Keep the Flame Alive with this Hanukkah Menu
For many practicing Jews, Hanukkah isn’t among the most important of religious holidays— others like Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah are far more poignant. “Hanukkah gained all this esteem in the Western world because it happens right in the face of Christmas,” Michael Shemtov says, chef-owner behind Butcher & Bee in Charleston and Nashville.
But the holiday still has its beloved traditions. Perhaps best of all, the cooking and eating of a big communal meal.
Shemtov says there are two key narratives that inspire Hanukkah foods: The first of a woman, Yehudit, who vanquished an enemy simply by getting their leader drunk on cheese, rolls, and wine (then killing him), and the second concerning a miracle that occurred during the Maccabean Revolt when a one-day supply of sacred oil lit a menorah for eight days. “Because of these two stories,” Shemtov says, “we eat cheese and foods fried in oil for Hanukkah.” These recipes from Shemtov, his friend and restaurateur Jonathan Ory, and other chefs from around the South provide a menu to bless your table. “Who doesn’t love a holiday where it’s a blessing to eat fried food and cheese?” Shemtov asks. “Almost makes you want to convert.”
A Few Favorite Hanukkah Recipes
Never made your own challah bread before? Check out this tutorial for mastering this enriched, festive loaf.
“Hanukkah is all about the oil,” says Sara Bradley of Freight House in Paducah, Kentucky. When making these sweet potato latkes, she reaches for her new pantry staple, rice bran oil.
Brittanny Anderson, of Metzger Bar and Butchery, in Richmond, Virginia, takes a departure from the traditional oil with this rosti recipe. Instead, she opts for duck fat or clarified butter. The result is wonderfully rich and the perfect vehicle for crème fraîche, caviar, or smoked fish.
Hanukkah isn’t complete until the brisket is carved. Shemtov’s recipe lets the meat roast low and slow for about five to six hours until it reaches melt-in-your-mouth tenderness.
This whole roasted snapper steals the thunder when it hits the dinner table. Even with time spent prepping the fish and the grape leaves, a quick roast in the oven has dinner on the table in less than an hour.
These veggie-loaded latkes are also vegan, so anyone not partaking in the roast beef or fish can count on these crispy nuggets. Pro tip: Make a big batch and freeze a few to satisfy cravings after the holidays.
Generously puffed and rolled in sugar, these doughnuts commemorate the miracle of the oil that kept the temple lit for eight days. New Orleans chef Alon Shaya styles this recipe on the sufganiyot he prepared with his mother as a boy, but today, he fills his with a satsuma curd instead of grape jelly.
These rich, little pastries combine nutty tahini with dulce de leche and cream of coconut before wrapping them in pastry dough. Shaya includes a recipe for boreka dough for the ambitious baker, however, store-bought puff pastry or phyllo dough work well, too.
The season of sugar knows no limits when it comes to the Festival of Lights. Shemtov’s recipe of sufganiyot-style doughnuts invites the cook to fill it with their favorite jam before drizzling with vanilla glaze. However, the treats remain fantastic even without filling
Originally published December 2015
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