As a good Jewish girl, I’ve spent the better part of my adult life tweaking and perfecting the ideal Hanukkah latke recipe (which, despite my best efforts, tend to turn out alternately soupy and mushy or frustratingly brittle and charred). So, it was a bit of a kick in the teeth to learn that confirmed goy Ryan Jaronik (chef and owner of the excellent Park Slope steak spot, Benchmark), ended up assembling a prize-winning pancake his first time out.
Jaronik handily walked away with the People’s Choice Award at Great Performances’ 5th Annual Latke Festival on Monday, beating out established, tribe-approved eateries like Veselka, Kutsher’s Tribeca and Mile End Deli. He played it close to the vest by constructing a “Pastrami On Rye”-inspired latke, drawing on a popular Benchmark dish of pastrami-style short rib, piled on a caraway-scented latke and smeared with honey-pickled mustard seed crème fraiche. And honestly, how could any standard, applesauce-topped pancake even hope to compete in the face of Jaronik’s version, which boasted chopped black truffle in the house-made sauerkraut?
But since he’s gamely decided to share his recipe with us, we’ve decided not to be sore about the fact that Jaronik has shown us up on this birthright of a dish (we’d can’t vouch for Kutsher’s Tribeca). And besides, as long as we’re able to hide the existence of this article from discerning family members (and squirrel away enough cash for a sliver of black truffle), we have every intention of passing these high-end latkes off as our own.
Benchmark: 339 2nd St., (718) 965-7040
Caraway Scented Latke with Short Rib Pastrami, Truffled Sauerkraut, and Mustard Crème
For the Latke:
3 Carola or Yukon Gold Potatoes, Shredded
1 Small Red Onion, Finely Minced
2 Tbs. All-Purpose Flour
2Tbs. Corn Starch
1 Tbs. Caraway Seeds, Cracked
½ tsp. Kosher Salt
Oil for Frying
Heat the oil in a large cast iron pan to 350 degrees. Mix all the other ingredients together with a spoon. Working in batches, spoon potato mixture into the oil and fry until golden and crisp. Remove to a paper towel to drain.
For the Short Rib Pastrami:
2 lbs. Boneless Beef Short Ribs
1 Gallon Brine
4 Tbs. Coriander, Cracked
4 Tbs. Black Pepper, Cracked
2 Tbs. Mustard Seeds, Cracked
For the Brine:
6 oz. Kosher Salt
3 oz. Sugar
2 oz. Honey
2 tsp. Pink Salt
5 Cloves Garlic, Smashed
2 tsp. Pickling Spice
Boil the brine ingredients together in one gallon of water. Let chill. Place the short ribs in the brine for 3-4 days in the refrigerator. On the fourth day, remove the short ribs and pat dry. Mix together the coriander, black pepper and mustard seeds. Roll the short rib in the spice mixture. Smoke the short ribs over apple, hickory and cherry wood for 4-6 hours, or until tender, at 205 degrees.
For the Truffled Sauerkraut:
1 ½ lbs. Green Cabbage
¾ Tbs. Kosher Salt
½ oz. Fresh Black Truffle, Chopped
1 Tbs. White Truffle Oil
Slice the cabbage finely and place in a large bowl. Massage the salt into the cabbage. Transfer the cabbage and liquid to a jar and pack down tightly. Make sure the cabbage is covered in its juice. Tie cheesecloth across the top of the jar. Let ferment at room temperature in low sunlight for 5-7 days. When the cabbage has fully fermented, remove some of the juice, add the truffles and truffle oil, and reserve.
For The Mustard Crème:
½ Cup Crème Fraiche
1 tsp. Mustard Seeds
½ Cup White Vinegar
½ Cup Water
¼ Cup Honey
Combine the mustard seeds, white vinegar, water and honey and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated. Allow to cool. Mix with the crème fraiche, season with salt and pepper to taste.
Heat a sauté pan over medium heat. Slice the short rib into 1/8 inch thick pieces. Sear the Short rib on each side top warm. Place a latke in the center of the plate. Place the truffled sauerkraut on top of the latke. Place two slices of short rib over the sauerkraut, and place a dollop of crème fraiche on the short rib.