Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. Even as a kid, I’d spend the day in the kitchen stirring, smelling, creating, and laughing with my family and friends. What could be better than spending a day lounging in a kitchen full of friendly faces all cocooned in the wonderful aromas of roast poultry, buttery stuffing, caramelized Brussels sprouts, and sugar-slicked pecans before diving into a seemingly endless, wine-filled feast?
This year, there is something better—Thanksgivukkah. Yes, for the first time in, oh, 70,000-ish years, the first day of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving fall on the same Thursday, joining forces for the ultimate super holiday. A celebration of the harvest meets a celebration of all things fried in oil makes for a feast of memorable proportions.
While there are dozens of ways to meld the two celebrations at the dinner table, I’ve chosen to transform the humble potato latke into two pumpkin-filled twists on the classic, one savory and one sweet.
First, you’ll want to choose the right pumpkin for the job. The massive carving pumpkins you’ll find on every corner aren’t bred for flavor, so instead go for the smaller sugar pumpkin variety. (You could also use another winter squash, like kabocha, acorn, or even butternut if you’d prefer.) Cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, and peel the skin using a sharp knife. I like to use my food processor to shred the pumpkin quickly and painlessly, but you can also use a box grater if that’s what you’ve got on hand.
For savory latkes, I seasoned the pumpkin simply with minced onion, salt, and pepper. A bit of flour and egg hold the mixture together.
To make these savory pumpkin latkes even more appropriate for the Thanksgiving table, I fried them in turkey fat that I rendered ahead of time. To render your own, trim the fatty skin from the neck and rear cavity of your turkey. Place the skin and any large pieces of fat in a cast iron skillet, and cover with a little bit of water. Heat the fat and water slowly over low heat. Let the mixture simmer until the water evaporates, all of the fat, and the pieces of skin are well-browned and crisp. Drain the fat through a coffee-lined strainer to remove the skin cracklings. (Season the cracklings with salt and eat for an afternoon snack!) Depending on the amount of fat on your turkey, you may need to supplement the rendered fat with olive or canola oil. Combine the two cooking fats in a measuring cup before frying to ensure that the turkey flavor stays in every batch.
In addition, I incorporated cranberries into traditional applesauce. Simmering a batch of cranberry applesauce is super easy—combine the berries with a few peeled and chopped apples and a little apple juice, sugar, and lemon juice. Cook everything until the apples are soft, mash, and then serve. The tart red fruit and sweet apples make for a bright condiment that perks up the fried pancakes.
For sweet dessert latkes, I took a cue from pumpkin pie. Instead of savory onion and black pepper, I mixed in a bit of brown sugar and a few spoonfuls of pumpkin pie spices. I further amplified the pie flavor by frying the cakes in butter and topping them with a dollop of soft whipped cream.
Cooking the latkes is a simple as scooping about 1/4 cup of pumpkin mixture per latke into a hot, fat-slicked cast iron skillet and frying them until they’re well browned on each side. Keep early batches warm in a 300 degree oven while frying the remainder of the pumpkin mixture.
Note: These recipes are written to make use of one pumpkin total. (You’ll need half of a pumpkin for each recipe.) If you only want to make one version, you can easily double the recipes to use a whole pumpkin. These recipes are not necessarily kosher.
Recipe: Savory Pumpkin Latkes with Cranberry-Applesauce
Makes about 18 latkes
Ingredients: 1 1/2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen 1 1/2 pounds apples (3–4), peeled and diced (Golden Delicious, Jonagold, Fuji, Jonathan, McIntosh, Gravenstein, and Honeycrisp apples all make great applesauce) 1/4 cup brown sugar 1/4 cup apple juice, cider or water Juice of 1 lemon Kosher salt 1/2 (4–5 pound) sugar pumpkin 1 small onion, minced or shredded 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper 2 large eggs, beaten Rendered turkey fat, olive oil, or a combination
Instructions: 1. First, make the cranberry-applesauce: Combine the cranberries, apples, brown sugar, apple juice, and lemon juice in a medium saucepan. Bring mixture to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to simmer until the cranberries have burst and the apples are soft, about 15 minutes. 2. Mash apples and cranberries with a potato masher until smooth. Season to taste with salt and additional brown sugar. Let cool to room temperature. 3. For the latkes: Preheat oven to 300 degrees. 4. Peel and seed pumpkin half, and cut into chunks about 2 inches wide. Shred the pumpkin using the shredding disk on a food processor or a box grater. You should have about 4 1/2 cups. 5. Combine the shredded pumpkin, onion, flour, black pepper, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in a large bowl. Mix well to distribute the flour. Fold in the eggs until combined. 6. Heat 2–3 tablespoons fat or oil in well-seasoned cast iron skillet or nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Using 1/4 cup-sized measuring cup, scoop pumpkin mixture into skillet, forming small cakes. Press each latke flat using the measuring cup or your fingers. 7. Cook each latke until well-browned on each side, 3–5 minutes per side. Adjust the heat as needed to allow the latke to brown evenly and cook through. 8. Transfer cooked latkes to a cookie sheet and place in oven to keep warm. Continue cooking latkes in the same way until all of the pumpkin mixture is used up. Replenish the fat in the skillet as needed. 9. Serve latkes with applesauce.
Recipe: Sweet Pumpkin Pie Latkes with Whipped Cream
Makes about 18 latkes
Ingredients: 1 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled 1 teaspoon powdered sugar (optional) 1/2 (4–5 pound) sugar pumpkin 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 1/4 cup brown sugar 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus extra for garnish 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, plus extra for garnish 2 large eggs, beaten Unsalted butter
Instructions: 1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. 2. Whisk together cream and powdered sugar (if using) in large chilled metal bowl. Continue to whisk vigorously until the cream holds soft peaks. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate while making latkes. 3. Peel and seed pumpkin half, and cut into chunks about 2 inches wide. Shred the pumpkin using the shredding disk on a food processor or a box grater. You should have about 4 1/2 cups. 4. Combine the shredded pumpkin, flour, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice, and nutmeg in a large bowl. Mix well to distribute the flour. Fold in the eggs until combined. 5. Heat 2–3 tablespoons butter well-seasoned cast iron skillet or nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Using 1/4 cup-sized measuring cup, scoop pumpkin mixture into skillet, forming small cakes. Press each latke flat using the measuring cup or your fingers. 6. Cook each latke until well-browned on each side, 3–5 minutes per side. Adjust the heat as needed to allow the latke to brown evenly and cook through. 7. Transfer cooked latkes to a cookie sheet and place in oven to keep warm. Continue cooking latkes in the same way until all of the pumpkin mixture is used up. Replenish the fat in the skillet as needed. 8. Serve latkes with whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon, nutmeg, or both.