As with everything, first you gather your ingredients.
But hold on. Let’s just agree right now that by a certain age, every adult should be proficient with a few dishes in the kitchen. A sign of distinction in a person’s character no matter their station is their impression being so as to be able to imagine them in their own kitchen, forks and spatulas and knives held like brushes and chisels at the marble slowly revealing — in the heat, in the steam, in the sizzle, herbed, spiced, doused, caramelized, and otherwise prepared — their meal, their private extravagance, their triumph over the mundane. If that is not you, we can still get along just fine. Different styles, different wines.
In this case, though, here’s to the home-schooled/self-taught home chefs making their kitchens a dance floor of adventure through aroma, texture, color, and taste, of experimentation and modifications. Google and YouTube surfing for ideas and guidance, calling mom or dad or a tia or uncle or bubby for recipes and directions, remembering dishes with siblings, telling your kids, your friends, and even your students about special meals, dishes, remembrances centered around food, scouring the cookbook section at the local used book store. Here’s to you, here’s to us. To ever begin again in good taste.
I got this idea about a latke burger not knowing that the latke burger was already a thing. This is what I came up with on my own inspired by a video about a Miami restaurant called Pincho that made burgers with tostones as the buns, fitting all the fixings in a staggering juicy mess.
Everytime I see something like that, I become determined to create my own kosher version. I made the tostones burgers like a boss. It was then, though, probably because of the time of the year, that I thought I could do the same with latkes. That was three years ago. This year I may have reached a new peak in terms of texture, taste, and glommability. Maybe it was the tunes.
So, yes, first things first. Gather your ingredients: Idaho potatoes shredded and drained, chopped meat, diced red onions, diced shallots, shredded carrots, eggs, panko, flour, salt, black pepper, herb rubs of your liking for burgers, one mashed Hass avocado, Cholula Chili Lime Hot Sauce, slices of tomato, Kosher whole dill pickles, cole slaw, mayo, lemon, sugar, whatever cooking oil of your choice to fry potatoes (and potentially meat if it’s raining so bad that the barbecue is just not happening). (My apologies, but inherent in this list is some prep — “shredded and drained,” “diced,” “mashed,” “slices.”)
Do you want corn on the cob or roasted okra on the side? Maybe some asparagus?
Back up. Don’t you have a playlist? Your tunes, your choice. Mine rocked like this on the way to the market back to the kitchen through every step, through every album: The Night Creeper, Labor Against Waste, Master of Reality, Zeppelin III, Houses of the Holy, Heaven and Hell, the Legacy of the Beast Tour playlist, and Jailbreak.
Having the space and time and ability to jam these tunes at will is a miracle of our times that you’re still learning to appreciate if you’re smart about it.
Your drink, your choice. I like a mild toned, caramelly red IPA.
I don’t have measurements by any standards or rules. I make it up as I go. Everything by taste. Everything with love. That’s my method.
What will the tongue delight to sing a grateful blessing over in appreciated indulgence?
It will be a festive meal on the first festive eve of a festive holiday of lights.
I’m cooking for three tonight. Here’s what I’m looking to have in the end: at least 6 burgers and 12 latkes. It turns out I make about 15 latkes and 7 burgers.
Assumptions: good knife handy.
Shred and drain 7 medium sized Idaho potatoes. Put’em in the bowl. Add about a half a cup of shredded carrots. Add half a large red onion diced, a tablespoon of flour, four eggs. Add half a cup of panko, 4 teaspoons of kosher salt, 1 teaspoon of black pepper. Mix that together with a large, solid spoon. Mix it good.
You should be aware that none of these measurements are reliable. I’m too busy shredding air guitar.
One pound of burger meat mixed with diced shallots and ¼ red onion diced, ¼ cup of panko, 2 eggs, rubby dub dub.
Can you handle two hot pans? If you were rockin you could.
I use vegetable oil for the latkes. Indulgences, people.
I use olive oil for the burgers. No barbecue. The cold rain won’t stop. Georgia in December.
Form the latkes in your palms. Squeeze, shape into ½ to 1 inch thick oval wide enough to bun the burgers.
Form the burgers in your palms. Squeeze, shape into thick ovals wide enough to fit between the latkes already cooking.
How big are your pans? How many can you fit at a time? How long will this take? These are important life questions. These are soul questions. Ultimately, are you worthy of the task, no matter your tools? Can you improvise?
Practice food safety. Get dirty, but stay clean.
Always try a latke, the first, like a tribute paid to a sultan.
The potato is crispy brown, shades of yellow and strings of orange — the carrots maintain their sweetness. The red onions keep a translucent texture and burst a savory catastrophe on the tongue. The latke doesn’t fall apart, maintains shape. Can this ever be replicated?
Mash the avocado with the Cholula and a sprinkle of kosher salt.
Mix the cole slaw with a scoop of mayo, a good squeeze of lemon, and a finger sprinkle of sugar.
By now, “The Boys Are Back in Town,” so of course you’re singing and dancing and it’s all good.
Set the table with the condiments and fixings, the pickles, the tomatoes, the cole slaw, the avocado mash.
Pour another drink? How many have you had already?
Shut the tunes. Or put on Johnny Hartman and John Coltraine. Your mood, your choice.
A ridiculous latke burger goes like this: messy.
Have a ready pile of napkins.
A ridiculous latke burger starts with a latke flat side up.
Do you put condiments on the bottom bun? For shame. Why overburden the pallet?
Place there your burger, fam. Delicately. With love.
Atop this well rested chunk of red meat spread a good shmear of your avocado mash. Top that with the tomato as thick or thin as you like. I go half inch thick at least. The bonus: top all of that with a rounded swallowtail butterfly-sized glump of slaw. No need for ketchup, mustard, nothing. Just a topper latke.
Look at what rock and roll has wrought! Evil temptation of gluttony!
This is a messy meal. This is a messy life. The first night candles lit over there. The ridiculous latke burger centered on your plate. A cold brew. A pickle. Used napkins gather in small greasy covens around the table. A messy, messy meal for a messy, messy life. L’chaim!
Your beard, your chin, your nose, your heart will be gleefully messy henceforth and onward forever.
What’s the best part? Who you cooked for eats with joy. The charity of giving the time and care to carve this special space of good eats is rewarded with a happiness as selfless as any good work of service.
Long live the ridiculous latke burger.
Long live sharing meals with those who love us, those who we love, even and especially if that is at this very moment our very own selves.