Saturday, April 30, 2011

Finding Comfort...

Once again, the temperatures are creeping up into the low 90's this weekend in Los Angeles...I know, I know...I live in Sunny Southern California...I get the 'Sunny' part...while weather likes this tends to make you want food of lighter fare, I found myself  earlier this week working on comfort food.

I suppose the weather doesn't really matter when you want comfort food.  Who would turn down a cheesy, gooey plate of macaroni and cheese?  Or a platter of crispy fried chicken?  Some comfort foods do bring to mind cooler temps--think chicken soup.  But if you're strictly after the emotional gratification of comfort food, it doesn't matter if it's 95 degrees, thunder-storming, or you're barricaded in your house while 2 feet of snow is falling outside.

But I had a purpose.  Saveur magazine has a Home Cook Challenge every month on their website.  I finally threw my hat into the ring last month for their sandwich challenge.  This month's theme is 'Comfort Food.'  For someone who spends a great deal of time thinking about food, having the opportunity to play around with tastes and combinations is right up my alley.  And if the experiment goes wrong, you just try again.

I considered the mac and cheese route.  Or the mashed potato route.  I looked into the great abyss known as my fridge and saw the gnarly (in a good way) hunk of celery root and knew I wanted to work with it.  I've done mashed potatoes in the past with celeriac, but wanted something a little different.  I love the subtlety of taste with celery root.  I love the challenge of it.  Cutting away the twisting roots and earth that invariably clings to it, only to reveal a creamy center.  So I decided on latkes.  Potatoes.  Hot. Starchy. Comfort.  It was my first time making them and I was thrilled with the results.  I also made a sauce to serve with them to replace the usual sour cream or applesauce.

The best part, other than being delicious?  They're easy to make.  Almost finger food if you don't mind getting a little grease or yogurt on your hands.  Hell, it's comfort's supposed to make you feel good and sometimes eating with your hands is more than a good thing!

Celeriac and Potato Latkes with Apricot-Ginger Yogurt Sauce

2 medium red potatoes, peeled and grated (about 2 cups)
1 medium celery root, peeled and grated (about 1 ½ cups)
½ cup red onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons flour
2 eggs, beaten
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
Olive oil for frying

In bowl, add grated potatoes, celeriac and red onion.  Mix well.  Add pepper, flour, and eggs.  Using fork, combine so eggs are evenly distributed.  In a large skillet, add 3 tablespoons olive oil.  Heat on medium high flame.  Form latkes into roughly 2-inch mounds and add to pan.  Flatten with spatula.  Fry each side for about 4 minutes before flipping (but watch closely).  Add more oil as needed by the tablespoon.  Drain on paper towel-lined plate before serving. 

Apricot-Ginger Yogurt Sauce

½ cup plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 tablespoon apricot jam
Pinch of salt.

Mix all ingredients in bowl and stir to combine.  Adjust ginger and jam to taste, if you like.  Spoon onto latkes.  

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