On Thursday, Dec. 6, 2Life Communities (formerly Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly, or JCHE) hosted its annual Great Latke Cook-Off at the Golda Meir House in Newton.
Four residents teamed up with staffers to sizzle and fry their way to success. More than 60 diners voted on their favorite latke in an anonymous taste-test.
Latkes took center stage due to Hanukkah, but the residence hosts cook-offs all year long, allowing residents to showcase favorite recipes including borscht and stuffed cabbage. Next month, they’ll host a Chinese New Year celebration. The dining room typically serves as the primary gathering place for roughly 180 residents at Golda Meir, many of whom come from Russia, Asia and Eastern Europe.
Golda Meir staffer Kristina Zeqo supervised the showdown. Millie Kessler won last year’s competition, and Shirley Goldsmith took top honors this year.
“My recipe has potatoes, eggs, matzah meal, onion, salt and pepper. Oh! And some baking powder,” Kessler explains.
“Millie likes to taste the dough,” Zeqo adds, praising Kessler’s technique.
“Before I would fry them, I would taste it. What happened yesterday, I tasted it, and then we added a little more salt. I think that’s the secret. The salt brings out the flavor,” she says. “And they have to be crispy!”
However, the extra salt didn’t give her the edge over Shirley Goldsmith, this year’s victor.
Goldsmith adapted her version from a temple cookbook and combined it with her mother’s recipe.
“The first thing I said to my partner is, ‘Mine are crispy and thin and very golden brown,'” she says. Her staff teammate added chopped scallions for extra kick.
“I think that’s what did the trick,” she says.
Crispy, thin, covered with sour cream or applesauce, residents say the latke cook-off was a happy opportunity to share a familiar taste of home.
“Why not let them bring in their own recipes? We’re in their house. We’re working for them,” says Zeqo.