This dish is the mash-up of two prototypically Jewish elements and two that definitely don’t seem to be likely suspects. But the acidity and sweetness of the pickled blackberries combine with the piquant quality of the wasabi and rich sweetness of the cream to perfectly complement the latkes and smoked salmon.
While the latkes may be a classically Jewish ingredient, the technique I use here is anything but. Instead of grating all the ingredients and then frying them together I use a more typically hash brown technique and parboil the potatoes before grating them. Then I put them (mixed with the onion) in a ring mold and lightly press them using the bottom of a wine glass. This technique allows for greater precision and a more even cook. It also helps prevent an experience most Jews have had at least once at a Hanukkah supper: thin, gorgeous delicious-looking latkes that fall apart as mom tries to serve you from the platter. Even if you don’t use the rest of the recipe, definitely try that technique.
Latkes with Smoked Salmon, Pickled Blackberry, and Wasabi Cream
Serves 6 (makes 18 latkes)
For the Wasabi Cream
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon wasabi paste
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
For the Latkes
2 pounds medium waxy potatoes (1½ to 1¾ pounds), unpeeled
1 medium onion, finely grated
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon potato starch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Grapeseed, canola, or another neutral oil, for frying
12 ounces smoked salmon, cut into 1 1./2 by 1/2-inch pieces
18 Pickled Blackberries (recipe below, must be made ahead)
1. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, wasabi paste, and vinegar until combined. This can be made up to a day ahead, covered, and refrigerated until ready to use.
2. Place the potatoes in a large saucepan, add cold water to cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Ready an ice bath while the water boils. Add the potatoes and cook until they are just tender and can easily be pierced with a sharp knife, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and immediately and transfer the potatoes to the ice bath for at least 5 minutes. Once cooled, drain and dry the potatoes (do not peel) and transfer to the refrigerator, uncovered (so the potatoes dry), for at least 1 hour and up to overnight.
3. Using a food processor fitted with the shredding disk or the large holes on a box grater, shred the potatoes and transfer to a large bowl. Add the grated onion, eggs, potato starch, baking powder, salt, and pepper and mix to combine.
4. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just shimmering. Pat 2 to 3 tablespoons (depending on the size latke you want) of the latke mixture into a small disk and fry in the hot oil, about 2 minutes per side, to test for seasoning and adjust accordingly. Form the remaining mixture into latkes just as you did the tester. It is best to form the latkes just before you cook them. If you want less rustic and more precisely shaped latkes, scoop the mixture into a 3-inch ring mold (or a clean and empty tuna can with the bottom cut out), then use the bottom of a white wine glass to lightly pat it down. Place the formed latkes on a parchment-lined baking sheet as you make them.
5. To fry the latkes, heat the skillet over medium-high heat until hot, then add two tablespoons oil to the hot skillet and swirl to coat the entire pan. Working quickly, add up to four latkes per batch to the pan and cook until they are nicely browned, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. If using the ring molds, slide a spatula under the bottom of the latke-filled ring mold and use tongs to transfer the assembly to the pan. Flip the ring mold latkes using the tongs, then press down using the wine glass bottom. As the latkes are cooked, transfer them to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
6. Place up to 3 latkes on each plate (depending on whether you’re serving them as appetizers, a main course or just want more of some of the best food Hannukah has to offer. Fold a piece of lox in half and place it on each latke. Add a dollop of the wasabi cream and a single pickled blackberry. Repeat with the remaining latkes.
Makes about 1 quart
10 whole black peppercorns
2 allspice berries
2 juniper berries
1 dried árbol chile, stemmed
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
6 tablespoons sugar
1 shallot, thinly sliced horizontally
1 sprig thyme
3 tablespoons salt
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 pound blackberries (about 3 1/4 cups)
1. In a mortar, lightly crush the peppercorns, allspice berries, juniper berries, chile, ginger and bay leaf. Combine the crushed spices with the sugar and salt in a large bowl and add the vinegar and 2 cups of water. Whisk to combine. Transfer to a medium saucepan, add the shallots and thyme, and bring just to a boil over high heat, stirring to make sure the solids are fully dissolved. Transfer back to the bowl and let cool completely.
2. Add the blackberries to a sanitized 1-quart glass jar. Strain the brine and pour it over the berries to cover. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 week before serving. The pickled blackberries will keep, refrigerated, for up to 3 months.