (but that, we shall see). A Hanukkah miracle?
I’ve been experimenting a lot lately with whole food egg substitutes that are GAPS and allergy-friendly, like chia seeds, mashed fruit, and well-sourced gelatin. No added starches or gums for me. I used ground chia and unsweetened applesauce as a binder for the latkes instead of eggs, helping to hold together the not-so-starchy slivers of celery root.
Also known as celeriac, celery root is an the ugly duckling cousin of celery, whose true beauty is exposed once the thick skin comes off and the delicate celery-esque flavor can be found. I cut one end off off the round vegetable so I have a flat surface on my cutting board, then carefully slice the skin off, cutting from the top of the celery root down towards the cutting board, across the curved sides. Once peeled, it’s ready for the grating. Definitely use your food processor to grate. Hand grating celery root is hard work and the pieces will end up a lot smaller than you’d want. In spite of its intimidating facade, celery root is really worth a try. I don’t particularly like celery, but the texture and subtle flavor of celery root is fantastic.
Duck fat was the best cooking fat I tried in my testing. Contrary to popular belief, polyunsaturated vegetable oils are not healthy fats! Most oils aren’t stable at frying temps and will oxidize and create free-radical, which is very bad for the body. Don’t use olive oil for frying, friends! I didn’t have any rendered chicken fat (schmaltz in Yiddish) but that would likely work fine and and would be extra traditional. Ghee (butter that’s had the milk solids strained out so it doesn’t burn at higher temps) was too strong a taste and the latkes turned out greasier. Coconut oil isn’t my favorite in this recipe, but it’ll work if duck fat is not desired. I really highly recommend getting pasture-raised duck fat from a local farmer’s market or butcher, or you can order it online. It’s known for making excellent fried potatoes, and now we know it’s great for frying celery root too.
We enjoyed our latkes with a dollop of homemade sour cream, cultured in a mason jar on my counter top, and with spoonfuls of applesauce that we make with tart apples, honey and grass-fed butter. Oh, and several pounds of braised, grass-fed brisket, smothered in melty onions, alongside an array of GAPS-friendly roasted veggies like carrots, radishes, turnips and kohlrabi (the latter being another odd-looking and under-appreciated veggie). I hardly missed potatoes!
This recipe also goes great with roasted chicken or braised short ribs and a fall salad to lighten it up. Or in the spirit of 2013’s Thanksgivikkah, why not a turkey sandwich on latkes with a handful of arugula and a little cranberry sauce?
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