We were surprised, as this was our first summer in our new house, to find a jungle of Jerusalem artichoke (a.k.a. “J-artis”) growing along our fence. Luckily our neighbour clued us in to what we were growing, so we didn’t yank it out, thinking it was a weed. Those suckers grow like you wouldn’t believe, topping out at about 9 feet tall at the end of the season. We dug them out and now have a ridiculous number of J-artis. For those of you who don’t know what J-artis taste like (which is likely about 99% of you since I haven’t yet met someone who knows) – picture what would happen if a cauliflower and a potato had a baby, and you’ll understand the texture of a J-arti. So far I’ve tried roasting them like home fries and including them in a seitan stew. Both were tasty, but I felt like the true strength/flavour of the J-arti would shine in a latke.
- 5 large potatoes, washed (leaves the skins on unless you really object to un-skinned potatoes)
- 4 Jerusalem artichokes, washed and peeled
- 1 carrot, peeled (mostly for colour)
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 tsp Egg replacer mixed with 2 tbsp warm water and 2 tbsp veggie broth
- 1 cup matza meal (options: ground up saltines, rice flour, or garbanzo bean flour)
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil
Preheat your oven to 250°F and get a baking pan ready with a rack sitting inside it, covered in a couple of layers of paper towel. Coarsely shred the potatoes, J-artis and carrot by hand or in the food processor, transferring to a large bowl of cold water once everything’s grated. Soak the veggies for about 1 to 2 minutes, then drain them well in a colander. This step keeps the batter from turning brown too quickly.
Spread the grated veggies and the onion on a kitchen towel and roll it up jelly-roll style. Twist the towel tightly to wring out as much liquid as possible. Transfer the veggie mixture to a bowl and stir in the binder (“egg”), starch of your choice, and the sea salt and pepper.
Heat 1/4 cup oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches, spoon about 2 tbsp of the potato mixture into the skillet, spreading into 3-inch rounds with a fork. Keeping them little makes it easier to flip ’em without too many disasters. I also suggest keeping it to a max of 4 per round, since crowding will increase the likelihood of soggy latkes. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the undersides are browned, about 5 minutes. Turn the latkes over and cook until the undersides are browned, about 4-5 minutes more. Transfer them to the paper towels on the baking sheet to drain and season with sea salt, then stick them in the oven to keep warm. Add more oil to skillet as needed, snag one to keep you going (hey, you have to make sure they’re ok before serving ?), and keep on chuggin’ through the rest of the batch. Mentally prepare yourself for the fact that you will smell like a fry-cook by the end of this.
Though highly unlikely, if you do end up with leftovers, the best way to reheat latkes is on a rack set over a baking sheet in a 350°F oven for about 5 minutes.