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Help me throw the ultimate latke cocktail party

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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

        ghg, ya got me laughin' again!

        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.

              1. re: Josh

                no argument there.

        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: Infomaniac

                            excellent idea

                          2. 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

                            2. I love latkes! I used to make them for my son when he was small and developed an affection for them. Not being Jewish and living in one of the least Jewish parts of the country, I have little knowledge of latke logistics. How do you make a lot of them for several people and keep/serve them hot? Can they be kept warm or reheated?

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: sandylc

                                Sandylc - You can make them early and reheat, but they loose some of their crispness. Making them with egg whites only helps keep them crisp, I've found. But I have it easy -- a group of eager cooking guests. What I will likely do is make a batch before guest arrival, and then let everyone have their hand at frying up a batch. We're a laid back interactive bunch!

                                Update for all: With further research, the menu I think I'll sleep on...
                                Potato latkes, gravlax, dill creme
                                Apple-raisin chutney on potato latkes
                                Traditional orange and olive salad on the side (love it, not gonna work atop a latke)
                                Lamb, feta, roasted red pepper on zucchini latkes

                                Dessert... TBD... to fry or not to fry...

                                Thoughts? Tried-and-true recipes?

                                1. re: sandylc

                                  Oven at 250-300 degrees and keep them on paper towels, that way they don't grease up, and you can only do this for about half an hour, after that they will get soggy.
                                  Also corn latke's with a smattering of cumin inside is good, can put salsa of your choice on top.
                                  Need something economical with all that caviar and smoked fish.

                                  1. re: sandylc

                                    I host our family's annual Hanukah get together. After many years of standing in the kitchen all night while my guests enjoy themselves, I now serve them as appetizers so I can join the party.

                                  2. Last year, to mix it up, I did a curry-spiced sweet potato latke (along with the classic) -- They were a huge hit! I think I made a raita to go with them instead of sour cream.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: aletnes

                                      That sounds very good!

                                    2. My friend does a latke dinner every year. There is a batch of traditional, then she makes a variety of other kinds--with many recipes from epicurious, so be sure to search there for ideas and proportions etc. Some we have had over the years--curried; sweet potato with chili powder; parmesan; beet. I personally prefer to focus on the latke over any topping, except a dipping sauce/dollop. She always makes anaother dish or two, like kugel, but to me they just get in the way of the fabulous latkes.

                                      1. I LOVE latkes but can't stand the smell in the house. I have done a latke mixture pressed into mini muffin cups and baked. They can be made days in advance and reheated and topped before and during the party. I have used smoked salmon and sour cream, caviar and sour cream, and beets and goat cheese as toppings. For your info - a friend did a latke party and it was very difficult to fry the latkes while talking to guests. It resulted in underdone, soggy latkes. Whatever you do, it is a great idea.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: beanodc

                                          Do your cups come out crispy? What recipe do you use? I'm making a party too and I don't want to fry at the last minute. I have always done ahead and then just reheat. My friend wants fresh latkets, but I don't think I am going to do it.

                                          1. re: paprkutr

                                            I'd advise you to do a trial. Saved me on Thanksgiving. There was a typo on the cooking temp. for one of my main dishes. It would have killed the dinner.

                                            1. re: paprkutr

                                              I will find the recipe and post it.

                                              1. re: beanodc

                                                Potato Bites recipe - I have no idea where it came from as it is on a card im my handwriting.
                                                2 eggs 1/2 tsp baking powder
                                                1/4 cup oil 1 sm. onion, grated
                                                3 Tbl. matzo meal or flour 1 1/4 lbs. yukon gold potatoes
                                                1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper
                                                Preheat to 400. Grease 3 mini muffin tins. Mix eggs, oil, matzo meal, salt and baking powder.
                                                Peel potatoes and shred in food processor or by hand. Drain potatoes and onion by wrapping in a dish towel and squeezing.
                                                Mix potatoes with egg mixture.
                                                Place a Tbl. of mixture in each muffin tin. Bake for 30 min, switching pans after 15 min. Can be made in advance and reheated.

                                          2. I think your plan is going to make you miss your party. We throw a latke party every year and have observed the following:

                                            1) make latkes in advance and freeze; reheating in the oven can actually improve the texture PLUS makes them less greasy. We always freeze and then eat now.

