Bender men traditionally don't cook. Well, to be more accurate, when we cook, we make a significant mess and we don't clean.
My late grandfather taught me to cook a single dish: potato pancakes. The recipe is not complicated, nor is the preparation, but the taste is rich with the memories of watching him at the stove in his Chicago apartment.
I would sit at the kitchen table, both of my hands wrapped around a glass of orange juice. I'd swing my feet, which didn't reach the floor, in anticipation of the breakfast that would leave my tongue raw and my throat burned. Because I was so eager to eat them, I never learned to wait for the pancakes to cool.
Only after he agreed to show me how he made them did I learn that what I was tasting wasn't the ingredients -- it was my happiness at spending time with my grandfather.
In honor of Chanukah -- the first night is Friday -- here are simple directions for the finest potato pancakes that will ever grace your frying pan.
All you'll need is potatoes, yellow onions, oil (vegetable, canola, olive, whatever you have on hand), salt and pepper. Start heating the oil first. You'll want a layer of oil that covers the entire base of the pan, but it doesn't have to be very deep.
While the oil heats, peel the potatoes and remove the outer layer of the onion. After that, use the largest holes on a handheld grater -- the pieces should look like shredded paper. Use a two-to-one ratio of potatoes to onions. Toss the onions and potatoes in a bowl to mix them.
Take a palm-sized clump of your shredded mixture and add it to the oil. Use a spatula to spread it out to form a pancake -- about the thickness of a pen or pencil. Consider long sleeves because the oil will be sizzling and popping from the pan.
Use a spatula to begin to pull up the edges. When the potato pancake begins to solidify, you've got two choices for the flip. You can either toss it in the pan or cut it into four triangles and flip each piece. The first has a higher risk ratio, but is very impressive to anybody under the age of 30.
You want a golden brown color on the outside. When the pancake keeps its shape on both sides and can be flipped easily, it's ready to be eaten. Place it between two paper towels on a plate to drain some of the excess oil and then add salt to taste.
After that, just leave the dishes for someone else.
[Image via Flickr: jametiks]