Unless you’ve just returned from outer space, by now you’ve heard the news: Chanukah and Thanksgiving coincide this year, a mash-up that last occurred in 1888 and won’t happen again for at least another 79,000 years.
Bloggers are having a field day with the newly dubbed holiday Thanksgivukah, which boasts its own Facebook page and Twitter account.
As of this writing, a Thanksgivukah Festival is planned for Friday, November 29, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Pico Union Project in Los Angeles with music, crafts, stories and, of course, food, provided by Cantor’s Truck among others.
And, oh, the commerce. A nine-year-old New York boy has already made a killing with a “Menurkey,” his trademarked, turkey-shaped menorah. T-shirts and aprons are selling like latkes, notably a Woodstock-inspired tee captioned “8 Days of Light, Liberty & Latkes” as well as an American Gothic poster featuring a Chasidic couple holding a menorah instead of a pitchfork.
Culinary possibilities are endless. Kutsher’s Tribeca, a New York restaurant, is preparing a special Thanksgivukah feast including smoked brisket with challah stuffing and raspberry and cranberry jelly-filled sufganiyot. The New York Daily News even captured a photo of the chef adding chocolate Chanukah gelt coins to the mole sauce.
Buzzfeed.com offers a Thanksgivukah menu with eight Chanukah-inspired Thanksgiving dishes, including Manischewitz-brined roast turkey, Sweet Potato Bourbon Noodle Kugel and Pecan Pie Rugelach.
A recent (highly scientific) poll taken amongst my friends reveals that the vast majority refuse to combine both holiday celebrations in this one-day feast of Biblical proportions – “I will NOT serve latkes with my turkey,” exclaimed one emphatically – and plan to commemorate the Festival of Lights with a separate Chanukah celebration sometime over the Thanksgiving weekend. Which got me thinking – maybe after your Chanukah-inspired Thanksgiving, how about a Thanksgiving-inspired Chanukah? Chanukiving, perhaps?
For inspiration I turned to The New Jewish Table (St. Martin’s Press, $35), a new cookbook by Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff Gray of Washington, D.C.’s famed Equinox Restaurant. When Todd, a five-time James Beard Award nominee who grew up Episcopalian, married his Jewish wife, Ellen Kassoff, their blended backgrounds and love of local seasonal ingredients proved to be a winning combination, so they are a fitting choice for this blended holiday.
More than creating a love story about what one can do with fresh ingredients, Todd and Ellen talk about the food they grew up with, their life together and how rewarding the sharing of two people’s traditions – and meals – can be. The 125 recipes in the book reinvent traditional Jewish cooking with twists on such favorites as Pickled Herring in Citrus Dill Crème Fraîche, Matzo-Stuffed Cornish Game Hens, Fig and Port Wine Blintzes and Chocolate Hazelnut Rugelach.
For most of us Chanukah wouldn’t be Chanukah without latkes, and Yukon Gold and Sweet Potato Latkes give more than a nod to Thanksgiving. “My first latke collaboration with Ellen’s dad inspired me to create a dish at Equinox that became a signature there,” Todd writes. “Sweet potato latkes with horseradish cream and salmon caviar have been on the menu there since 2003.”
“Duplicate Todd’s dish by mixing some crème fraîche with freshly grated horseradish and topping it with salmon roe,” adds Ellen, “or opt for the toppings I grew up with: sour cream, applesauce or cherries.”
Sweet potatoes were probably not on the menu at the first Thanksgiving in 1621 (nor were cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, for that matter), but Indian corn most certainly would have been. Scientists tell us that corn was developed in central Mexico at least 7000 years ago. As the indigenous people migrated north, they brought corn with them, and by the time the Pilgrims sat down with them for the first Thanksgiving, corn, new to the Europeans, was a major part of the natives’ diet.
Because Chanukah celebrates the oil, not the potato, why not fry up some Smoked Salmon and Sweet Corn Beignets and pay tribute to both holidays?
This extraordinary convergence of holidays reminds us that both the Maccabees and the Pilgrims valued freedom above all. So whether you’re celebrating Thanksgivukah or Chanukiving, eat and enjoy! Gobble tov!
Yukon Gold & Sweet Potato Latkes
Yield: Six 5-inch Latkes
2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes
2 medium sweet potatoes
1 medium yellow onion
2 large eggs, light beaten
½ cup matzo meal
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup canola oil
For serving (optional)
Crème fraîche, freshly grated horseradish, and salmon caviar or sour cream, applesauce or cherries
1 Grate both potatoes on large-mesh side of box grater or food processor. With your hands, squeeze out any liquid and transfer potatoes to medium-size bowl. With same grater, grate onion into bowl with potatoes. Add eggs, matzo meal, thyme, salt and pepper. Mix well.
2 Preheat oven to 250° F.
3 Heat 12-inch nonstick pan over high heat; add ¼ cup of the oil and heat until it begins to smoke. Working in batches, shape potato mixture into 5-inch round cakes about ½ inch thick. Add to pan, lower heat to medium and cook without moving cakes until brown on one side, about 4 minutes; turn over and cook other side until brown, about 4 minutes more. Remove cakes from pan and transfer to paper towel-lined plate to drain. Repeat with remaining oil and mixture. Transfer drained latkes to serving plate and keep warm in oven. Serve with topping of your choice.
Smoked Salmon and Sweet Corn Beignets
Yield: 24 beignets
2 medium ears fresh corn, husked (1 cup kernels)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup whole milk
1 cup finely diced smoked salmon (about 4 ounces)
2 green onions, thinly sliced crosswise, including part of green (1/4 cup)
Canola oil for frying
Lime Sour Cream (recipe follows)
1 Blanch corn in steamer basket over boiling water 5 minutes. Rinse corn in cold water. Slice kernels from cob.
2 Whisk flour, baking powder, salt and pepper in large bowl. Whisk in eggs and sour cream, then milk. Using spatula or wooden spoon, fold in corn, salmon and green onions. Cover batter; refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
3 Pour 4 inches oil into heavy saucepan. Heat oil to 350° F. over medium heat. Using two soup spoons or ice cream scoop, gently drop balls of batter in oil; work in batches and don’t crowd. Fry, turning as needed to cook and color evenly, until golden brown on all sides, about 2 minutes. Transfer to paper towel-lined plate to drain. Serve with Lime Sour Cream on the side.
Lime Sour Cream
Whisk 1cup sour cream, 1 tablespoon mayonnaise, and 1½ teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice in small bowl. Add ¼ teaspoon freshly grated lime zest and 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives; stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Yield: 1 cup
Source: The New Jewish Table by Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff Gray