Hanukkah 2014: Latkes, Matzo Ball Soup and other dishes for the Jewish Festival of Lights

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By: J.C. Lee
jclee@flavor574.com

Light the menorah! Hanukkah begins at sundown Tuesday, Dec. 16, and families will be celebrating the Jewish festival of lights over the next eight days with a number of delectable dishes.

Many traditional Hanukkah foods are fried in oil, as a reminder of the miraculous role oil played in the original Hanukkah story.

From latkes to sufganiyots, here’s a sampling of dishes to make the dinner table shine.

POTATO LATKES

A latke is a crispy, savory potato pancake that’s traditionally eaten with sour cream and apple sauce. Chow has a latke recipe that’ll take you slightly more than an hour to prepare.

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ pounds of Idaho, russet or baking potatoes
  • 1 large onion, peeled and quartered
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 3 tablespoons of matzoh meal
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons of kosher salt
  • Corn, canola or vegetable oil

Directions:

  1. Shred the potatoes and onions together and set the mixture in a large colander over a bowl.
  2. Squeeze the potato mixture to get as much of the liquid out, and let the moisture drip into the bowl below. Set the mixture aside for a minute or two.
  3. Lift the colander out of the bowl. Pour out the liquid, but save the layer of beige potato starch at the bottom. Scrape up the starch and mix it in with the potato mixture.
  4. Mix in egg yolks, matzoh meal, one teaspoon of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper with your hands.
  5. Beat the egg whites in a bowl and, using a spatula or a spoon, fold it into the potato mixture.
  6. Pour oil into a skillet until there is a depth of a ½ inch. Heat oil over medium heat until the potato mixture instantly sizzles when dropped into the pan.
  7. Flatten potato mixture into a disk and spoon it into the oil. Fry mixture until it is a deep golden brown.
  8. Line fried mixture onto a baking sheet lined with paper towels, using extra towels to take out any excess oil. Serve immediately with sour cream and applesauce.

CHOLENT

If you’re patient, you should give slow-cooked Cholent a try. It’s traditionally made using meat and beans and cooked over the course of a whole day. NPR has a recipe and, brace yourself, the payoff will take a while.

Ingredients:

  • A few tablespoons of canola or olive oil
  • 6 onions, peeled and sliced or diced in large piece
  • 1 cup of pinto beans, soaked overnight
  • 1 cup of barley, soaked overnight
  • 5 potatoes, peeled and cut up into large chunks
  • Paprika
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Turmeric
  • Garlic powder
  • Chicken, which could include the whole bird, legs, thighs and cut-up cutlets

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  2. Saute the onions until soft and translucent.
  3. Transfer contents to a slow cooker.
  4. Add beans, barley and potatoes.
  5. Cover with water until it’s a few inches from the top of the cooker.
  6. Add seasonings.
  7. Add chicken and, if needed, additional water so that it’s an inch or two from the top of the crock.
  8. Cook on high to three to five hours, and then cook on low until the next day.

SUFGANIYOT

Sufganiyot is a jelly-filled donut and a popular Israeli dish. Here’s what Chow recommends for preparing these palatable pastries.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour, more for dusting baking sheet and rolling out dough
  • ¼ cup of granulated sugar
  • ¼-ounce of dry yeast
  • ½ teaspoon of fine salt
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • ¾ cups of warm whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 6 cups of vegetable or canola oil for frying and more for coating the bowl
  • ⅔ cup of smooth jam or jelly
  • Powdered sugar for dusting

Special utensils:

— 2-inch round cutter or a drinking glass of the same size

— Candy / fat thermometer

— 12- to 18-inch pastry bag with a 1/4 -inch round tip to fill donuts with jelly

Directions:

  1. Place flour, sugar, yeast and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk to combine.
  2. Mix in the yolk and milk with a hook attachment on low speed until a shaggy dough forms. — Mix in butter and increase the speed to medium high until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  3. Coat a large bowl with oil.
  4. Form the dough into a ball and place it in the bowl. Turn the dough to coat it in oil.
  5. Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap or a damp towel. Let the dough rise in a warm place until it doubles in size — around 1 to 1 ½ hours.
  6. Dust a baking sheet with flour and set aside.
  7. Punch down on the dough and place it on a lightly floured work place.
  8. Roll the dough until it is around ¼ inch thick, then use a 2-inch round cutter to cut out shapes in the dough. Place the pieces on the baking sheet around ½ inch apart.
  9. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until puffy — around half an hour.
  10. Place vegetable or canola oil in a heavy-bottomed pot and set on medium heat until the temperature reaches 350 degrees on a candy / fat thermometer.
  11. Line a second baking sheet with paper towels and place a wire rack over the paper towels.
  12. Place the jam or jelly in a piping bag.
  13. Use a flat spatula to place the dough rounds into the oil. Fry until the bottoms are golden brown — around 1 ½ minutes — and then flip it over with a fork until the other side is also brown. Pierce the donuts with the tip of paring knife if bubbles appear in the donuts.
  14. Remove the fried dough with a slotted spoon to the wire rack.
  15. When the fried dough cools, use a paring knife to puncture its side to form a pocket in the center. Place the tip of the piping bag into the pocket and pipe a teaspoon of jam or jelly inside.
  16. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

HORSERADISH MATZO BALL SOUP

There’s nothing like a bowl of soup to warm you up during those winter months. The New York Times has a recipe for one that includes horseradish and matzo ball — a dumpling made of seasoned matzo meal held together with egg and chicken fat.

Ingredients:

  • 1 4½- to 5-pound chicken
  • 2 large onions, peeled and quartered
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into chunks
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled
  • 2 medium parsnips, peeled
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, more as needed
  • 1 small bunch parsley
  • 1 small bunch dill
  • 4 thyme branches
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 peppercorns
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup of matzo meal
  • 3 tablespoons of freshly grated horseradish
  • ¼ teaspoon of allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon of ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Combine chicken, onions, celery, two carrots, one parsnip, garlic, a tablespoon of salt, parsley stems, dill stems, thyme branches, bay leaves, peppercorns and cloves into a large pot. Add enough water to cover everything by 1 inch.
  2. Bring liquid to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently for two hours. Skim the foam and fat frequently with a slotted spoon
  3. Stir eggs, oil, ¼ cup of reserved broth, matzo meal, horseradish, allspice, ground pepper and a teaspoon of salt into a large bowl. Cover with a plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours.
  4. Strain the stock through a sieve into a large bowl and set it aside to cool. Reserve the chicken and discard the vegetables.
  5. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  6. Moisten your hands and roll the matzo ball mixture into 1 ½-inch balls. Use a slotted spoon to lower the balled-up mixture into the boiling water. Reduce the heat and simmer the matzo balls until they are tender — around 50 minutes to an hour.
  7. Put the chicken broth in a pot and bring it to a simmer. Season the brother with more salt and pepper as needed.
  8. Thinly slice the remaining carrots and parsnips and add the vegetables to the broth. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
  9. Spoon the matzo balls into the bottom of the serving bowl and pour the hot broth and vegetables in with it. Garnish with parsley and dill.

What foods does your family make to celebrate Hanukkah?

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