Latkes play an important role in traditional Chanukah celebrations not just because they taste so good — it’s really all about the oil. Chanukah — from the Hebrew word for “dedication” — is a significant holiday because it commemorates the events of 168 to 165 b.c., when the Jews of Jerusalem led a successful revolt against Antiochus IV, ruler of the Greek empire, who had sacked and desecrated their Temple.
When the Jewish rebels finally liberated the city and retook the Temple, they wanted to rededicate it by lighting an eternal flame — but they feared they didn’t have enough oil. Miraculously, however, their small cruse of oil lasted not just a few hours but eight days (the time it took to press more olive oil for the lamps). Today, the lighting of the menorah symbolizes the survival of the Jewish people throughout thousands of years of exile and adversity.
Whether you and your family celebrate Chanukah — the eight-day Festival of Lights — or simply love a good potato pancake, these latkes would make any Bubbe proud. Their crispy, brown exteriors offer a satisfying bite, while their tender, steamy insides are comfort food at its best.
It’s important to grate the potatoes and onion by hand to get pieces of the right size. But remember, latkes wait for no one, so get your ingredients together and gather your family and friends, so that you can serve these traditional potato cakes the moment they’re ready.