These latkes make a superb, if unexpected, side dish for grilled or roasted chicken. On busy nights when you are on Hanukkah latke duty, pair them with a bird from your favorite carry-out shop.
The secret here is hazelnut: a few tablespoons underscore the nutty-sweet earthiness of the Jerusalem artichokes, while providing structure for the fritter. The latkes require no adornment other than a dust of fresh pepper and salt before serving—or gild the lily with some warm, freshly made applesauce.
Shred the Jerusalem artichokes and the parsnip using the medium/fine shredding disk of a food processor. (Because of their small size and knobby shape, Jerusalem artichokes are too difficult to shred by hand.) Transfer the vegetables to a colander, and use your hands to squeeze out as much moisture as possible.
Put the vegetables in a large bowl and add the shallots, eggs, hazelnuts, matzoh meal, baking powder, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well until thoroughly combined.
Regulate the heat carefully as the latkes fry until golden and crisp on the bottom, about 4 minutes. To prevent oil from splattering, use two spatulas (or a spatula and a large spoon) to turn the latkes carefully. Fry until crisp and golden on the other side.
Avoid turning the latkes more than once or they will absorb too much oil. Before turning, lift the latkes slightly with the spatula to make sure the underside is crisp and brown.
Transfer the cooked latkes to paper towels or untreated brown paper bags to drain. Continue frying latkes until all the batter is used. If necessary, add more oil to the pan, but always allow the oil to get hot before frying a new batch.
If necessary, you can keep them warm, arranged in a single layer on a rack set on a baking sheet in a slow oven (200°F) until they are all ready to be brought to the table. Sprinkle the latkes with a light dusting of kosher or other slightly coarse salt and fresh pepper and accompany with Fresh Applesauce, if you’d like.
© 2008 Jayne Cohen. All rights reserved.