cook like michael herschman: root vegetable latkes with sweet garlic applesauce & roasted chili creme fraiche

Hanukkah starts at sundown on Wednesday. To help celebrate, one of my favorite local chefs, Michael Herschman, shares a favorite holiday recipe of his – as well as a favorite Hanukkah memory.

“I will never forget when I was little I got this Fisher Price activity desk with magnetic letters, chalk, crayons, etc. with the flip top and cool storage places. Silly as it was, I used the shit out of that thing and would probably play with it today! But my favorites are still my family getting together at my folks and my mama’s latkes (my gram’s were great too!).”

Root Vegetable Latkes with Sweet Garlic Applesauce & Roasted Chili Crème Fraiche (yield 8 servings)

The Night Before: Make the crème fraiche. Combine 2 cups heavy cream with 2 Tbl. buttermilk and a pinch of kosher salt. Stir and store in we3ll sealed for 24 hours at room temperature.

After 24 hours, stir and store in refrigeration until use.

Preheat oven at 350F.

The Roasted Chilies : Split 4 red serrano, tabasco or fresh cayenne chilies and remove seeds and veil. Season lightly with kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper. Coast with blended olive Oil or soybean oil and make a “Hershey’s Kiss” around chilies with foil. Roast until peppers are tender. Remove, drain excess oil and finely mince with a sharp chef’s knife (where gloves!) or puree in a processor or blender. Cover and refrigerate.

The Sweet Garlic: In a small bake pan, combine 2 cups cleaned garlic cloves with 2 cups blended olive oil or soybean oil to cover garlic. Cover with foil and roast at 350 until garlic is golden and extremely tender. Remove and strain oil (reserve oil for dressings or aiolis). Reserve garlic for next day at room temperature covered.

The Next Day

Preheat oven at 350F

The Sweet Garlic Applesauce: Core and cut in half 14 Granny Smith apples. Coat with blended olive oil or soybean oil and roast on oiled sheet pan until skin lifts from flesh and flesh is soft (approx 25 minutes). When skins are releasing and flesh is tender, pinch away skins and discard. In a large bowl combine roasted apples, 2 Cups sweet garlic, 1 Tsp. Kosher salt, juice of 2 lemons, pinch of nutmeg and a pinch of freshly ground black pepper. Mash with a large spoon until ingredients are well incorporated; leave a bit chunky. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Cover and refrigerate.

Roasted Chili Crème Fraiche: In a medium bowl combine 2 cups crème fraiche, 2 Tbl. roasted chili puree (you can add more later if you want some kick). Season with kosher salt, pepper, juice of 1 lemon and 2 Tbl chopped cilantro.

The Root Vegetable Latkes

1 large celery root bulb, peeled and grated
3 parsnips, peeled and grated
1 large turnip, peeled and grated
5 Yukon gold potatoes, grated
2 Tbl potato starch
2 Tbl Kosher salt
1 Tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 eggs, whisked
1 Tbl corn starch
¼ cup chopped flat parsley
3 Tbl buttermilk

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and drain off excess liquid. In a large frying pan, coat pan ¼ Inch of soybean or peanut oil and heat. Form root vegetable mixture into small 3-4 inch flat pancakes and fry until golden on both sides and centers are tender. Continue until all pancakes are made and keep warm in oven (around 250F).

On a large platter, form a spiral of warm root vegetable latkes and place a small dollop of the sweet garlic applesauce in center of latke and a small dollop of roasted chili crème fraiche. Garnish with freshly chopped parsley and cilantro. Consume happily and open presents!

This holiday recipe was sponsored by Heinen’s. When making these wonderful latkes at home, Ed Thompkins suggests a 2007 Kaleidoscope . He says it’s an engaging white from Monterey County that seemingly goes with everything.  “This unique blend of Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat and Riesling has produced a wine that takes versatility to an art form. From the heady perfumed aromas of peach blossoms and honey to flavors on the palate that show pear and tropical notes, to a finish that is fruity/crisp,  this wine will amaze you with just how many foods it can complement,” he adds.