What am I cooking for Christmas dinner? Well a goose, of course, a fine, fat one, cooked in the Barbara Kafka way that involves high heat and an hour of resting in the cooling oven; and my mom's sweet-and-sour red cabbage; and blanched Brussels sprouts finished in hot fat. There will be no foie gras this year for the obvious reason, so there may be another pâté, something absurdly luxurious made from pheasant and juniper berries or some such.
But mostly there will be potato pancakes, lots of them: fragrant, brown and served with sautéed apples and the best sour cream. I used to think that I made potato pancakes because I was making the dinner Frank Morgan's character describes in the Ernst Lubitsch comedy "The Shop Around the Corner." I liked the idea of a Christmas dinner that was so evidently the food of middle European Jews.
Then I watched the film again and realized that what Morgan was hungry for wasn't potato pancakes but boiled potatoes with butter, which is quite a different thing. Observant Jews may not eat buttered potatoes in the same meal as goose as part of the general prohibition against consuming milk with meat. I must have been mishearing the movie for my own reasons.
Or maybe I just like making potato pancakes. They're crisp, they're delicious and they provide an excuse to sauté apples. Your hands smell like onions the rest of the week. If Hanukkah ends before Christmas, as it did this year, the latkes extend the dreidel fun just a little longer, and when the two holidays coincide, all the merrier.