                                            2) Champagne pairs wonderfully with latkes. Serving people champagne makes them happy.

                                            3) Instead of doing course of fussy latkes, just do some traditional food. Latke + smoked fish (smoked or gravlax salmon, sable, whitefish, etc. depending on budget and sophistication of guests) + salmon roe if you can find a superior source. Salmon roe varies wildely in price and quality.

                                            My preference: three latkes for each person with smoked salmon, sable, and top quality salmon roe. Either serve a braised brisket with a pungent salad or go Sephardic. Various Israeli style salads or kabobs would also be a good follow up.

                                            At our party every year which is attended by Jews or people who know Jewish cooking, the latkes, brisket, and platter of Isaeli salads are equally loved.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: JudiAU

                                              Also, frying enouch latkes for a party and then frying donuts will have your guests and house stinking for days.

                                            2. These apple latkes are to die for:http://smittenkitchen.com/2010/11/app...

                                              I always do latkes ahead and keep them in the oven whcih i think improves them.
                                              And the house is supposed to smell like oil; smell is a very evocative sense and the story s about the miracle of oil.

                                              1. I think it is a problem to serve fried food for both the entree and the dessert. Fried food is yummy, but eaters can burn out on it after a while, and I think the dessert should contrast the entree a bit more. You don't want your guests to feel bloated from too much fried food.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: sandylc

                                                  I agree. How about a honey-cardamom ice cream and crispy almond cookies? Or these pears served over vanilla ice cream, subbing a little honey for some of the sugar: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                                                2. along the lines of the top-your-own-latke bar, would it be totally unreasonable to let guests assemble their latke mix-ins? and then fry to order? could be fun in the kitchen... or let people yell out combo suggestions, then fry a batch for who wants em...

                                                  bear with me here, as i do my normal potato latkes with a slight variation -- part mashed potato, mashed with roasted garlic, part grated cooked potato, and a little egg and salt and pepper... last year i did a few variations for our hanukkah gathering.
                                                  -eggplant based - i peeled the eggplant and cut the skin into small pieces - i toasted these in the oven. i grated some of the flesh, and diced up the rest. the grated i dry-roasted in the oven, the diced i steamed. i mashed the steamed, with some garlic and i think IIRC some diced chopped/caramelized onions. then combined with egg, grated eggplant, and baked some and fried some. i served with a thin smear of a sundried tomato spread and sprinkled with toasted eggplant skin.

                                                  -pumpkin - bc i had some :) with grated onions; served with a browned butter roasted chestnut mousse of sorts

                                                  -cauliflower - with a buttery lime corn puree

                                                  ...making me want to have a latke party!

                                                  1. First, they are just going to gfell over your latkes. Yum! wonderful ideas. Second, I made a large quantity of latkes a few winters ago and ended up using Mollie Katzen's recipe. The shredded potatoes are par boiled so none of the potatoes turned brown. Also, I like the ratio of potato to flour it really worked. IIRC, the latkes parties of my youth never had desserts -- latkes are pretty filling even if they are small in size. You could hand out chocolates in a pouch/sack for when guests leave, it could be sort of like gelt.

                                                    http://www.molliekatzen.com/recipes/r...

                                                    1. Is it at all a problem keeping the latke hot, and crisp when making large batches?

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: chef chicklet

                                                        My MIL keeps them in the oven on foiled trays until we are ready to devour 'em. They are always hot and crispy. Not sure at what temperature, though.

                                                      2. Using mashed potatoes with diced onions saves time and creates this incredibly creamy texture and rich flavor. I make a tricked-out mash with half and half, shredded Gruyere, and cream cheese. Add a little Panko (in lieu of flour) and an egg. Then all you've got to do is fry those babies up and season with kosher salt.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: CarrieFFX

                                                          Carrie, that sounds REALLY good. I especially like the addition of Gruyere and cream cheese mix and big thumbs up on Panko.

                                                          Something that I would do to modify it would be to use 50% cauliflower 50% potatoes. Or even perhaps slightly more cauliflower than that. Most people can't taste the difference at all and it cuts the carb load WAY back. For Thanksgiving my mashed was 2/3 cauliflower to 1/3 potatoes and no one knew at all - they just gobbled them up.

                                                        2. thought of this thread when reading the following from today's paper:
                                                          http://www.relish.com/articles/hanukk...