Fear of frying: Now’s the time to practice the art

The problem with Hanukkah coming only once a year is that by the time December rolls around, we are all out of practice on our frying. This may be a more severe phenomenon in healthy California, where deep dives into baths of oil are not the rage in home cooking.

This year, before latke season begins for real — and it’ll be awhile, as Hanukkah doesn’t begin until Dec. 24 this year — you might as well get in some practice. Because I don’t want to burn myself out on the traditional dishes before the latke and sufganiyot season truly begins, I’m going to start with potatoes, approaching them Indian style. Pakora are shockingly easy to prepare, once you have the key ingredients in the house. If you prefer your deep-fried delights a little more Southern, give the corn fritters a go.

Both of these dishes are complemented nicely by cilantro chutney or a creamier chipotle dipping sauce. So enjoy! Mix and match your culinary cultures, and prepare for the Hanukkah tradition the old-fashioned way, with plenty of practice under your belt in terms of miraculous oil and the art of cooking golden brown.

Potato Pakora

Makes 30 pieces

  • 2 russet potatoes, peeled, cut in 2-inch wedges (sliced ½-inch thick)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. anise seeds
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ cup water
  • Corn oil

Sprinkle potatoes with 1 tsp. salt. Meanwhile, in a bowl whisk together chickpea flour, baking powder, anise seeds, ½ tsp. salt and water. Heat corn oil 1/8-inch deep in large frying pan. Dip potatoes in batter. Fry potatoes 8-9 minutes total, turning so they turn golden brown. Drain on plate lined with paper towels. Serve with cilantro chutney.

Cilantro Chutney

Makes 1 cup

  • 1 Tbs. tamarind concentrate
  • ½ cup fresh tomato, chopped
  • 1 bunch scallions, roots and greens discarded
  • 2 cups cilantro leaves
  • 1 cup mint leaves
  • ½ tsp. salt

In a blender, purée all ingredients until smooth.

Potato and Corn Fritters

Makes 36 pieces

  • 3 cups mashed potatoes
  • 1½ cups frozen corn kernels, defrosted
  • 3 Tbs. chives, chopped
  • ½ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ½ cup flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • Plenty of fresh ground black pepper
  • Corn oil

In a bowl, combine mashed potatoes, corn, chives and cheese. Stir using a fork. Mix in egg, flour, baking powder, salt and black pepper. Heat ½-inch oil in a wide-bottomed frying pan. When oil is hot but not smoking, drop in rounded tablespoons of batter. Cook 2-3 minutes per side, allowing to turn golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towels or brown bags to remove excess oil. Serve with Chipotle Sour Cream.

Chipotle Sour Cream

Makes 1 cup

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp. adobo chipotle sauce from a can
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk.

Josie A.G. Shapiro

Josie A.G. Shapiro won the 2013 Man-O-Manischewitz Cookoff and is the co-author of “The Lazy Gourmet.”