December 12, 2012
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Jewish soul food for the holidays

We ‘latke’ you a lot

Community Newspaper Group

Just like a funnel cake at a carnival, challah during the Sabbath, or a bagel (with schmear, lox, a Dr. Brown soda, and a black-and-white cookie) when you’re visiting New York, you’ve got to have latkes on Chanukah. The potato pancakes fried to crispy golden-brown perfection is as standard as eggrolls on Christmas (we just had to squeeze one more in there) and Daniel Serfer, the Jewish owner and chef at Miami’s Blue Collar Restaurant, loves them so much, he has the crunchy, little nuggets of awesome on his menu all year round. Take that, cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving! Okay, seriously, that was our last food simile, we promise — just like we promise you’ll love his recipe, listed right below our interview with Serfer about why he became a chef, his favorite Jewish foods, and the craziest latke he’s ever seen:

Bar & Bat Mitzvah Guide: Why’d you decide to become a chef?

Daniel Serfer: Unlike most good, middle-class Jewish boys, I didn’t want to become a doctor or a lawyer. Plus, I’m terrible at science and math. I really liked cooking, and it was something different from what all my friends were doing. So, I thought I would give it a chance. I figured if I didn’t like cooking by the time I was 30, I could still go to law school, but by that age I would be too old to start cooking.

BBMG: Your menu isn’t primarily Jewish, although you are. What makes latkes so special?

DS: Actually, we have brisket on the menu everyday, so I honor the religion in that way as well. But, the reason why I chose latkes are because they’re easy appetizers to put out and no one else in Miami really serves them, so I thought it would be unique. Plus, everyone loves latkes.

BBMG: What is your favorite latke memory?

DS: I had a non-Jewish roommate in college and whenever he would visit me in Miami, my mom would make him latkes. He would double fist them, he loved them so much! So, watching him eat them for the first time and liking them so much that he started eating them two at a time, one in each hand, is a pretty golden memory.

BBMG: Are latkes your favorite Jewish food or do you have others you love a little more?

DS: Bagels and lox or pastrami on rye.

BBMG: What’s the craziest latke you’ve ever seen?

DS: We make a latke club here, which consists of a latke topped with melted manchego cheese, crispy Serrano ham, tomato marmalade, and chives. I like to be a little rebellious putting ham on a Jewish food.

BBMG: If you could get anything in the world for Chanukah, what would it be?

DS: My parents both passed, so more than anything, I’d like 10 more minutes with either of them. But if that weren’t possible, I would settle for a new low boy refrigerator to store beer in at the restaurant.

BBMG: Favorite Chanukah memory?

DS: Fighting every night with my sisters over who gets to light the menorah.

Chanukah latkes recipe:

• 1 pound russet potatoes, shredded

• 1/4 cup minced chives

• 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

• Salt and pepper to taste

Thoroughly squeeze excess water out if shredded potatoes then combined with remaining ingredients

Form the dough into 1-inch circle disks. Fry the disks in one inch of canola oil in a pan at 350 degrees. Cook each side for two minutes.

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