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For a different take on latkes, try these ginger sweet potato pancakes with orange zest

Let’s start right up front by saying these are not traditional latkes . Classic Jewish latkes for Hanukkah are made with russet potatoes, occasionally Yukon golds, and are usually very simply seasoned with salt, pepper and onion.
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This image provided by Katie Workman shows apple sauce being poured over ginger sweet potato pancakes. Traditional Hanukkah latkes are pancakes made from white potatoes and simply seasoned with salt, pepper and onion. But nowhere is it written that you can't play around with that. AP food writer Katie Workman suggests a recipe for ginger sweet potato pancakes as a variation on traditional latkes. (Katie Workman via AP)

Let’s start right up front by saying these are not traditional latkes. Classic Jewish latkes for Hanukkah are made with russet potatoes, occasionally Yukon golds, and are usually very simply seasoned with salt, pepper and onion.

These are something else altogether — shredded sweet potato pancakes spiked with minced fresh ginger and orange zest.

They have an earthy warmth from the ginger root, and a bright citrusy note from the orange. You’ll also want to season the mixture liberally with salt and pepper.

Like traditional potato pancakes, these sweet potato latkes work really well with either applesauce or sour cream.

A FRITTER BY ANY OTHER NAME...

Traditional potato pancakes are a favorite in my house, and I made a few big batches each year during the Hanukkah holiday. But the idea of pan-seared fritters is an appealing one, and there is a world of options aside from white potatoes.

Vegetable latkes can be made from chopped or shredded beets, zucchini, carrots, butternut squash or cauliflower. They won’t taste or look the same as potato latkes, but hey, there are eight nights of Hanukkah, so plenty of time to play around with new variations!

You can keep the seasonings simple or take them in lots of different directions. Think about fresh herbs, curry powder, cumin, minced garlic, za’atar, chili powder, Aleppo pepper or sumac. You could blend up some plain Greek yogurt, crème fraiche or sour cream with different seasonings to serve with the pancakes.

SWEET POTATO PARTICULARS

One nice thing about using sweet potatoes instead of the more traditional russets: They contain much less water, so you don’t have to squeeze them dry. However, they take a bit more attention to get them to crisp up in the pan (much like sweet potato fries are never as crispy as regular fries).

This is for a couple of reasons — they have less natural starch than russets, and the starch is what helps them get crispy. You can encourage more crispiness by adding a bit of cornstarch and flour to the mixture.

Also, sweet potatoes, as the name suggests, have more natural sugar than russets, which can cause the pancakes to burn, so make sure not to turn the heat up too high. Keep a close eye on these as they cook, adjusting the temperature so they brown and cook through, but not too quickly.

COOKING TIPS

Pressing down on the pancakes as they cook allows them to have more contact with the hot pan and cook more evenly. Check that the underside of each pancake is browned and firm before you flip it.

Add a little more oil and bits of butter when you cook each batch of pancakes. Between every couple of batches, you might want to give the pan a quick wipe with a paper towel (carefully! Hot pan, hot oil!), and start over if you’re finding that the oil is getting dark and that too many bits of charred potato and onion are floating around the pan.

To keep the latkes warm until you're ready to serve them, preheat the oven to 300 degrees and transfer them there on a baking sheet. Or just serve in batches, hot from the pan.

If you are planning to serve these as part of a meal involving meat, and you want that meal to be strictly kosher, then fry up the pancakes in olive oil only, no butter. And no sour cream. (Kosher meals can't mix meat and dairy.)

STORAGE AND REHEATING

Leftover sweet potato latkes will last for two days, well wrapped in the fridge. Reheat them by placing them on a wire rack on a baking sheet in a preheated 300-degree oven for 7 to 10 minutes.

GINGER SWEET POTATO PANCAKES

Make about 30 pancakes, serves 10

2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled

2 large eggs

1 large onion (finely minced; about 1 cup)

2 tablespoons peeled minced fresh ginger

2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest

3 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

About 1/3 cup olive oil

About 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter

Applesauce and sour cream to serve

Using a food processor or a handheld grater, grate the sweet potatoes on the large-holed blade or side of the grater.

In a large bowl, mix the eggs and minced onion. Add the sweet potatoes, ginger and orange zest, and toss to mix well (use your hands or a spoon). Sprinkle the flour and cornstarch over it, season with salt and pepper, and make sure everything is well combined.

In a large skillet (or two large skillets to make the cooking go faster), heat a tablespoon of oil and a tablespoon of butter over medium heat until the butter has melted and the fat is hot. Swirl the pan, and then add about 1/3-cup scoops of the potato mixture. Gently press them with the back of a spatula into flatter circles in the pan. Cook until golden brown and crisp, about 4 to 5 minutes on each side. Keep a close eye on the heat: Too low, and they won’t brown properly; too high, and the pancakes could start to burn.

Transfer the pancakes to a paper-towel-lined surface to drain briefly, then transfer to a serving platter. Repeat until all of the potato mixture is used up, adding more oil and bits of butter as needed.

Give the pancakes a final light sprinkle of kosher or flaky salt just before serving. Serve warm with applesauce and sour cream.

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Katie Workman writes regularly about food for The Associated Press. She has written two cookbooks focused on family-friendly cooking, “Dinner Solved!” and “The Mom 100 Cookbook.” She blogs at https://themom100.com/. She can be reached at Katie@themom100.com.

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For more AP food stories, go to https://apnews.com/hub/recipes

Katie Workman, The Associated Press