Hanukkah is upon us, and at this most wonderful time of the year, we say bring on the latkes! These scrumptious little fried potato pancakes are a staple for the Jewish Festival of Lights. Fried in oil to commemorate the celebrated oil that lasted the eight nights of the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem, latkes are just one of many fried foods you might encounter at a Hanukkah party. And regardless of the religious affiliation of your guest list, we can’t imagine anyone turning down a perfectly golden brown latke.
So, are you ready to host the latke party to end all latke parties? Here’s how to get started.
Decorate using elegant and simple decor
Blue and white are the hallmark colors of Hanukkah. Keep things simple and classy with elegant decorations, dinnerware, linens and more in these hues. Simple white candles throughout your home add a nice bright touch, and a nine-branch menorah candleholder is, of course, a must.
Plan activities for all ages
It’s not a Hanukkah party without a dreidel. You can pick up small wooden or plastic dreidels, and set aside some pennies or chocolate candies to play with. If you have younger partygoers who need to keep their little hands and minds busy while you cook, eat and converse, consider buying a few make-your-own-dreidel kits and put wee ones to work at a craft table.
Nail the latke logistics
OK, let’s get down to business. Our starchy showstopper is the main event. You can ask your guests to share in the fun and bring prepared latkes — consider asking everyone to bring a different variety. In addition to the classic potato latke, consider sweet potato, sauerkraut, parsnip and apple varieties. And good news — everyone can make their latkes in advance, freeze them and bake them at your place if needed. Or you can also ask a few friends to join you in the kitchen on party day to prep and fry up the latkes. Decide what makes sense based on your guest list and your own party host personality.
Play with recipes
There’s no end to where you can go with latkes. Beets, carrots, squash—brown rice? It’s all about the oil, so use your imagination to add some pizzazz to your party.
Focus on the toppings
Nobody’s going to complain about a plain latke. But these salty pancakes crave accompaniments. Sour cream, Greek yogurt, crème fraiche, lox, applesauce and jams— even caviar (or especially caviar)—make for popular toppings.
Add complementary dishes
Your latkes might be the star of the show, but don’t forget your other dishes. (And hey, if you’re manning the latke station all night, don’t be shy about asking guests to go potluck on the side dishes and desserts.) Consider a delicious protein to balance out the carby goodness of your latkes—brisket is a popular option. A noodle kugel adds a lot of richness, but it’s so hard to pass up.
Looking for something light to cut the fried flavor and texture of the latkes? Maybe a nice apple salad with maple-mustard vinaigrette recipe. Don’t forget a pretty challah loaf. And on the sweeter side, guests may expect a sufganiyot, a traditional jelly-filled fried doughnut. (Don’t let them down.)
Don’t forget the drinks
A nice sparkling wine or a beer certainly pairs well with latkes, helping to break through some of the fried flavor. You can also opt for a simple nonalcoholic sparking apple cider or a grape juice sparkler.
Remember the reason
Celebrating with food, family and friends is indeed a big part of the holiday season. But take a moment to pause and remember why you’re all together. If you’re hosting during Hanukkah, take time to pause, say a blessing and light the menorah. And don’t forget—traditional songs add to the festive feeling, too, as the English words of a children’s song remind us:
Oh Hanukkah, oh Hanukkah,
A holiday, a lovely one,
A happy, a joyful one,
There is none like it!
Every night at dreidl do we play,
Fresh hot latkes we eat without end.