Add Hanukkah to the list of things to figure out how to observe in a year like no other.
Even if you’re limiting your holiday meals to your immediate household, nobody says they can’t still be amazing. There is even a silver lining, says Top Chef’s Sara Bradley of freight house in Paducah. Doing things on a smaller scale, she says, gives you a chance to try a few things you might not normally if you’re focusing on the starring dishes in a big family feast.
So what does Hanukkah — the Jewish Festival of Lights that commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem by the Maccabees after it was destroyed by the Syrians — mean to her this year? The challenges of celebrating in such a time take her back to her childhood, she says, when she was one of only a few kids where she grew up that celebrated the Jewish holiday.
Her two options, she says, were to be upset that she was different than everyone, not celebrating Christmas, or “you could embrace it and own it and say, ‘OK this is something that is important about me, and I’m really proud of it, and I’m going to have fun no matter what.’”
That’s “something to take along with what’s happening right now,” Bradley says, when it comes to limiting our gatherings and keeping physical distance. Stay home and stay safe, she says. Embrace the difference of the situation, “figure out how to make it the best and how it makes you a better person.”
And of course, you can eat well. Hanukkah is known for its endless bounty of “fried” food, which celebrates the miracle of the Festival of Lights, from potato latkes to jelly doughnuts, plus challah, matzo ball soup and, of course, brisket.
You can learn how to make some of Bradley’s dishes with the new online cooking classes she’s launched. And just in time for Hanukkah, you can start with her matzo ball soup, a dish she always had at home on Jewish holidays.
Then try Noam Bilitzer of Red Hog Restaurant and Butcher Shop’s roasted Groce chicken with roasted parsnip tzimmes and traditional potato latkes topped with pastrami spice smoked salmon and mustard dill sauce from Alexander Chack of Cold Smoke Bagels inside the Logan Street Market.
Happy Hanukkah, everyone!
Winter Matzo Ball Soup
Courtesy of Sara Bradley, freight house
For the soup:
- 1 3-4 pound whole fryer chicken
- 4 quarts water or stock, may need more to cover the chicken
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 star anise
- 2 sprigs of each: thyme, sage, bay leaf, rosemary
- 2 orange carrots, cut into 1-inch discs
- 1 yellow onion peeled and cut into eighths
- 2 celery stalks, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 8 shitake mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
- 4-5 stems black kale or collards greens, washed and sliced into ½-inch ribbons
For the matzo ball:
- 2 cups matzo meal
- 1teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground fennel seed
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
- 1-2 tablespoon salt
- 1 + ½-tablespoon baking powder
- 6 whole eggs
- 6 tablespoons vegetable oil or schmaltz (liquid)
- 2-4 ounces club soda
Rinse your chicken. In a large pot, cover it with water. Add salt, anise and fresh herbs. Let simmer on medium heat until the leg pulls away from your bird.
Let the chicken cool in liquid until you are able to handle. Strain your liquid and reserve. Pick the meat from the bones and reserve. Do not add your chicken back to the stock yet.
In a large pot, add your cut carrots, onion, celery and mushrooms into stock. Simmer on low for 10-15 minutes.
While the stock is simmering, make your matzo balls.
In a medium-sized bowl, mix the matzo meal, spices, dill, salt and baking powder. In a separate bowl, mix the eggs and melted schmaltz or vegetablee oil. Using a fork, mix the wet ingredients into the dry. Just before they are incorporated, add the soda water. Do not over mix. Let your matzo mix sit in the fridge for 5 to 10 minutes.
Turn the heat up on your pot of stock/veggies. You want it to be boiling when you drop your matzo balls into the liquid. Roll the matzo mix into golf ball size pieces. Drop them into the boiling liquid.
Cover the pot and let simmer on high for 10-15 minutes. Add reserved chicken and greens to soup. Simmer for five minutes. Season with salt to your liking.
