Playing with Perfection: Cilantro Latkes with Cranberry Miso Dip


I’m sure I’m not alone in sometimes feeling that the best things about Hanukkah are the potato latkes (even better than the gifts or the gelt)!  Is there anything more perfect than the pairing of starchy crispy fried goodness of a hot-from-the-pan potato latke and the sweet cooling fruitiness of applesauce? Is there? This is the question I set out to answer on the second night of Hanukkah 2009.  After all, what good is the culinary part of the commemoration of a struggle against oppression if we feel our creativity is chained by the bondage of how things have always been done?

Okay… really, to be absolutely truthful, I didn’t set out to make a political statement with my cooking this Hanukkah.  It was actually Gansie who inspired me to play with the traditional Hanukkah fare:  When I told Gansie that I was going to my parents’ house to make potato latkes, her first reaction was, “Any interesting dipping sauces you’re going to try?”

Well… I hadn’t thought on that… because why mess with perfection?  But this is ES, and at ES we are nothing if not experimenters (and no, I wasn’t tempted to throw a fried egg on them, eat latkes ala Gansie and call it a day).

As Hanukkah came early this year, and Thanksgiving was still very much at the tip of my palate, I thought to inject the holiday with something slightly reminiscent of T-day flavor.

Enter cranberries, a fruit I believe we use all too seldom in non T-day festivities, and one I love to experiment with.


Cilantro Potato Latkes

  • 2 pounds potatoes (About 6 large peeled Idaho potatoes)
  • One large red onion, chopped
  • 2 large eggs
  • salt to taste
  • half a cup of cilantro
  • paprika

I peeled the potatoes and grated them with a cheese grater (with the help of my sous chef sister, thanks Al).  After the potatoes were grated, I submerged them in water for about two minutes.  Meanwhile I chopped the onion and the cilantro in my mom’s itty bitty food processor.

I poured a little salt over the onions and cilantro to leech a bit of the moisture then combined the cilantro, onion and potato in a bowl.


I then dumped the ingredients onto a clean dish towel.  I used the dish towel in place of a cheesecloth (does anyone else have terrible latke-making memories of spending an hour wringing the moisture out of grated potatoes wrapped in a cheesecloth? The dish towel method wasn’t nearly as painful). I rolled the ingredients tight into the towel and wrung out the excess moisture for about five minutes until the ingredients were nice and dry. I then combined the ingredients with the eggs, paprika and a little more salt.  In a frying pan I used about a cap full of olive oil per every five latkes as I cooked them, scooping out tablespoon size amounts of the latke batter, frying the flattened dollops on both sides until golden brown.


The latkes were crisp and delicious, but in retrospect I wish I had used a bit more cilantro.


Cranberry Miso Dip

  • heaping spoonful of red miso paste
  • garlic to taste
  • liberal dash of red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon of soy sauce
  • two bags of fresh cranberries (I used two of those ocean spray bags)
  • 1/2 cup cilantro
  • a little lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • a little water
  • two tablespoons of sugar or sugar substitute


I placed the red miso, minced garlic, soy sauce and water into a saucepan and heated until simmering.  Then I stirred in the rest of the ingredients.  I was going for slightly sweet, slightly tart, slightly salty.  I stirred and simmered the sauce until the cranberries popped, adding a little extra splenda at the end for taste.  The sauce was perfection.  It got high marks all around from the latke eaters.  In fact, my sister preferred the cranberry miso dip to the traditional apple sauce dip.  Blasphemy, I know.


Happy Hanukkah!

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  • Alix December 14, 2009  

    Proud to be part of the masterpiece… and to eat it mmm. I’m recreating the latkes today (I’ll try more cilantro this time), and I must say, however blasphemous, that cranberry sauce was just beyond yum. I think I’m gonna have to vote applesauce off the island for all future latke endeavors because mmm mm mmm! It was batamt, as they say in yiddish

  • gansie December 14, 2009  

    this sounds tremendous! thanks for taking the sauce to a new level.

    how many latkes did 2lbs of potatoes yield?
    what is red miso paste? is it like regular miso? what does it taste like? what else can you do with it?
    did you read david brooks NYT op-ed on the true origins of chanukah? he’s said the oil lasting for 8 days miracle is bullshit from rabbis. thoughts?

  • Maids December 14, 2009  

    Red miso paste is available at any asian food store, at yes organic market, and at whole foods. It’s stronger than yellow miso and white miso and a bit saltier and yeastier taste, fuller in flavor. People use it in soups and stir fries. I think it adds a nice rich taste to sauces. 2 pounds of potatoes yield about 20 latkes… maybe more. You’ll notice I left out bread crumbs and flour. This means the latkes tend toward the crisper side.

    It’s well known that the oil lasting eight days was either manufactured or otherwise sexed-up by rabbis who wanted to make the story more about miracles and less about a struggle against oppression. I’m not a fan of David Brooks’ take on the lore…. Peronally I believe the Hanukkah story doesn’t appeal to him because it doesn’t correspond with his political leanings. He’s a status quo, Hellinizer kinda guy.
    I’m much more into this explanation which frames Hanukkah as the first national liberation struggle in recorded history:

  • Nee Nee December 14, 2009  

    Sounds excellent! What a way to reinvent a Thanksgiving ingredient, a la your last post.

    This reminds me…is there ANY other way to wring moisture out of vegetables besides using cheese cloth or your towel method? I never have cheese cloth on hand and my towels smell like detergent. I had this issue when making Greek/Turkish-style zucchini pancakes during the great zucchini boom of summer ’09. I have a contraption in mind, but no tools to make it. I’m thinking a cookie sheet-sized sturdy screen with nice ergonomic handles on which you would lay out the veggies. Then you would squish it down with a pan or screen that fits into the base and pushes the liquid out the bottom. I’d make these delicious treats more often if it didn’t require so much manual labor.

  • Maids December 14, 2009  

    NeeNee! You better patent that idea ASAP!

  • BS December 14, 2009  

    this is such a good idea. The obvious next question to me seems to be, how about a blend? cranberry-apple sauce?

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