Big Little Recipes

What If Latkes Were Made With...Asparagus?

This week’s Big Little Recipes puts a spring spin on a Hanukkah favorite.

May 11, 2021

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By definition, a latke is a potato pancake—fried in enough oil to splatter your forearms and make your home smell like a state fair—but this unruly recipe needs no potatoes. Not russets, not Yukons, not reds, not blues. Instead? Asparagus.

Yes, sure, this Jewish classic may be the last thing you think of come spring. Its strongest association, Hanukkah, the annual holiday celebrating the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem, is 201 days away.

But when a latke is so crispy at the edges, so custardy in the middle, so eager to be swooshed through sour cream, so excited to be dolloped with preserves—what a shame it would be to eat it only once a year. So let’s spring-ify latkes. Let’s latke-ify spring.

Photo by Julia Gartland. Prop Stylist:Veronica Olson Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog

Juicy, snappy, in-season asparagus is only available for a few months (though the plants live as long as 10 years—can you imagine!). Whether with pasta or rice, however you use it ought to feel special, the sort of minimalist dish that is more about the asparagus than it is about anything else.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“Hi, Steve. Ashenazi Jew here. Both of my Bubbies used flour except for Pesach time. Year round it was flour or matzo meal. No latke dogma pls??”
— Rosalind P.
Comment

Luckily, this is not unlike how my mom taught me to make latkes: mostly potato shreds and shards, with just enough yellow onion for savory oomph, and just enough flour and egg to keep things from falling apart. While she defaults to all-purpose for its reliability, in this case I swapped in rye for its nutty, malty superpowers, a delightfully earthy contrast to the sweet vegetable. (If you don’t have rye, whole-wheat can step in.)

After sizzling in oil for a few minutes, the result is something of a magic trick.

With the same crackly-squishy bite as the potato originals, the same greasy fingertips, the same inability to eat just one—or two or five—my brain basks in the same latke-induced endorphins (a thing!). Even if the main ingredient couldn’t be more different. Even if the color is not yellow or beige, but green as the grass on a May morning.

What are you doing with asparagus this year? Let me know in the comments!
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Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles on the fly, baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., and writing about the history of pie in North Carolina. Now she lives in New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's award-winning column, Big Little Recipes (also the cookbook in October 2021!). And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

14 Comments

Smaug May 12, 2021
What if...? Well, we'd probably call them asparagus cakes or fritters. This is more often done with zucchini, but why not asparagus? Less moisture problems, at any rate.
 
theminx May 12, 2021
I'm Polish and grew up with my immigrant grandmother. She made potato pancakes (placki, not quite the same as latkes) regularly, but sometimes she made them with corn or asparagus, which were my faves. This was in the 1970s; fresh asparagus was not to be found in grocery stores in Baltimore City, so she used canned. But somehow it was still delicious.
 
Katherine L. May 11, 2021
Oh, yum! I’m starving, now! Would be really great with an Aioli sauce.
 
Windham89! May 11, 2021
Looks delicious !
 
Janet V. May 11, 2021
What to substitute for rye flour?
 
Beth G. May 11, 2021
According to your coworker, Kristen Miglore, you can eat the hard base of the asparagus if you just cut it into small enough pieces. I think grating it should qualify.
 
violist May 11, 2021
I like your idea. I was thinking of pealing it first. What do you think?
 
Bonnie May 11, 2021
Looks like another amazing dish. Can’t wait to try! Also, love the peach jam and sour cream accompaniments. Thanks Emma.
 
steve May 11, 2021
If you want a "true" latke do not use flour, you should be using matzo meal. Not sure what the equivalents are but using flour is like having a pastrami sandwich on white bread with mayonnaise.
 
Rosalind P. May 11, 2021
Hi, Steve. Ashenazi Jew here. Both of my Bubbies used flour except for Pesach time. Year round it was flour or matzo meal. No latke dogma pls??
 
Rosalind P. May 11, 2021
Typo. Should be Ashkenazi. And
They spoke nary an English word in their homes. So...strongly disagree with your white bread judgment
 
steve May 11, 2021
Just curious, was there a difference in taste or texture?
 
Rosalind P. May 11, 2021
No difference. And there were NEVER enough! :-)
 
Gruber76 May 23, 2021
Right, latkes are for hannukha (where oil is important and the frying is relevant) while matzo meal is four months later for Passover, when flour is outlawed. Want to know something even crazier? Asparagus is only kosher if you circusmcise it. (There are non-kosher bugs that live in the tips and are so hard to see that you can never be sure if you’ve gotten them out.)