THE BITE: There’s something wrong with my internal food calendar. I always seem to crave a food item when it’s not “in season.” I like pot roast in the heat of August. I often grill fish when it’s snowing outside. Maybe it’s my inner rebel gourmand; he likes to buck the system and today was no exception. Today, I was craving latkes.
For those of you who don’t know, a latke is a fried potato pancake. Traditionally, latkes are eaten during the feast of Hanukkah by the Jewish people. Me, I’m a goyim. So, I’m not tied to the tradition. Where I grew up we called these potato pancakes and weren’t taught about the holiday connection. I can eat potato pancakes without guilt any time of year and I suspect most of my Jewish friends do too. And so should you.
Homemade potato pancakes are one of the great foodstuffs of the world. But, they don’t translate well for mass production. When you make a latke at home, the potatoes are first grated and squeezed dry. Then they are mixed with egg, sometimes grated onion and just enough flour to hold them together. Sounds simple right? It is, but there’s a catch. Leave the raw potatoes exposed to the air and they’ll turn black. It’s not going to hurt you, but it’s not pretty either.
This is why most commercial establishments have come up with recipes that are heavy on the flour and light on the potato which usually results in a thick, almost leaden pancake that bears little resemblance to home made. Not so at Jay and Lloyd’s.
For $4.95, Jay and Lloyd’s (2718 Avenue U) serves up three “baby” potato pancakes with apple sauce optional and on the side. These are on the “Nosh” section of the menu and frankly are superior to the regular potato pancake ($3.95) offered under “Hot Dogs and Knishes.”
Why’s that? I’m not exactly sure. I’m pretty sure that both versions share the same dough, but the “baby” versions have a better crust to filling ratio. These pancakes were about 2.5″ in diameter and about 3/4″ thick. Fried to a crispy golden brown exterior, the filling remained light while the entire cake was almost grease free. The crispy crust contrasted nicely with the soft filling. These are probably some of the best store-bought potato pancakes I’ve ever had.
Jay and Lloyd’s Kosher Deli, 2718 Avenue U, (718) 891-5298.
The Bite is Sheepshead Bites’ weekly column where we explore the foodstuffs of Sheepshead Bay. Each week we check out a different offering from one of the many restaurants, delis, food carts, bakeries, butchers, fish mongers, or grocers in our neighborhood. If it’s edible, we’ll take a bite.