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By definition, a latke is a potato pancake — fried in enough oil to splatter your forearms and make your home smell like a state fair — but this unruly recipe needs no potatoes. Not russets, not Yukons, not reds, not blues. Instead? Asparagus.
Yes, sure, this Jewish classic may be the last thing you think of come spring. Its strongest association, Hanukkah, the annual holiday celebrating the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem, is 201 days away.
But when a latke is so crispy at the edges, so custardy in the middle, so eager to be swooshed through sour cream, so excited to be dolloped with preserves — what a shame it would be to eat it only once a year. So let's spring-ify latkes. Let's latke-ify spring.
Juicy, snappy, in-season asparagus is only available for a few months (though the plants live as long as 10 years—can you imagine!). Whether with pasta or rice, however you use it ought to feel special, the sort of minimalist dish that is more about the asparagus than it is about anything else.
Luckily, this is not unlike how my mom taught me to make latkes: mostly potato shreds and shards, with just enough yellow onion for savory oomph, and just enough flour and egg to keep things from falling apart. While she defaults to all-purpose for its reliability, in this case I swapped in rye for its nutty, malty superpowers, a delightfully earthy contrast to the sweet vegetable. (If you don't have rye, whole-wheat can step in.)
After sizzling in oil for a few minutes, the result is something of a magic trick.
With the same crackly-squishy bite as the potato originals, the same greasy fingertips, the same inability to eat just one — or two or five — my brain basks in the same latke-induced endorphins (a thing!). Even if the main ingredient couldn't be more different. Even if the color is not yellow or beige, but green as the grass on a May morning.
Recipe: Asparagus Latkes
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Serves: 2 to 4
- 1 pound asparagus
- 8 ounces yellow onion (about 1 medium or 2 small), halved and peeled
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 cup rye flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Neutral oil, for pan-frying
- Coarsely grate the asparagus, starting at the top and discarding the bottoms. (If any stragglers resist the grater, just finely chop.) Coarsely grate the onion. (Same deal with the stragglers.)
- Add the grated asparagus and onion to a tea towel. Wring and squeeze over the sink to remove as much water as possible.
- Dump the dried asparagus and onion into a bowl. Add the eggs, flour, salt, and pepper. Stir with a fork until everything is combined.
- Set a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and add 1/4 inch of oil. When the oil looks shimmery-hot, drop a pinch of the latke mixture in. If it instantly sizzles, you're good to go.
- Use a cookie scoop or a couple spoons to scoop and drop latkes into the oil (I estimate about 1 1/2 tablespoons per latke). Use a fork to flatten each mound into a pancake. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the bottoms are deeply browned, then use two forks to carefully flip. Cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack or paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Sprinkle with more salt, if you'd like.
- Repeat with the remaining latke mixture until you've used all of it up.