When I first began celebrating Hanukkah with my husband, Scott, seven years ago, I marveled at a holiday that promoted eating fried foods as a religious duty. I happily rolled up my sleeves to help him throw his annual latke party, grating potatoes, stirring in eggs and matzo meal, and making batches of homemade applesauce to serve alongside.
Over time, as our party grew, we learned some crucial tricks to making the operation more manageable, like frying the latkes a day ahead and recrisping them in the oven so the house doesn't smell like grease when guests arrive. We learned how to make lighter, crispier latkes by extracting as much water as possible from the potatoes before cooking. And we learned to keep the menu simple because, really, everyone comes for the fried food (we estimate 6 to 8 latkes per person to guarantee leftovers). With some cookies and a fruit salad, the menu is complete.
In recent years, as Hanukkah has become my holiday too, I've come to relish it as more than just a feast. Lighting the candles and saying the prayers during the darkest time of the year is a profoundly peaceful moment, an island of calm in the holiday chaos. But, truth be told, the latkes are still my favorite part.