Last week I had a hankering for latkes, which, as everyone knows, are traditional pre-Halloween food. The good thing about hankering after latkes in mid-October is that the ground hasn’t frozen yet, so it is still possible to dig up some of the feral Jerusalem artichokes that grow along the fence that protects our strawberry beds from Maisie.
The other traditional time for latkes is during Hanukah, which very inconveniently occurs after the Jerusalem artichokes are frozen solidly into the ground. J.A.s don’t store spectacularly well, but every year I try to coddle along enough of them to enliven our Thanksgiving mashed potatoes and our Hanukah latkes.
A few years ago I read the astonishing news that potatoes are a very high glycemic food. The glycemic index compares the impact of various foods on human volunteers’ blood sugar levels. Pure glucose is 100 on the scale. Foods that score below 55 are considered low glycemic; foods between 56-69 are considered medium; and a score above 70 is considered high glycemic. I have been a natural foods eater my entire life, so imagine my horror when I read that the glycemic index number for boiled potatoes can be as high as 103, while the glycemic index number for a Snicker’s bar is 43. I am not planning to convert to an all-Snicker’s diet any time soon, but I did want to figure out what I could do to soften the impact of eating my own homegrown potatoes.
Luckily, there are a few things one can do to reduce the potatoey impact:
Eat potatoes with some kind of fat. Fat slows the digestion and allows the starches from the potato to be released more slowly into the system. This slower pace helps prevent blood sugar levels from spiking and then plummeting, which is not good for your pancreas if you are not a diabetic, and disastrous if you are. I find it interesting that potatoes are so often eaten with gobs of butter or sour cream. Coincidence?
Adjust your cooking methods. Boiling gelatinizes starches and makes them extremely easy to digest; any other cooking method is preferable if you are worried about the effect of potatoes on your blood sugar levels. Roasting or frying your potatoes, and then cooling them induces another change that makes the starch a little more resistant to digestion. Even if you warm them up again, these once-cooled potatoes will still take longer to digest than they would have right after they were first cooked.
Eat potatoes with other foods, preferably with foods that are low on the glycemic index. And here is where the J.A.s come in: Jerusalem artichokes are one of the best sources of “inulin” a carbohydrate that modulates insulin levels and lowers blood glucose levels. So J.A.s are very good for you. Unfortunately they can have a laxative effect, so pure Jerusalem artichoke latkes are not going to be on my menu anytime soon!
It is fortuitous that potatoes and the deep nutlike flavor of Jerusalem artichokes sing together so deliciously!
Potato and Jerusalem Artichoke Latkes
2 cups grated Jerusalem artichokes
4 cups grated potatoes
Half a head of garlic
1 large onion
1/2 tsp salt (or use seasoned salt, if you like)
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup oat flour
This recipe yields enough pancakes to satiate four people.
Let the artichokes and potatoes sit in a colander inside a bowl for a few hours to drain. Gently push down to remove a little more moisture before putting the now slightly less wet grated potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes in a large mixing bowl.
Peel the garlic cloves and mince, squeeze, or slice them very fine.
Peel and mince the onion. Add the garlic and onion to the potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes. Stir them in.
Season half a cup oat flour with salt and freshly ground pepper, stir.
Sprinkle the seasoned oat flour into the grated potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes. Mix in thoroughly.
Crack the eggs into a small mixing bowl and beat well.
Pour the beaten eggs over the grated potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes. Stir in well.
Pour olive oil into a couple of large frying pans, and heat over a medium flame. When the oil is hot, drop latke batter by tablespoonfuls into the pan. Use the spoon to flatten the latkes and make them as round as is practical. (Perfectly round is not possible, because of the texture of the grated potatoes.)
Let the latkes cook until they are golden brown on the first side, then turn them over with a spatula. When the latkes are golden brown on both sides, transfer them to a baking sheet in a warm oven.
Repeat, adding oil to the pan each time you start a new panful of latkes. Hannukah is all about oil, and frankly, latkes don’t cook well if you are stingy with the oil.
Eat with sour cream and applesauce.