Having visited the original Kutsher’s — the campy Catskills resort said to be the inspiration for Dirty Dancing, dance lessons and talent shows and all — with my grandparents as a kid, I wasn’t sure what to expect a year ago when the founders’ great-grandson opened up a swanky homage to the place in New York’s trendy TriBeCa. Turns out, the urban Kutsher’s is successfully breathing new life into Jewish classics like gefilte fish (transformed into delicate quenelles of halibut) and borscht (with the addition of roasted duck, their elevated beet soup made me a borscht believer).
For Hanukkah, I’m turning to Kutsher’s for some latke inspiration. They’re serving up eight nights of latkes, each night offering different toppings that go far beyond the traditional applesauce-and-sour-cream combo. The first night (December 8) kicks off with pastrami, pear butter and sour cherry. Lox lovers should zone in on the fourth night for chili-cured belly lox, pickled peppers and chipotle cream. Latkes take on an Asian accent on the final night of celebration: think Peking duck, cucumber, scallion and hoisin.
This got me thinking about all the possible ways to top off latkes and take them to a new level at home. Sauteed mushrooms and a dollop of creme fraiche, perhaps? Maybe a spiced fruit compote for a sweet-salty bite? A schmear of fresh pesto with shaved Parmesan on top? Kutsher’s shared their basic latke recipe — it’s worth the extra time and effort to julienne potatoes on a mandolin if you want them super-crispy — so you can start there and get creative with your toppings. In my mind, there are very few things that wouldn’t taste delicious atop a fried potato cake.