How to celebrate ‘Thanksgivukkah’

Two holidays about appreciation fall on the same day this year

The Associated PressNovember 20, 2013 

It’s a meeting of holidays so rare it will be tens of thousands of years before it happens again. Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah — the Jewish Festival of Lights — fall on the same day this year, creating what many celebrants have dubbed “Thanksgivukkah.” And it’s opened up a whole new world of culinary opportunities.

Laura Frankel, executive chef for Wolfgang Puck Kosher Catering in Chicago, mused that the two holidays occurring in tandem presents a sort of mini existential crisis: “Do I celebrate as a Jewish American or as an American Jew.”

She decided on the latter.

“After all,” she said, “I feel blessed to live in a country where we are free to celebrate our religious beliefs however we want. And that’s not something one should take for granted in this world.”

Plus, Frankel feels the holidays work well together in a traditional as well as a culinary sense. Both Thanksgiving and Hanukkah are celebrations of appreciation, says Frankel. The former is about being grateful for our country and the latter fetes the miracle of a small amount of oil burning for eight days and the dedication of the new temple in Jerusalem.

As far as the food is concerned, both are holidays are filled with traditions rather than hard and fast rules. “Hanukkah is one of the few Jewish holidays when we’re not specifically told what to eat,” Frankel says. Frying foods in oil is really symbolic rather than essential.

So on Thanksgiving itself, Frankel plans on bringing a little Hanukkah spirit to her traditional Thanksgiving dinner by, for one thing, serving sweet potato latkes with a cranberry-apple sauce alongside the turkey.

The key to the sweet potato latkes is to start with a white potato, such as a russet, to make the batter, then add shredded sweet potatoes. On their own, sweet potatoes don’t have enough starch to hold together well and contain too much sugar, which causes them to burn easily, she says. The blend will give you perfectly crisp and golden, but slightly sweet latkes.

Bruce Aidells, chef and author of “The Great Meat Cookbook,” is bringing Hanukkah to his Turkey Day with some sides as well. He and his wife Nancy Oakes, chef-owner of Boulevard in San Francisco, will start the meal with crispy, mini potato latkes topped with caviar (though Aidells says smoked salmon makes a great topping, as well).

To go along with his bird, Aidells will take some inspiration from his grandmother, who owned a Jewish deli in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, and make a sweet potato, prune and carrot tzimmes, which is a typical Eastern European sweet stew often served at holidays.

For dessert, Aidells suggests a variation on the traditional Hanukkah doughnuts, sufganiyot, filled or topped with a sweet cranberry or apple compote.

Laura Frankel is thinking sufganiyot as well, but taking the idea a step further by making the traditional yeast dough with the addition of canned pumpkin, which she says adds great flavor and color.

For other nights during Hanukkah this year, Frankel says she she’ll take advantage of the availability of fresh turkey. She’s created a turkey spiedini in which bite-size chunks of breast meat will be threaded onto skewers, dipped in lightly beaten egg whites, then dusted with seasoned panko breadcrumbs and fried in olive oil. For dipping, she’ll serve the spiedinis with a roasted pumpkin seed, garlic, raisin and sage pesto.

Here are other dishes to try, too (recipes on C9):

Pumpkin Latkes With Spiced Cranberry Sauce: Potato latkes may be the best known variety of this crispy staple of Hanukkah meals, but don’t feel you need to limit yourself to them. Though potatoes have their own symbolism in this Jewish holiday, it is the oil used in the frying that is particularly significant; it symbolizes the long-lasting oil burned in the temple lamps in the story of Hanukkah. Since the first day of Hanukkah falls on Thanksgiving this year, we decided to draw on a staple of that all-American holiday to make a delicious variation — pumpkin latkes.

Latke-Crusted Apple Stuffing: Part of what makes the traditional Thanksgiving stuffing so irresistible is its delicious blend of lightly crisped top and sides with a tender and moist inside. Turns out that combination also happens to be the mark of a great fried potato latke, one of the most iconic foods of Hanukkah. And since this year marks the rare convergence of Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah, we decided to see whether we could unite these classic comfort foods in one dish.

