Eating Your Way Down Memory Lane

Our holiday memories likely revolve around certain foods that were always on the table or available during the season. Tia's tamales. Soft and golden challah. Traditional green bean casserole. Oven-baked brisket. Grandma's pecan or pumpkin pie. Roasted turkey. Chocolate rugelach. Cornbread or bread stuffing.

I find it fascinating as to what foods trigger our memories and make us go back to that "day in time." Perhaps there's a food or foods that evoke special memories for you?

Potato pancakes are quite special for me. Yes, I ate a bajillion of them every fall at Wurstfest, but we also ate them throughout the year on special occasions. Though this year at Wurstfest, I refused to stand in line which was well over an hour long for their very famous, crispy and perfectly-greasy kartoffelpuffer, so I missed out on this annual or biannual treat.

The deprivation I felt after missing this spectacular, yet simple delicacy was immense. These feelings have only been intensified by the fact that everywhere I look and every food magazine I read, there's a latke staring me in the face. Tantalizing and taunting me.

And then with Chanukah arriving early this year, I relented and made potato pancakes (latkes) to celebrate a food that catapults me back in time to a good place...

What is your favorite memory-trigger food?

Buen provecho!

Crispy potato pancakes--one topped with a dollop of sour cream and scallions
and the other with applesauce

Potato Pancakes
The Cowgirl Gourmet ( got this recipe from the December 2000 issue of Gourmet

Potato pancake, kartoffelpuffer or latke. No matter what you call them, they are divine. Serve with applesauce and sour cream, a dollop of caviar, smoked salmon or grilled sausage. Make them bite-size or large. The choice is yours. Just make them.

1 lb. potatoes, grated (Russet potatoes work best and contain the most starch, though I used red potatoes, which are better for you, and they turned out incredible)
1/2 cup grated onion
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil and/or grapeseed oil

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Prepare a big bowl by filling it with cold water and set aside.

Wash and grate the potatoes by hand, transferring to the bowl of water as grated. Once you grate all the potatoes, soak them for a few minutes in the cold water. While the potatoes are soaking, grate the onion and then drain the grated potatoes and onion in a colander.

Using an old kitchen towel, spread the grated potatoes and the grated onion on the towel and twist the towel to wring out as much liquid as possible. This may take several "wrings," so be patient.

Transfer potato mixture to a clean bowl and stir in egg and salt.

Using a large nonstick skillet, heat 1/4 cup of oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches, spoon 2-3 Tablespoons potato mixture per pancake into skillet, spreading into 3-4 inch rounds. Reduce the heat a touch and cook 3-5 minutes until undersides are browned. When adequately browned, flip the pancake until browned, approximately another 3-5 minutes.

When browned and fully cooked, transfer the pancakes to a paper towel lined plate to drain and immediately season with salt.

Add more oil to the skillet as needed.

Keep pancakes warm on a wire rack in a shallow baking pan in the oven until ready to serve. Serve with applesauce and/or sour cream for the more traditional approach.

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