Hanukkah, which commemorates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem, isn't just about menorahs, dreidels and gifts. It's about food, too. This year, it coincides with another beloved food holiday: Thanksgiving. It’s an occurrence so rare that it the last happened in 1888, and at least another 70,000 years will pass before it happens again.
In honor of the miracle that occurred during the rededication, when a single day's worth of oil lasted for eight, fried foods are a fundamental part of Hanukkah. These fried delights usually include latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyah (a deep fried doughnut filled with jelly or custard and dusted with powdered sugar).
This year, many cooks who celebrate both Hanukkah and Thanksgiving are planning dishes that encompass both traditions: sweet potato latkes, chocolate pies made with chocolate coins or deep fried turkey.
Another tradition is spinning the dreidel, a game played with a top and pennies, M&Ms or chocolate coins. According to legend, those who wanted to study the Torah under the rule of Antiochus IV had to conceal it by pretending to play gambling games whenever an inspector was nearby.
This year, many cooks who celebrate both Hanukkah and Thanksgiving are planning dishes that encompass both traditions, including sweet potato latkes, chocolate pies made with chocolate coins or deep fried turkey.
Because eating is such an important part of the Hanukkah celebration, Jewish food enthusiasts, including Chef Harold Marmulstein of Salty Sow, are particularly excited about Thanksgivukkah. Growing up in Albany, N.Y., Marmulstein and his family participated in all of the typical Hanukkah traditions, lighting the Menorah, saying prayers and playing dreidel. They'd eat foods such as latkes with apple sauce and sour cream, and his mother would cook a brisket that was "more like a pot roast," he says "not like the barbecue brisket here in Texas."
To commemorate Thanksgivukkah, Marmulstein has developed a special menu based on his Hanukkah memories. Says Marmulstein, "I've selected more nostalgic items that Jewish people know, what they're used to and what they grew up eating."
A beef shoulder with fried egg will be the centerpiece of the special menu, but the restaurant will also serve sweet potato latkes with smoked salmon, kasha varnishkes (a dish of buckwheat, bow tie pasta, onions and schmaltz), and pumpkin mousse in a jar. Although Marmulstein and his wife have raised their children in a nonreligious household, he still maintains, "It's important to me to keep these traditions and cultures alive."
Marmulstein is also adding a personal holiday touch to the menu with a chicken galantine served with a Cumberland sauce of currants, mustard and citrus. The dish — his wife's favorite — is notoriously time-consuming to make, but Marmulstein boasts that can do it in 15 minutes. "It's a holiday tradition in my house," he says. "I've made it every year for 30 years." Despite the restaurant's name, of course, there won't be any pork on the Thanksgivukkah menu, but Salty Sow's regular menu will also be available.
Salty Sow's Thanksgivukkah menu will be available November 29 - December 6.
Chef Harold Marmulstein's Potato Latkes With Smoked Salmon
1¼ pounds Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
4 ounces yellow onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons all-purpose flour
canola oil for frying
1. In a blender, combine potatoes and onions. Crack the eggs into the mixture and blend until semismooth.
2. Pour the contents of the blender into a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. Let rest for 15 minutes.
3. Pour 1/4 inch of canola oil into a skillet and heat over medium heat.
4. When oil is hot, carefully ladle 1 1/2 ounces of the batter into the pan.
5. When bubbles begin to pop on the top of the pancakes, turn them over and cook until golden brown on both sides.
6. Remove pancakes from the skillet and drain on paper towels. Season with salt and pepper.
7. Serve latkes on plate topped with a generous dollop of sour cream and slices of smoked salmon over the top. Top with another dollop of sour cream and then garnish with diced tomatoes, shaved onions and chopped chives.