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Scallion Latkes with Scallion Dipping Brushes
Yield: 4 servings
These scallion latkes, reminiscent of those savory little pancakes served as dim sum, make use of ancient Chinese wisdom. The bracing, clean flavors of ginger, vinegar, and soy provide a sparkling antidote to the oily richness, as well as welcome respite from the ubiquitous sour cream.
For the Scallion Brushes
10 to 12 thin scallions
For the Dipping Sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon rice, Chinese black, or cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Asian toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon peeled and grated fresh ginger
Chili oil (optional)
For the Latkes
2 to 2 1/2 bunches of scallions, white and light green parts, trimmed and thinly sliced (2 1/2 cups)
2 tablespoons mild olive or canola oil, plus additional for frying
1 teaspoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
About 1 1/2 pounds russet (baking) or Yukon gold potatoes, peeled
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 large egg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons matzoh meal or unbleached all-purpose flour
Make the scallion brushes: Cut off and discard the roots and all but 3 inches of the green part of the scallions. Using scissors or small paring knife, cut slits about 1/2-inch deep into both green sections of each scallion stalk, creating a fringe. Carefully fan out the fringed edges. Place the scallions in a bowl of ice water, and refrigerate for 2 hours or until the fringed edges curl up.
Prepare the dipping sauce: stir together all the ingredients and let the flavors mingle for at least 30 minutes.
Start the latkes: in a large skillet, saute the scallions over moderately high heat in the oil until tender and just beginning to brown at the edges. Stir in the ginger, garlic, and soy sauce, and cook, lifting and tossing, for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool briefly.
Shred the potatoes, using the shredding disk in a food processor. Transfer the potatoes to a colander or strainer and use your hands or a wooden spoon to press out as much moisture as possible. (Don’t bother washing out food processor.)
Remove the shredding disk from the processor and replace with the steel blade. Return about one third of the shredded potatoes to the food processor and roughly puree, using the pulse motion. Transfer the puree to a large bowl, add the remaining potatoes and the egg, salt and pepper to taste, the baking powder, and matzoh meal or flour. (You will need salt here--the soy sauce merely flavors the scallions. Putting in enough soy sauce would make the latkes too wet. Figure about 1 teaspoon of salt.) Stir in the sauteed scallions. Mix until thoroughly combined.
In a 10- to 12-inch heavy skillet (cast-iron is ideal), heat about 1/4 inch of oil over high heat until hot but not smoking. Using a 1/4-cup measure, drop the latke batter into the pan and flatten the latkes with a spatula. Cook no more than 4 or 5 latkes at a time; crowding the pan will make the latkes soggy.
Regulate the heat carefully as the latkes fry until golden and crisp on the bottom, about 4 minutes. To prevent the oil from splattering, use two spatulas (or a spatula and a large spoon) to turn the latkes carefully. Fry until crisp and golden on the other side. (Avoid turning the latkes more than once or they will absorb too much oil. Before turning, lift the latkes slightly with the spatula to make sure the underside is crisp and brown.)
Transfer the cooked latkes to paper towels or untreated brown paper bags to drain. Continue frying latkes in the same way until all the batter is used. If necessary, add more oil to the pan, but always allow the oil to get hot before frying a new batch.
If you must, keep the latkes warm arranged in a single layer on a rack set over a baking sheet in a slow oven (200 degrees F) until they are all ready to be brought to the table. But they are at their best served as soon as possible.
When ready to serve, pat the scallions brushes dry. Guests should use the brushes to coat each latke with dipping sauce, then top the latke with the brush.