Still, wonderful as they are, latkes are not light. So as a latke-loving shiksa, I devised this recipe in the hope that all of us might enjoy our latkes and live to tell about it. My re-design employs both sweet potatoes and the more traditional white potatoes, significantly reducing the amount of oil required to cook these bad boys. I also substitute Greek yogurt for sour cream.
Sweet potatoes, especially the intensely orange ones, are a terrific source of beta carotene. They also are an excellent source of potassium, vitamin C and fiber. And despite their sweetness, sweet potatoes are not high in calories. But because they're also not very high in starch, they need a starch partner. Hence the white potatoes, along with a little egg, and some flour as a binder.
The ideal latke has a crisp crust with a moist interior. Traditionally, that crispness is achieved by frying in a lot of oil. Figuring out how to crisp up these latkes without a ton of oil was the hardest part of developing this recipe. After much trial and error, I realized I could develop a satisfactory crust if I added a little oil to the skillet for each side of the pancakes, 1 tablespoon for the first side and 1 tablespoon after I flipped them.
I then finish them off in a 350 F oven because the recipe's sweet potatoes, with their high sugar content, turn the latkes too dark if left on the stove for more than a few minutes.
What gives this recipe its Southwestern flavour? The combination of sweet potato and the chipotle in the yogurt topping. Sugar and chilies do a happy dance, balancing each other off. Adding sugar to a dish that's too spicy doesn't make it taste sweet, any more than adding chili to a dish that's too sweet makes it taste hot. Rather, you can depend on these complementary flavours to make the dish just right. However, if you are not a fan of chilies, leave out the chipotle. Likewise, If you're not a fan of cilantro, substitute dill, parsley or chives.
And Hanukkah aside, these Southwestern latkes would be a great little side dish any time of the year.
SOUTHWESTERN LATKES WITH CHIPOTLE YOGURT
Start to finish: 50 minutes (20 minutes active)
Servings: 6 (makes 12 latkes)
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled, coarsely grated and squeezed of excess moisture
3/4 pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled, coarsely grated and squeezed of excess moisture
2/3 cup finely chopped scallions (white and green parts)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1 to 2 teaspoons minced chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, or to taste
Pinch of sugar
Fresh cilantro, to garnish
Heat the oven to 350 F.
In a medium bowl combine the sweet potatoes, Yukon gold potatoes, scallions, eggs, flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Mix well.
In a large nonstick skillet over high, heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil. Reduce the heat to medium and add 4 rounded 1/4-cup mounds of the potato mixture to the skillet, flattening each mound to a 3 1/2-inch circle. Cook the latkes for 2 minutes, then turn them over and add another tablespoon of vegetable oil. Cook, turning them several times, until golden on both sides, about another 4 to 6 minutes total.
Transfer the latkes to a rimmed baking sheet. Repeat the process with the remaining potato mixture and oil.
When all of the latkes have been browned, bake them on the middle shelf of the oven for 5 minutes, or until they are cooked through and tender. Sprinkle them lightly with salt, if desired.
While the latkes are baking, in a small bowl combine the yogurt, chipotle, a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar. Stir well.
To serve, arrange 2 latkes on each of 6 serving plates. Top each one with a dollop of chipotle yogurt and a fresh cilantro leaf.
Nutrition information per serving: 280 calories; 130 calories from fat (46 per cent of total calories); 15 g fat (1.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 60 mg cholesterol; 29 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 6 g sugar; 7 g protein; 240 mg sodium.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Sara Moulton was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years, and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows. She currently stars in public television's "Sara's Weeknight Meals" and has written three cookbooks, including "Sara Moulton's Everyday Family Dinners."