Pumpkin Honey Doughnuts: Hanukkah and Thanksgiving may not coincide very often, but these pumpkin honey doughnuts will make you wish they did. To help bridge these holidays, we borrowed a classic dessert of each — fried doughnuts for Hanukkah and pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving — and brought them together in one delicious mouthful. The result is a terrifically moist fried doughnut rich with the flavors of pumpkin pie. A glaze of cinnamon- and lemon-spiked honey ties everything together.

To help you get in the Thanksgiving-Hanukkah mood, we’ve developed a delicious holiday hybrid. The recipes here for latke-crusted turkey cutlets can be made with leftover brisket (perhaps from the first night of Hanukkah), or if you like you can leave the meat out of the latke batter with equally good results. The Meyer lemon applesauce makes a perfect topping for this crispy dish, but leftover cranberry sauce would work as well.

Latke Crusted Turkey Cutlets 10 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup grated sweet onion

20-ounce bag fresh shredded potatoes (about 4 cups)

3/4 pound finely shredded or chopped cooked brisket or corned beef

4 egg whites, whisked until frothy

1 1/4 pounds fresh turkey breast cutlets

2 whole eggs, lightly beaten

Peanut or vegetable oil, for frying

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, whisk together 6 tablespoons of the flour, the salt, pepper and baking powder. Set aside.

Place the grated onion on a clean dish cloth or several layers of paper towels, gather up the edges to form a bundle. Holding the bundle over the sink, squeeze out at much liquid as possible.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the onion, potatoes, brisket, flour mixture and egg whites. Mix well to make a batter that is loose, but holds together well, adding a bit more flour if necessary. Set aside.

Place the remaining 4 tablespoons of flour in a wide, shallow bowl. Place the 2 whole eggs in a second wide, shallow bowl.

To prepare the cutlets, one at a time dip each first in the flour, then the beaten eggs. Then use your hands press -cup of the potato mixture evenly onto one side of each cutlet.

In a large skillet over medium-high, heat about 1/4-inch of oil until a shred of potato dropped into the oil sizzles immediately.

Working in batches, add the cutlets potato-side down, to the skillet. Cook until the potatoes are crispy and browned and the turkey is no longer pink at the center, 4 to 5 minutes. Press another -cup of the potato mixture on top of each turkey cutlet, then flip and brown on the second side for another 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet, then repeat with remaining cutlets.

Bake for 10 minutes, or until the turkey reaches 165 degrees at the center.

Serve immediately with Meyer lemon applesauce.

Nutrition information per serving: 500 calories; 200 calories from fat (40 percent of total calories); 23 g fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 170 mg cholesterol; 30 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 2 g sugar; 41 g protein; 1,110 mg sodium. Meyer Lemon Applesauce 4 large apples, peeled, cored and chopped into 1/2 -inch pieces

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

Zest and juice of 1 Meyer lemon

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Pinch of kosher salt

In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, combine the apples, sugar, water, lemon zest and juice, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Cook, stirring often, until the apples are very soft and some have broken down completely, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve the applesauce warm or chilled. The applesauce will keep, tightly covered in the refrigerator, for 1 week.

Nutrition information per serving: 110 calories; 0 calories from fat (0 percent of total calories); 0 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 31 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 27 g sugar; 0 g protein; 40 mg sodium. Latke-crusted Apple Stuffing 2 large russet potatoes

4 eggs, divided

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons minced fresh sage

Salt and ground black pepper

Vegetable oil, for frying

1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped

3 stalks celery, roughly chopped

2 carrots, roughly chopped

1 green bell pepper, cored and roughly chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

2 medium apples, peeled and diced

1 large loaf (about 1 pound) challah bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and toasted

2 cups low-sodium chicken or turkey broth or stock

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a large casserole dish or a 9-by-13-inch pan with cooking spray.

