Hanukkah Favorites: Tradition with a twist
Hanukkah comes just once a year, but some good things are worth waiting for – such as latkes, homemade applesauce and a tender, braised brisket with an irresistible au jus. This Hanukkah, try these time-proven favorites with or without a twist.
(4 to 6 servings)
5 large Idaho potatoes,
peeled and grated
1 medium onion
1/3 cup flour or Matzo meal
1 tsp. Kosher salt
¼ tsp. pepper
oil for frying
Grate potatoes and onion on the fine side of a grater, or in a food processor. If you use a food processor, you’ll want to pulse the grated potatoes with the blade attachment to get the ideal consistency.
Strain grated potatoes and onion through a colander, pressing out some, but not all, of the water. (The starch in the water will help brown the latkes.) Adding a little acid, such as a crushed vitamin C tablet or a tablespoon of lemon, will help to keep the shredded potatoes nice and bright rather than a dingy brown.
Add eggs, flour (or Matzo) and seasoning. Mix well.
Heat about 1/2-inch of oil in a 10-inch skillet. While oil is heating, set up a wire rack over a cookie sheet or paper bag. This will be used to aid in draining oil from the latkes while keeping them crispy.
Lower flame and place several tablespoons of batter into hot sizzling oil. Be careful not to overcrowd the latkes. Fry on one side for approximately 5 minutes until golden brown. Turn over and fry on other side 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove latkes from pan and place on the wire rack to allow some of the oil to drip off. Continue with remaining batter until used up, adding more oil when necessary.
Chef’s note: Latkes can be made in advance, stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator (place sheets of wax paper between each layer of latkes) and reheated in a 350ºF oven for 5 minutes before serving.
Top with anything you like – sour cream, dill, smoked salmon, or applesauce. Or sprinkle on a little extra salt and enjoy them plain.
Tradition with a twist: Eliminate the onion, substitute garlic salt for Kosher salt, and add 1/3 cup of grated parmesan cheese.
10-12 large apples, peeled and each cut
into 1-inch pieces
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup water
Chef’s note: Gala or Macintosh apples provide a sweeter finish; Granny Smith apples a tarter one.
Place apples in a 6- to 8-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan. Sprinkle with sugar and stir. Although the apples will release juice as they cook, adding up to 1/4 cup of water may be needed to prevent the apples from sticking to the pan and scorching.
Cover and simmer over medium heat, stirring every few minutes to prevent sticking. Reduce heat to low and simmer the apples until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
For a traditional applesauce, puree apples in a blender. Stir in cinnamon and vanilla. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate before serving.
Tradition with a twist: Replace 1/4 cup of water with cider. Do not puree the cooked apples, leave them chunky instead. Omit the vanilla and in addition to the cinnamon, add 1/4 tsp. of nutmeg as well as a dash each of allspice and ground cloves. Serve warm.
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 beef brisket (about 2 pounds)
2 large onions, sliced
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
4 medium carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 celery ribs, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 garlic cloves
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 cup beef or vegetable broth
1 can diced tomatoes
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in lower third. Heat oil in a wide heavy pan over medium-high heat. Season brisket with 1 tsp. each of salt and pepper. Brown brisket, turning once, about 8 minutes total. Transfer to a plate.
Reduce heat to medium. Saute onions until they begin to caramelize. Add carrots, celery, mushrooms and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender and mushrooms are golden, about 10 to 12 minutes. Deglaze pan with the cider vinegar. Add stock and tomatoes and bring to a simmer.
Return brisket to the pan (if the pan is oven-safe) or transfer braising liquid and brisket to an oven-safe casserole. Spoon braising liquid over the meat. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and braise in oven until fork-tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
Tradition with a twist: Substitute one package of dry French onion soup mix for the two large onions and one bottle of chili sauce for the can of diced tomatoes. Prepare as noted above, except after placing the brisket in the oven-safe pan, sprinkle the meat evenly with the onion soup mix and drizzle with braising liquid to wet the dry mix.
Chef’s note: Mike Boemeke, head meat cutter at the Town & Country Straub’s, says with brisket it’s all about the au jus. He noted that “brisket can be a little bland and dry if overcooked, so don’t be afraid to be bold with your braising liquid.”
Best butter cookies
8 ounces unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. pure almond extract
1 large egg yolks
2 cups all-purpose flour
Beat the butter, sugar, salt and flavorings together until smooth and creamy.
Mix in the egg yolk until well incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl at least once.
Add the flour and mix just until incorporated.
Scrape onto a lightly floured board and knead a few times, just until the dough smooths out.
Turn onto a sheet of plastic wrap and roll into a log, wrap up and refrigerate for several hours or freeze.
Before baking, preheat the oven to 325°F and line baking sheets with parchment. Slice the dough into slices about 1/8-inch thick and place them on the sheets about an inch apart. (Cookie dough can also be rolled and cookies can be cut into shapes.)
Bake until cookies are just beginning to turn golden around the edges, about 16-18 minutes.
Tradition with a twist: Substitute 2 tsp. of fresh lemon juice and 1Tbsp. of lemon zest in place of flavorings. Form dough into a 1-inch balls and press indent into the center of each cookie using your thumb. Fill indent with purchased lemon curd and bake.