If I’m being completely honest, I must confess I’m not a great Jew. Between throwing a literal tantrum every Sunday morning when my dad would forcefully pry me out of bed so that I wouldn’t be late for Hebrew school, and then never returning the temple again after I had a raging Bat Mitzvah, well... I guess you could say my devotion to Judaism is pretty pathetic at best. Do I fast on Yom Kippur? Of course not—the thought of giving up my morning cup of coffee because I’m “repenting” is simply out of the question. However, just because you might not find me at the synagogue on a weekly or evenly quarterly basis doesn’t mean that I don’t love being Jewish. In fact, I look forward to celebrating (and cooking for) most of the holidays, especially Hanukkah.
Because of my lukewarm commitment to being an active, practicing Jew, I feel that this justifies me in my pursuit to create what many traditional Jews would probably consider to be sacrilegious.
Potatoes are one of my favorite foods. So, any holiday that puts this humble root vegetable at the center of the menu, pan-fried in generous amounts of oil, at that—well it should go without saying that this holiday is a holiday for me. Because I will find any excuse to put Frank’s Red Hot on anything (as its slogan suggests), the idea came to me to brush these fried potato fritters with a generous helping of Buffalo sauce. And where thou useth Buffalo sauce, blue cheese dressing shall follow (Genesis 2:16). So, out of the most basic respect for Buffalo sauce, I’ve crafted a simple homemade blue cheese dip that will squash any discussion of whether you’re team sour cream or applesauce, because blue cheese obviously trumps both.
Did Judah and the Maccabees go to war and defend the Jewish people so that thousands of years later I could make latkes doused in red hot buffalo sauce? Did an oil lamp miraculously burn for eight days straight so that I could take a classic Hanukkah staple and turn it into glorified bar food? Well, I guess so—’cause I just did. Pour me a glass of Martinelli’s and let’s cheers to that, eh?
While the Venn diagram of avid football fans and devout followers of Judaism are probably two circles that are not touching, I would also like to add that these Buffalo latkes would make a great game day snack. Because I am a very knowledgeable Jew, I can tell you that Hanukkah is an eight-day celebration, which means that by the rules of the calendar, at least one day of Hanukkah falls on a Sunday (potentially two). Because I am a very knowledgeable fan of football, I can tell you that Sunday is the day when most of the professional games are played. If you need a dish that will tide you over from lighting the menorah to Sunday night football (a phrase I never thought I’d say), well, these are your best bet. The addition of a jalapeño to the latkes makes ’em extra spicy, but if you want to keep them on the milder side, feel free to skip it.
The key to the perfect latkes, whether you’re dipping them in Buffalo sauce or not, is to wring out the grated potato and onions. This will remove all of the moisture, which means the final product will be as crispy as they come. Like I said, these Buffalo latkes are somewhere in the middle of sacred and profane, so I’m still following the basic rules of latke preparation, just adding a little flair that no Jewish person has ever asked for. If only my teachers from Hebrew school could see me now. The same girl who rolled in every Sunday with a stank face and fresh attitude is dipping her latkes in hot sauce. Makes perfect sense.
Buffalo Latkes with Blue Cheese Dip
Prep: 20 min
Cook: 20 min
For the Buffalo sauce:
- ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter
- ¼ cup hot sauce (we used Frank’s Red Hot)
- 1 Tbsp. distilled white vinegar
- 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
For the blue cheese dip:
- ¼ cup sour cream
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- 3 oz. (about ¼ cup) crumbled blue cheese
- 1 medium lemon, zested and juiced
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the latkes:
- 1 ½ lbs. russet potatoes, peeled
- ½ medium yellow onion
- 1 small jalapeño, de-stemmed (optional)
- ¼ cup matzo meal
- 2 tsp. kosher salt
- 2 eggs
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- 2-3 stalks celery, thinly sliced, for serving (optional)
Make the buffalo sauce: In a small saucepan over medium low heat, combine all ingredients. Whisk to combine and season to taste. Set aside.
Make the blue cheese dip: In a medium bow, combine all ingredients and season to taste. Keep in refrigerator until ready to serve.
In a food processor or on the large holes of a box grater, coarsely shred the potato, onion, and jalapeño. Transfer to a colander or wrap in a cheesecloth sling and squeeze as dry as possible. Let stand for 2 minutes, then squeeze out again.
In a large bowl, whisk together the potato mixture with matzah meal, eggs, salt and pepper, and egg.
Heat oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit and cover a large baking sheet with foil.
In a medium skillet, heat a quarter inch of oil until shimmering. Drop packed quarter-cups of the potato mixture into the skillet and flatten them with the back of a spoon. Cook the latkes over moderately high heat until the edges are golden, about 2 minutes; flip and cook until golden on the bottom, about 1-2 more minutes. Drain on paper towels and transfer to prepared tray, then transfer the tray to the oven to keep latkes warm. Repeat with the remaining potato mixture, adding more oil to the skillet as needed.
Once all latkes are cooked, use a pastry brush to brush each latke with Buffalo sauce. Top with celery slices and serve with blue cheese dip immediately.