Eating Latkes In Your Pajamas

Getting Started

Just one of the many pleasures of a leisurely holiday breakfast.

By Mari Uyehara
Photos by Marcus Nilsson

Above Image | Holiday breakfasts call for fun flourishes: A fried egg and chopped liver crown a big latke (right), and sticky buns get a bittersweet accent from caramel sauce made with beer (below).

“I’m obsessed with sausage balls,” says Annie Pettry, chef-owner of Decca restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky. “No matter where I am on Christmas morning, I’m making them.” Hers are juicy pork sausage mixed with cheddar cheese that oozes out and forms a lacy, cracker-like disk at the bottom—just like her mother always made them. “Christmas would be incomplete without them,” she says.

And that’s the thing about holiday breakfasts: As much as we love the dressy to-do of a festive dinner—the centerpiece roast, the good china—our simpler holiday morning traditions can often be the more lasting and beloved ones. Free from the stiff ness of a formal sit-down, celebratory morning meals allow for those sometimes messy dishes that even exacting chefs love.

For Noah Bernamoff, co-owner of Mile End Deli and Black Seed Bagels in New York City, Hanukkah breakfast often includes his Dagwood-like loaded latke. “My mom would make what seemed like hundreds of thousands of latkes in advance for the holiday and freeze them,” says Bernamoff. “And I’d make little food mountains with them.” Now, one of his favorite creations is a latke schmeared with chopped liver and topped with a fried duck egg and a tangle of tangy pickled onions.

Christmas morning for Jonathan Brooks, chef-owner of the quirky breakfast-and-lunch spot Milktooth in Indianapolis, was always a morning-to-afternoon affair. His big family alternated cross-country skiing and sledding with picking at the Pillsbury orange rolls, honey-baked ham, scrambled eggs, and bacon left out on the table. “We did it almost tapas-style,” he says. Now that he has his own wife and kids, he sticks to the same format of a long, lingering breakfast, but makes giant, gooey pecan sticky buns from scratch with a few clever tricks: The caramel is made with coconut milk, beer, coffee, and barley malt syrup. While the kids are tearing into presents, Brooks passes around ginger-absinthe mimosas. Booze while you’re still in your pajamas? Hey, it’s a holiday breakfast; you make the rules.

Latkes with Chopped Liver and Pickled Onions

Serves 8

Total | 1 hr. 15 min.

Noah Bernamoff of Mile End Deli and Black Seed Bagels in New York City tops crispy latkes with chopped liver, fried duck eggs, and pickled onions.

For the pickled onions:

  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1∕2 cup (3 1∕2 oz.) sugar
  • 1∕2 tsp. whole black peppercorns
  • 1∕4 tsp. yellow mustard seeds
  • 2 whole allspice berries
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 1 medium white onion, thinly sliced

For the chopped liver:

  • 1∕4 cup schmaltz or unsalted butter
  • 1 1∕4 lbs. cleaned chicken livers
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. quatre-épice (
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, roughly chopped
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped

For the latkes:

  • 3 russet potatoes (2 lbs.), peeled
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled
  • 3∕4 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1∕2 cup matzo meal
  • 1 1∕2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3∕4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus more
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1∕2 cup vegetable oil
  • 8 fried duck or large chicken eggs
  • Finely chopped chives, to garnish

1. Make the pickled onions: In a small saucepan, bring the vinegar, sugar, peppercorns, mustard seeds, allspice, cloves, and bay leaf to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove the pan from the heat, let cool, and then pour over the onion in a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

2. Make the chopped liver: In a 12-inch skillet, heat 2 tablespoons schmaltz over medium-high. Add the chicken livers, season with salt, and cook, turning once, until caramelized, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer the livers to a food processor and return the skillet to the heat. Pour in the remaining 2 tablespoons schmaltz, add the onion, and cook, stirring, until lightly caramelized, 6 to 8 minutes. Scrape the onions and schmaltz into the food processor, along with the quatre-épice, eggs, and scallions, and pulse until the livers are finely chopped. Scrape the chopped liver into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and keep warm.

3. Make the latkes: Heat the oven to 250° and place a wire rack on a baking sheet. Using the grating blade of a food processor or a box grater, grate the potatoes and onion into a large bowl lined with a kitchen towel. Gather the sides of the towel and squeeze the potatoes and onion to remove as much liquid as possible. Transfer the potatoes and onions to a clean bowl and toss with the cream of tartar. Add the matzo meal, salt, pepper, and 1⁄4 cup of the beaten eggs (discard the rest) and mix with your hands until evenly combined.

4. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Using a 1⁄2-cup measure, place 2 mounds of the potato mixture in the skillet and fl atten each into a 6-inchwide, 1⁄4-inch-thick latke. Cook the latkes, turning once, until golden brown and crisp, about 6 minutes. Transfer the latkes to the rack on the baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while you fry the remaining latkes using the remaining 6 tablespoons oil. Place each latke on a serving plate and smear with some of the chopped liver. Top with a fried egg and some pickled onions. Sprinkle with more pepper and chives before serving.

Sage and Coconut Caramel Sticky Buns

Serves 8

Active | 1 hr. 30 min. Total | 13 hr.

Jonathan Brooks bakes these extreme pecan sticky buns (the recipe comes from his pastry chef, Zoë Taylor) atop a caramel sauce made with coconut milk, ale, coffee, and barley malt syrup—the bitterness of the sauce balances the sweet buns.

For the caramel:

  • 2 1∕2 cups coconut milk
  • 2 1∕4 cups light ale
  • 2 cups (14 1∕2 oz.) packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup brewed coffee
  • 1 1∕2 Tbsp. barley malt syrup (
  • 1 1∕2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 3 sage sprigs

For the dough:

  • 1∕4 cup whole milk, warmed to 105°
  • 1 Tbsp. active dry yeast
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs plus
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 3 1∕4 cups (14 3∕4 oz.) all-purpose flour
  • 1∕2 cup (3 1∕2 oz.) sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. vital wheat gluten (
  • 1 1∕2 tsp. kosher salt

For the filling:

  • 2∕3 cup (5 1∕2 oz.) packed light brown sugar
  • 10 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 Tbsp. whiskey
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1∕2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1∕4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1∕2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
  • Finely grated zest of 1 orange
  • 2 cups pecans, toasted and chopped

1. Make the caramel: In a large saucepan, combine the coconut milk with the ale, brown sugar, coffee, malt syrup, and vanilla bean and seeds, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reduces to a dark caramel, about 45 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, whisk in the cream, salt, and sage, and let cool. Remove the sage sprigs from the caramel, rinse in water, and reserve the leaves; discard the stems and vanilla beans.

2. Make the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, stir the milk with the yeast and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in the butter and eggs. Then add the flour, sugar, wheat gluten, and salt and mix on low speed until the dough comes together. Increase the speed to medium and knead the dough until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Remove the bowl from the mixer, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

3. Meanwhile, make the filling: In a large bowl, combine the brown sugar with the butter, whiskey, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla seeds, and orange zest and beat with a wooden spoon until well combined, fluffy, and smooth.

4. Uncover the dough, scrape it onto a floured work surface, and, using a rolling pin, flatten into a 14-inch square. Spread the filling evenly over the dough, leaving a 1⁄2-inch border along the side farthest from you. Sprinkle the filling with the pecans and, starting with the side of the dough closest to you, roll up the square into a tight log. Trim the ends and cut the log into 8 large rolls. Pour 2 cups of the caramel in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan or 12-inch cake pan and arrange the rolls on top of the caramel, spaced evenly apart. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.

5. Heat the oven to 350°. Uncover the rolls and let stand for 30 minutes to come to room temperature. Scatter the reserved sage leaves over the rolls and bake until the rolls are golden brown on top, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer the pan to a rack, let cool for 5 minutes, and serve the rolls warm with their caramel spooned over top.

Sharp Cheddar and Pork Sausage Balls

Heat the oven to 375°. In a large bowl, mix 1 lb. each pork sausage and grated extra-sharp cheddar with 1⁄4 cup all-purpose flour, 1 Tbsp. minced sage, 1 1⁄2 tsp. kosher salt, 1⁄4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, 1⁄8 tsp. cayenne, and 1 lightly beaten large egg. Form the meat into 2-inch balls. Arrange the balls 2 inches apart on parchment paper–lined baking sheets and bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Transfer balls to a platter and serve warm. Makes 2 1⁄2 dozen.

Ginger-Absinthe Mimosa

In a small saucepan, bring 1⁄4 cup sugar, 1 1⁄2-inch piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced, and 1⁄4 cup water to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until the syrup reduces to 1⁄4 cup, about 6 minutes. Remove the syrup from the heat, pour through a fi ne sieve into a small pitcher, and discard the ginger. Pour 1⁄2 cup absinthe, 1⁄2 cup fresh orange juice, and 1⁄4 cup fresh lime juice in the pitcher, stir to combine, and refrigerate until chilled. Pour 3 tablespoons each of the juice mix into 8 chilled coupes or flutes and top with champagne. Garnish each glass with a lemon twist before serving. Serves 8.