Chef’s Corner: Oy Vey, OLÉ

“Oh Chanukah, oh Chanukah, come light the menorah, let’s have a Jewish-Mexican festival, we’ll all dance the lambada.”

Well, in my house anyway! If you have been a guest of mine for the holidays, you walk away with a Jewish-Mexican experience. It has taken me a while to convert all my childhood Mexican recipes to kosher. Do you know how hard that is? Green chile, cheese and chicken enchiladas or pork tamales, seriously?! OK but it’s doable – and delicious – the kosher way as well. It makes my children very happy and my husband happier.

This Chanukah make it spicy (or mild) with these delicious Jewish-Mexican latkes – nacho style, of course – with all your favorite toppings!

May this Chanukah bring to you the miracles you have been seeking and the moments you desire as you light the candles of your menorah.



Queso sauce:
1 tablespoon butter or oil
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup plain yogurt, at room temperature
¼ cup cream cheese (full-fat), at room temperature
¾ cup Monterey Jack cheese, finely shredded, at room
¾ cup cheddar cheese, finely shredded, at room temperature
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, diced
salt to taste

1½ pounds russet potatoes, peeled and shredded (about 4 cups)
1/3 small onion, diced
3 eggs, whisked
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, diced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt, plus more for garnish
1 teaspoon of cumin
2 jalapeño peppers, diced
avocado oil for frying

Salsa, homemade or store-bought (El Pato is my favorite)
½ cup black beans
½ cup corn
1 avocado, diced
2 sliced fresh jalapeño peppers or pickled slices
½ cup sour cream

In a large saucepan, melt butter or oil over low heat and whisk in flour until combined.
Add yogurt and cream cheese and stir until combined, making sure to keep the heat low as not to curdle the queso.
Add in Monterey Jack and cheddar cheeses and chipotle pepper and stir over low heat until well combined.
Season with salt to taste.
Set aside.
Note: You can also add one pound of imitation ground beef to
the queso.

Fill a bowl with ice water that will hold for 30 minutes.
Transfer grated potatoes to the icewater bath and let sit for 30 minutes.
Remove the potatoes and wring them out in batches with a dish towel, into the ice bowl, until all the water comes out.
Line a colander with paper towels and transfer potatoes.
Place colander on top of bowl, and wring them once more with the paper towels, until all the potatoes are done.
Let the water stand for 20 minutes.
Add additional paper towels to the colander, and top with grated onions. Using the paper towels, wring as much moisture out as possible. This will make the latkes crispier.
Strain the water out of the ice water bowl, and using a spoon, gently scoop the white layer of starch from the bottom of the bowl.
Add the starch to the potatoes in a large bowl.
Stir together the potatoes, starch, onion, eggs, garlic, chipotle pepper, flour, salt, cumin and jalapeños. If the mixture seems a bit watery, add a little more flour.
Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees.
Set aside paper towels for draining.
Pre-heat a large saucepan and add avocado oil.
The oil should be hot enough that the latke batter sizzles when placed in oil, but doesn’t burn immediately.
Place 1/4 cup dollops of latke batter into the oil, being careful not to overcrowd the pan.
Fry on one side until well browned, about 3-5 minutes.
Flip the latkes and fry on the other side. Drain on paper towels. Keep browned latkes warm by placing them in the oven.
Repeat the process until all the batter is gone.
Top latkes with warm queso and all other toppings. Eat immediately.

Lucia Schnitzer and her husband, Ken, own Pomelo (a full-service restaurant), Luci’s at The Orchard and Splurge (a candy and ice cream shop), all at The Orchard Phx, 7100 N 12th Street, Phoenix. They also own Luci’s Healthy Marketplace, 1590 E Bethany Home Road, Phoenix, which they opened in 2009 in Lucia’s honor after her successful battle with breast cancer.

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