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Help me throw the ultimate latke cocktail party

Hey Chowhounders -- I've searched the Internets high and low to a solution to this one, but nothing suitable to be found. Perhaps we can create an answer together?

My boyfriend and I have a group of friends we do a semi-monthly dinner party with. It's our turn to host, and we're planning to throw a latke cocktail party. I'm the sole Jew in this group, and want to show my guests how it's done. I'd like to do the basics (potato latkes, sour cream, applesauce), but also want to add a few twists of my own -- this dinner club is a competitive bunch!

We are thinking a series of latke-inspired "small plates" with unique yet Jewish-appropriate toppings are the way to go. So far, my daydreaming has brought visions of...

Potato latkes with gravlax and creme fraiche
A sweet potato latke with a warm apple salad of some kind, or mushroom topping ??
A zucchini latke with a lamb, or carrot & potato with brisket

Fried donut dessert..

My questions...
- Any reputable recipes that fit these daydreams? I am not a recipe devotee, but hate to throw an entire dinner party
- Any added ideas, tweaks, flavor combos you would recommend?
- Any tried & true donut recipes? I've never made them before, but being the owner of a new frier it hardly seems a choice!

Thanks in advance all - Sarah

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  1. I like the idea. I think you could come up with some good stuff.

    I'd probably say caviar vs. gravlax. Salmon roe would be an interesting way to get that flavor without spending a ton of money.

    I'd do the sweet potato w/ bbq pulled pork.

    Corned beef hash latke w/ fried quail egg on top.

    You could also make a spanish tortilla-style latke, by adding some smoked paprika and frying in olive oil. Top that with saffron/roasted garlic aioli.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Josh

      I'd do the sweet potato w/ bbq pulled pork.
      ~~~~~~~~
      i wouldn't call pulled pork a "Jewish-appropriate" topping...but brisket would work well.

      i like the quail egg idea.

        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

          FWIW, I'm Jewish. We're not all pork-avoiding kosher types. If you're going to serve a meal with both dairy and meat, you're pretty far off the kosher path at that point.

          1. re: Josh

            i'm Jewish too, i eat pork, and we never kept kosher...but i still wouldn't feel right about serving it for a Jewish holiday meal.

            maybe it's the guilt talking ;)

            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

              I love the idea of tweaking recipes like that. I think a fried sweet potato cake with pulled pork would taste pretty awesome.

        2. re: Josh

          Go with the gravlax. Try Jacques Pepin's Gravlax Evelyn. It's so good and so easy to prepare. Leave off the garnish. You can sub the cognac and herbs with what you might have on hand. I like to do tequila w/a mixture of cilantro, parsley and chives. Definitely have regular latkes w/sour cream and applesauce. Brisket instead of the pork. This is coming from a nice Baptist girl married to a nice Jewish boy. You need to show them your food and they will love it. Sounds like a great party! Let us know what you serve and how it goes.

        3. you can use any root vegetable for latkes. i love beets & parsnips in addition to the vegetables you've mentioned. even cauliflower (though not a root veg) works.

          Josh had a great idea to use salmon roe - how about pairing it with a wasabi-spiked latke?

          other ideas:
          - beet latkes with lemon creme fraiche
          - parsnip or potato latkes with chopped liver or smoked whitefish
          - zucchini latkes with baba ghannouj or hummus
          - gingered carrot latkes with apple-jalapeno salsa

          oh, and for the sufganiyot:
          http://www.chow.com/recipes/10818-suf...

          1 Reply
          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            Love these ideas!! You could try all kinds of "global" latkes! Love the idea of Middle Eastern flavors, and even Asian. There are some Sephardic fried treats that you might serve that are not latkes, but could be very "cocktail". Poke around on CH and see. I kind of think black caviar and creme fraiche on a potato latke could be very " Russian"

          2. sarah, from 30 yrs as a caterer, i can tell you that your guests are gonna LOOOVE you! they'll never stop talking about this event! I find all 3 of your ideas to be terrific.

            Some ideas:

            -- some toppings can be overwhelming; try to keep the predominant flavor as that of the latke itself

            --when you tray the latkes, make sure to serve some naked, as an option for some people's preferences

            -- sliced salmon and salmon caviar are both excellent ideas, the former being much less expensive.

            -- try not to succumb to the lure of sugar for the cocktail/dinner party latkes. do sweet potato w/ chives and smoked salt for savory version(to cut the sweetness of the potato); your sweet potato w/ apple (tart Granny Smiths recommended) as a Dessert

            --zucchini w/ lamb and tart yoghurt topping would be terrific (Tr Joe's Yoghurt Cilantro "Dip" would be perfect.)

