This year to commemorate Chanukah, I am breaking out of my usual latke habit and shaking things up a bit with savory and sweet fritters. Fritters are defined as a wide variety of fried foods, usually consisting of a portion of batter or breading which has been filled with bits of meat, seafood, fruit, or other ingredients. Sounds good, right?
I am so excited I cannot wait for Chanukah. I love my theme this year. Don't get me wrong, I am wild about latkes, all crackling hot and sizzling right out of the pan with just a little bit of salty greasiness. YUM! I will definitely be making and eating those too, but the fritter has unbounded possibilities. I can use anything, bind it up with a little batter and fry away. I also make sufganiyot (donuts) every year. And I am sure my favorite jelly doughnuts will be on the menu at least once. I am craving something different this year, and the fritter has unlimited potential and variations.
I am like a kid in a candy store. The infinite amount of ingredients that can be bound up in a little dough or batter and then fried up to crispy golden goodness is staggering. I am going to follow some traditional fritter recipes and riff off them a bit. I like to find delicious fried tidbits from other cultures or lesser known traditions. One of my favorite alternatives is to celebrate the festival of lights with a Sephardic style dairy meal. So, I am frying up some Bimuelos De Queso, which are crispy and creamy. They are traditionally drizzled with honey.
I am also making root vegetable fritters that can be served as hors d'oeuvres or as a side dish for fish, chicken, or beef. Finally, I am serving Apple Fritters. Delicate, crispy and light, the apple fritters will have you jumping off the couch to fry up a batch.
Chag Chanukah Sameach
Bimuelos de Queso
Makes about 24 Bimuelos
2 cups drained farmer's cheese, quark, or ricotta cheese
½ cup cornstarch or flour
1 ½ tablespoons light brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
Olive oil for frying
Honey for drizzling
1. Drain the excess liquid from the cheese in a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and allow it to drain in the refrigerator for 4 hours. Discard liquid.
2. Mix the cheese, corn starch, sugar, salt, and egg in a large bowl until well blended.
3. Shape the dough into 1 inch diameter balls. If the dough is too loose, add more cornstarch or flour until workable.
4. Heat several inches of oil in a heavy pot to 350 degrees.
5. Add the fritters, a few at a time, and cook. Cook for 3-4 minutes, turning them occasionally, until they are golden brown on all sides.
6. Drain on a plate lined with paper towels.
7. Arrange on a serving plate and drizzle with honey. Serve warm.
Root vegetable fritters with smoked paprika aioli
Yields 2 dozen fritters
2 medium parsnips, peeled and grated
2 medium carrots, peeled and grated
1 medium celery root bulb, peeled and grated
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil, for frying
1. Mix all of the vegetables together in a medium bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.
2. Heat 2 inches of oil in a pan over medium high heat. When the oil reaches 360, use either an ice cream scoop or teaspoon to portion the batter. Place the fritter batter, gently, in the oil and fry, turning occasionally until brown on all sides.
3. Transfer the browned fritters to a paper towel lined sheet. Garnish with sea salt
For the dipping sauce
½ cup aioli, store bought or homemade
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon warm water
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1. Mix the paprika and warm water (this helps the paprika "bloom" a bit).
2. Add the paste to the aioli and the lemon juice.
3. Serve the dipping sauce with the fritters.
Yields 16 fritters
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup rice flour
1 cup ice-cold water
1 pound apples (about 3), any variety, unpeeled but cored and cut in to batons about 2 inches long and ¼ inch thick
1 ½ cup canola oil
½ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1. Put the flour, rice flour, egg and a third of the water into a bowl, and mix vigorously with a whisk. The mixture will be fairly thick. When smooth, add the remaining water, and mix again until the water is incorporated. Stir the apple sticks into the batter.
2. Stir the sugar and cinnamon together and place on a plate.
3. In a large, heavy skillet heat the oil to 365 degrees. When hot, pour about 1/3 cup of the batter into the pan for each fritter, making four or five at a time. Spread the batter so that it is not more than 1/2 inch thick. Cook for about 3 minutes on each side, until brown and crisp.
4. Drain the fritters on paper towels, and transfer them to a rack. Dredge the fritters in the sugar-cinnamon mix and serve immediately.