Roasted Groce Family Farm’s Chicken with Burnt Honey Glaze and Roasted Parsnip Tzimmes
Courtesy of Noam Bilitzer, Red Hog Restaurant and Butcher Shop
For the chicken:
- Whole Chicken, 3.5 to 4-pounds
- Kosher salt to taste
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 cloves
- 1 teaspoon black pepper, ground
- 1 head of garlic cut in half
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 orange, cut in half
For the tzimmes:
- 2 pounds parsnips, peeled and cut into quarters
- 4 ounces dried apples, diced
- 1 teaspoons cinnamon, ground
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 16-ounces apple cider
- Pinch of black pepper
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 1 cup honey
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
While the oven is preheating, stud one half of the orange with the cinnamon stick and clove.
Season the chicken with the olive oil, salt and pepper, and place the orange and garlic inside the chicken. Allow to rest at room temperature, or refrigerate for up to one day after seasoning.
Place all the tzimmes ingredients in a roasting pan creating a nest with the parsnips for the chicken to rest on. Rest the chicken on top of the parsnips and place in the oven for 45-60 minutes or until the chicken is browned on top and the breast meat is 155 degrees.
While the chicken is cooking, place the honey in a pot on medium heat and allow to cook for 10-15 minutes or until it forms nickel-sized bubbles. Juice the other half of the orange into a cup, and pour the orange juice into the pot; please be mindful when doing this as a lot of steam will form.
Brush the chicken with the glaze or spoon the glaze over the skin.
This meal goes great with potato latkes, and the Roasted Parsnip Tzimmes is a fantastic side with slow-cooked brisket, lamb and even on its own.
Traditional Chanukah Potato Latkes topped with Pastrami Spice Smoked Salmon and Mustard Dill Sauce
Courtesy of Alexander Chack, Cold Smoke Bagels
Note: This recipe will make between eight and 12 latkes depending on the size. At Cold Smoke Bagles, we like to make bite-size latkes and drape them with Pastrami Spiced Salmon from Ducktrap Smoked Fish Company and covered in a tangy Mustard Dill Sauce to make a mouth explosion. This recipe is also gluten free, using the natural starch of the potato and egg as a binder rather than flour or matzo meal.
For the latkes:
- 4 medium russet potatoes
- 1 large yellow onion
- 1 large carrot
- 2 large eggs
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Vegetable oil
For the mustard sauce:
- Equal parts sharp Dijon mustard
- Equal parts mayonnaise
- Lots of fresh chopped dill
Into a large bowl, grate the onion and the carrot first, on either a box grater or food processor with large size blades.
The larger blade will give the latkes more texture and crunch, and since these will be cooked bite-size, you don’t have to worry about the pieces taking too long to cook through. Use a finer blade grater for a creamier consistency.
Crack the eggs into a separate bowl and beat furiously with a fork until small bubbles form and the egg has an airy and lite look.
Then grate the potatoes into the same bowl as the carrot and onion and mix, working quickly so the potato doesn’t oxidize and brown with air.
Add the beaten egg, a pinch of salt and pepper, and mix thoroughly.
To fry, bring a medium-size frying pan to medium heat, add 1 inch of cooking oil (this is the Holiday of Oil!) and take a small piece of the latke mixture and place in the oil to see if the temperature is right. If you get a sizzle and bubbling right away, the oil is hot enough.
Carefully, using your hands, pick up a bite-size piece of the latke mixture and gently squeeze out a bit of the excess moisture while slightly forming into a half-inch thick pancake shape, place in oil either by hand or by placing the formed mixture onto a spoon.
Fry, adjusting the temperature to avoid burning, moving the latkes around to get even cooking, until golden brown on each side, rotating about four minutes per side.
Once cooked, cool the latkes and place on a paper towel to drain excess oil. Top with a slice of pastrami salmon and a small dab of mustard sauce.
Pastrami Smoked Salmon can be purchased from most grocery stores. (Acme and Ducktrap are two main brands, otherwise, any good-quality smoked salmon would be delicious.)
For the mustard: Combine the mustard and mayo and chopped dill, and mix thoroughly.