            -- while not latkes and not made w/ shredded potato or shredded veggies, my 2 best Hors D' pancake recipes are for Sicilian Potato Pancakes w/ Caramelized Orange(topped w/ sour cream), and Wild Rice and Pear Pancakes(plain or topped w/ Maple Butter and/or Sliced Duck.) If you want those recipes, just let me know.

            -- donuts are certainly beloved by many, but keep in mind that your whole house will smell like frying oil- not too pleasant. if you're set on doing them, consider frying them outside before the party begins.

            -- pancakes/latkes require alot of hands-on attention. if you want any time to talk w/ guests, you might consider cooking some or all of the latkes before the party begins, and quickly reheating them in the oven. But keep in mind that double reheating is not a great taste option, so keep your reheating batches small.

            --lastly, latkes/pancakes are somewhat bready by nature. be sure to provide some things w/ roughage- crudites for instance.

            3 Replies
            1. re: opinionatedchef

              -- donuts are certainly beloved by many, but keep in mind that your whole house will smell like frying oil- not too pleasant. if you're set on doing them, consider frying them outside before the party begins.
              ~~~~~~~~~~~
              well, latkes are traditionally fried as well, so whether it's the deep-fried donuts or the pan-fried latkes, that aroma's gonna be there...as it should, since Chanukah celebrates the miracle of oil!

              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                yech. in this instance, i vote for clear breathing vs historical relevance.

              2. re: opinionatedchef

                Salmon! Yes!

                I'm not Jewish and know little about latke-making, but I do know that the catering company down the street from my house when I was in college used to make the most amazing smoked salmon latkes. The Northwestern hot-smoked, sweetish style of salmon. And there was some green onion in there too. They were absolutely delicious.

              3. This might sound crazy and maybe logistically tough, but what about a "top your own latke" bar? And have things organized by which type of topping might best go w/ whichever flavor latke? People could take your "suggestions" or go out on their own. But do it so it's visually interesting. Some things higher than others, interesting/eclectic jars, plates, platters? Perhaps cocktail offerings that might complement the various flavors, too? Chilled vodka shooters for the caviar/potato, a crisp greek white wine for the Middle Eastern flavors, chilled sake for your wasabi latkes? Maybe I am crazy...

                6 Replies
                1. re: MRS

                  i love the cocktail idea! just as long as there's no Manischewitz involved ;)

                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                    ew!! definintely not! Manischewitz is gross!

                    1. re: MRS

                      I can't remember what it tasted like but a few years ago - it may have been Chanukah or it may have been Passover - my son invented the Mazeltov Cocktail. The recipe definitely involved Manischewitz.

                  2. re: MRS

                    if you go that latkes bar idea, you might want to borrow some electric griddles or warming trays- to keep the latkes warm.

                    1. re: MRS

                      Awesome idea. Why about flavor sour cream bar? Wasabi, harissa, Spanish pimenton. Go nuts. And latkes do lend themselves well to chutneys and jams like fig jam.

                      1. re: MRS

                        I attended a Dutch pancake party years ago where they did just that and it was really fun. Encouraged a lot of mingling and "topping preference'" debate - really useful icebreaker for a larger party where some of the guests don't know one another (though this doesn't seem to be the case here).

                      2. All - I am love, loving these ideas. Now I'm going to face a new issue: Limiting so many great ideas to a throw-able party.

                        I'm with Goodhealth - I don't keep kosher, but no pork allowed when showing off my Jewish ways. It's really my grandmother talking. I suppose that's similar to guilt, right?

                        Potato latkes with gravlax and dill creme are definitely in - that one is easy!

                        I'm inclined to have some potato pancake with the basics (sugar, apple sauce, sour creme) set out throughout the night, for guests to top their own.

                        I'm gravitating towards a zucchini latke with lamb, mostly because I cannot come up with the appropriate latke-brisket-sauce combo that will hold together.

                        I'd like to do some sort of alt. root vegetable and (warm?) salad in the middle there.

                        Love the idea of sweet potato and apple for dessert, may have to look into that one too!

                        And finally, I have an amazing French-Jewish cookbook (Joan Nathan) that I love... many great tagines, smoked fishes, etc. I'm inclined to create a menu focused on the foods of this particular culture. What is better than lamb, olives, oranges and starches?! Perhaps some kind of orange-olive salad with the right latke could work?

                        Keep the amazing ideas coming!

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: SarahN

                          i like to add a little feta into my zucchini latkes which would go good with lamb.

                          1. re: SarahN

                            i'm still voting for green and roughage>> baby spinach in that salad w/ the oranges and nuts!

                            1. re: SarahN

                              Hi Sarah,

                              You want to give them some great Jewish food? GREAT. Make awesome, authentic home-made Chinese finger food and small dishes. Think eggrolls, Dim Sum, moo shoo beef with wonton wrappers, etc, etc.

                              Jeff