January 8, 2011

Sweet Potato Latkes with Apple-Goat Cheese Slaw

I know what you're thinking, who starts off the new year with fried foods? Didn't we just indulge for 3 weeks straight? BUT, this fried food is topped with a slaw.  A slaw with no mayo.  A slaw made with fruit.  (Slaw is starting to look like a really weird word right about now...)  So relax, your resolutions are safe.  And you will thank me, because this is a fantastic dish.  Perfect to snack on, a great dinner accompanied by a green salad, and likely to be a show stopper at a party.
WARNING: Sections of this post are rated PG for being "Pretty Gross."  Or "Particularly Goosey."  Or "Perceptibly Greasy."  Or... ok I'll stop.  Basically, what I'm saying is that there are waterfowl body parts graphically depicted. 

This dish came to be because I wanted a way to use some goose fat.  My family roasted a goose this year for Christmas, and bestowed up on E and I some delicious leftovers: goose gravy and goose fat.  The gravy is delicious- rich and silky.  And this is probably due to the contribution of goose fat. It turns out, goose fat has been prized for years.  (Well, waterfowl fat in general.)  For the Jewish people, goose fat was an acceptable fat alternative to pork lard.  And in certain areas of France, goose fat is still used favorably over butter- for cooking, making pastry dough, and even spreading on toast.  Here are a few facts about goose fat, from reliable sources, for those of you who don't know any more about it than I did:

  • it's liquid at room temperature
  • has a smoke point around 375F
  • is considered healthier than other fats commonly used in cooking (lard and butter) because it has only 28% saturated fat, which is significantly lower than other animal fats, and when rendered at home, has no by-products of industrial processing.
  • can last for a year in your fridge

I rendered the goose fat by putting all the goosey bits (some skin, some meat, some straight fat) in a shallow saucepan with enough water to cover the bottom.  
The heat was set at about medium, and after 45 minutes, the water was evaporated, the fat was rendered, and the skin and meat was easily plucked out.  
You can see in the picture on the right how the skin and meat tightened up as it cooked.  (I took many more pictures of the process, but it just became increasingly disgusting looking, so I decided to spare you.) Once the fat was all melted off the skin, I strained the whole mess through cheesecloth, and poured it into a bowl to cool.  
Rendered goose fat- will turn white when it solidifies
There were about 3 cups of goose fat in a bowl on the counter, and then E and I stepped outside for a mere moment. When we returned to the kitchen, there were only about 1.5 cups left in the bowl... 
What? I didn't do anything
....And there was a very greasy-faced Boog looking only slightly guilty standing next to the counter.  Needless to say, her tummy was upset for a few days, especially since this came only days after she consumed an entire pound of chocolate fudge (with a hydrogen peroxide chaser to bring it all back up...).  You may find yourself wondering why yet again Freya managed to eat something off the counter, why E and I don't ever learn. We wonder this all the time. Ellie probably wonders, too; she must feel that it's terribly unfair that she's so short.

With the leftover fat, I decided to do some latkes- with sweet potatoes. I've tried these before, and couldn't get them to come out as anything other than shredded mess.  This time, I discovered the secret to fully-formed, delicious, sweet potato latkes- high heat, plenty of fat or oil, and small portions. You are absolutely required to go find a goose and de-fat it in order to make this.  (No, you're not at all.  You can use olive oil or vegetable oil if you want.  And you'll probably want to, because then your dog won't have the chance to eat her own weight in liquid fat.)
5 medium-small sweet potatoes
1/4 cup red onion, finely diced
3 eggs
1/2 cup flour
salt and pepper
goose fat (or vegetable oil)

1 granny smith apple
1/2 lemon
1/2 cup Greek yogurt (or strained regular yogurt)
3 tbsp goat cheese/goat cheese crumbles
salt and pepper

Peel the potatoes, then shred with grater or food processor into a large mixing bowl.  Lightly beat the eggs together, then add them to the potatoes.  Mix in the onion and flour, give it a few grinds of pepper and about 1 tsp. salt.  You should have a good sloshy mixture- this will help it all stay together in the pan.

Heat about 1/2 inch of the fat or oil in a pan to med-high.  You need enough fat/oil to keep these guys from sticking.  Take a spoonful of latke mixture and gently plop it into the pan, then press it flat with the back of the spoon.  You can probably fry up 3-4 at a time, but don't crowd them because it will make turning them harder.  The flattened latke should be only about 3 inches wide.  Turn after about 3 minutes.  If they aren't good and browned, you may need to turn your heat up.  Cook on the other side for another 3-5 minutes, then remove to paper towel (or brown paper bag- these are great at soaking up grease) to drain.  Salt liberally.  Repeat until all your latkes are made.  If you won't be serving them right away, put them on a baking sheet.  They can be heated and crisped back up in the oven at about 350F for 5-10 minutes (depending on how long they sat out).
This is the first batch- NOT enough fat in the pan, they became
sweet potato hash-browns
To make the slaw:  Slice the apple into matchsticks, or julienne on a mandoline.  Squeeze the lemon over the apples to coat with juice.  Toss with the yogurt and goat cheese, then sprinkle with about 1/2 tsp salt and a few good grinds of pepper.

To serve, top each latke with about 2 tbsp. slaw.

NOTE:  If your latkes stick, and would rather be hash browns, don't worry.  They won't be as pretty, but they will still taste GREAT.  

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