This time of year, potatoes seem to be the star side dish, no matter how they’re prepared—roasted, mashed, smashed, au gratin. It doesn’t matter; they are the starch we love best. But they have special resonance among Jews celebrating Chanukah. The traditional Chanukah dish for Eastern European Jews is latkes, or potato pancakes, grated with onions and fried in oil until crispy—honoring the miracle of one’s day’s worth of oil that burned for eight days. A good potato is key to the success of a crispy latke, and while traditionally that has meant using russet potatoes, give Yukon Golds a try. Or shred them with sweet potatoes or celery root for something different. Celery root is also a welcome addition to mashed potatoes. Whatever your potato fancy, here are three farmers with spuds to spare.
Weiser Family Farms
Click on Weiser Family Farms website for crop availability and the first crop is, well, potatoes. Here you’ll find an heirloom mix, Red Thumbs Fingerlings, Russian Banana Fingerlings—from standard to pee wee—Amarosa, French Fingerlings, Ruby Crescents, Purple Peruvians, German Butterballs, and Purple Vikings. Fingerlings are my preferred roasting potato. Just toss in olive oil with onions and whole cloves of garlic and scatter around chicken or a roast and they absorb the essence of the meat and take on a crispy exterior while the flesh retains their distinctive flavors. You can find Weiser Farms Heirloom Mix for $2.99 a pound at Whole Foods.
Sage Mountain Farms
Stop by the Sage Mountain Farms booth at any of a number of farmers markets and you’ll see a big box filled with Swedish Peanut Fingerlings and Peruvian Purple potatoes. Farmer Phil Noble enjoys roasting these. So do I. But, they’re also wonderful boiled, then slathered in butter, or sliced and pan fried. They’re $4 a pound.
When I visit the Hillcrest farmers market, I always stop at Gama Farms to see what potatoes the Nakatani family has available. These taters are always dug as needed, not stored, and they invariably have tons of flavor. The farm also has a nice variety—from your basic russet ($2.50 a pound) and Yukon Gold ($2.50 a pound and perfect for mashing) to Banana Fingerlings ($4.50 a pound) and stunning Peruvian Purples ($4.50 a pound). Patricia Nakatani says that the Peruvians are a terrific potato for diabetics because they have the lowest carb count. And, they are high in iron. I picked up a bag of those, a couple of small russets, and a couple of heads of their large, fresh garlic ($1 a head) to roast with them.