Into a medium bowl lined with several layers of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel, shred the potatoes. Gather the towels with the potatoes inside and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Discard the liquid, dry the bowl, then return the potatoes to the bowl, removing the towels. Stir in 2 of the eggs, the flour, sage and a hefty pinch each of salt and pepper.

In a large skillet over medium-high, heat 1/4 inch of oil over medium-high. Working in batches, drop the potato mixture in 1/4 cup mounds into the oil, flattening them with the back of a spatula. Cook until golden brown on both sides, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer the latkes to a paper towel-lined plate and repeat with the remaining potato mixture.

In a food processor, combine the onion, celery, carrots and green pepper. Pulse until finely chopped.

Drain all but 1/4 cup of the oil from the pan used to cook the latkes. Set the pan over medium heat, then transfer the vegetable mixture to it and cook until lightly browned and tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl, then add the chives, apples and challah. Season with a hefty sprinkle each of salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, whisk together the 2 remaining eggs and the broth. Pour over the stuffing mixture and mix well. Spoon the stuffing into the prepared pan. Arrange the latkes over the top. Wrap with foil or cover and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the foil or cover and continue baking for 10 minutes, or until 165 degrees in the center.

Nutrition information per serving: 260 calories; 50 calories from fat (19 percent of total calories); 6 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 80 mg cholesterol; 42 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 7 g sugar; 8 g protein; 330 mg sodium. Pumpkin Latkes With Spiced Cranberry Sour Cream 1 cup sour cream

1/4 cup finely chopped dried cranberries

2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Vegetable oil

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1 small sugar pumpkin, peeled, seeded and shredded (about 3 cups)

2 eggs

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Toasted pecans, to garnish

In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, cranberries, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Set aside.

In a medium skillet over medium, heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Add the onion and cook until very tender and well browned, about 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer the onion (reserving the skillet) to a medium bowl and mix in the shredded pumpkin, eggs, flour, salt and black pepper.

Wipe out the skillet used to cook the onions. Return it to medium-high heat and add a 1/4 inch of vegetable oil. Working in batches, scoop the pumpkin mixture by the heaping tablespoonful into the pan, 3 or 4 scoops at a time. Flatten each scoop with the back of the spatula and cook until browned on both sides and tender at the center, about 3 minutes per side.

Transfer to a wire rack set over a baking sheet to drain. Serve topped with the cranberry sour cream and garnished with toasted pecans.

Nutrition information per serving: 140 calories; 80 calories from fat (57 percent of total calories); 9 g fat (3.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 50 mg cholesterol; 12 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 7 g sugar; 3 g protein; 220 mg sodium. Pumpkin Honey Doughnuts 2 teaspoons instant yeast

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1/2 cup warm water

15-ounce can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

1 egg

cup honey

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Vegetable oil, for frying

In a medium bowl, stir together the yeast, flour, salt and pumpkin pie spice. Stir in the water, pumpkin and egg until a thick, smooth batter forms. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 45 minutes.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the honey, sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon. Bring to a boil and stir well. Remove from the heat.

In a large, deep skillet over medium-high, heat 1 inch of oil to 375 degrees.

Working in batches, carefully drop the batter by the tablespoonful into the hot oil. A small ice cream or cookie scoop makes this easier. Turning occasionally, fry the doughnuts until deep golden brown all over and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the fried doughnuts to a large bowl. Drizzle the honey syrup over the doughnuts and toss to coat. Repeat with remaining doughnuts. Serve immediately.

Nutrition information per serving: 80 calories; 25 calories from fat (31 percent of total calories); 2.5 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 5 mg cholesterol; 12 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 4 g sugar; 2 g protein; 30 mg sodium.

Start to finish: 25 minutes | Servings: 6 Start to finish: 30 minutes | Makes about 3 cups Start to finish: 1 hour 10 minutes (30 minutes active) | Servings: 12 Start to finish: 30 minutes | Servings: 10 Start to finish: 11/2 hours (45 minutes active) Makes 3 dozen doughnut holes

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