Last night was the first night of Hanukah. Time for latkes and other yummy food. As I wrote at Thanksgiving time, it’s not a holiday if the house is not filled with the rich aromas of seasonal specialties. Of course, we invited friends to join us – nothing like sharing during the season.
I had a crazy day because of a volunteer commitment (ushering at the local symphony) in mid-afternoon. It turned out I was needed at work, too (another usher gig, only two us were there for a house of over 100 people and we did it!). The point is that when cooking, especially a holiday meal, planning is of the essence. I already had the tablecloth on the table from the work Secret Santa party earlier in the week. The first step was already in place.
My schedule for the day, despite the obstacles, was fairly easy. In the morning, make dessert, chopped liver, and prepare the vegetables to be roasted. On coming home, season and put the vegetables into the oven, prepare the fish, and make … latkes. The latter was the most complex procedure. Here’s what we had.
I wrote in my last post about Katowes Cake, the cakes whose ingredients equal the number of candles burned over the week of Hanukah (44). I’d never made it and now as the time. What shape to make – layer cake which needs icing (another step in a busy day) or a bundt cake (the cake with a whole in the middle if you’ve seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding). Third choice won – little individual bundt cakes!
I assembled the ingredients – I find it easier when I cook something with lots of ingredients to have them all together, at hand, and ready – flour, baking powder, sugar, eggs, lemon, and oranges. I felt that something had to be missing, but that’s all. Why the corn starch? The recipe calls for cake flour. I rarely use cake flour or bread flour, but you can convert regular flour with some simple substitutions – replace two tablespoons of regular flour with two tablespoons of corn starch according to several sources on google.
I followed the instructions carefully and the batter seemed to be very liquid and it did not seem to be enough. But all the forms were filled, so off to the oven. Note: The recipe instructs you to use ungreased pans. Next time, I’ll grease the pans, both for getting the cakes out more easily and to clean to forms just as easily.
I had chosen the little bundt cakes so I did not have to ice the cakes. I knew I’d sprinkle them with powdered sugar. I still felt something was missing, so I took some summer raspberries from the freezer and cooked them with some sugar for a sauce. It was a bit thin, but soaked up by the cake was really delicious, an added tartness to a sweet cake.
Dinner was several recipes I’ve made a number of times – roast butternut squash and beets, turmeric fish using cod, and the latkes, with a salad, of course. Remember, I was in a time crunch to get the dinner on the table.
Roast Vegetables – The vegetables had been prepped in the morning, before running off to ushering. I had a nice butternut squash and some lovely beets in the pantry – both great fall vegetables. When I got home, I tossed them with olive oil (classic, not EVOO) and herbs de Provence. Into a pre-heated, 350 (F) oven for about 1/2 hour. I’m sorry, I don’t time my roasted vegetables any more. After about 20 minutes I stirred them up. The total time might have been more than 30 minutes.
Turmeric fish – this recipe from Bon Appetite ( https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/
turmeric-fish-rice-noodles ) is an Asian-styled recipe. I left out the Asian (fish sauce and lime) and spicey (chile) flavors. First, mix the turmeric with powdered ginger and powdered garlic along with salt. Dredge the fish pieces in this mixture, then into a moderate frying pan – about 10 minutes per side. Serve topped with minced scallions.
Latkes – I use a classic recipe that is really in my head. I guess I had about 5-6 yellow potatoes. I had one other type of potato and threw it into the mix. Peel and grate the spuds. I use a food processor for grating. A peeled and chopped onion is added to the grating process. Tip: The great they say that adding onion prevents the potatoes from oxidizing; mine still turn a little dark.
If you have time, squeeze as much liquid as you can from the grated spuds. I just use my hands, not the complex process with cheesecloth, etc. Mix 2 beaten eggs, several handfuls of matzoh meal (I guess you could substitute very fine bread crumbs), salt, and pepper to the mixture. Next, into the frying pan.
I heat about 1-2 inches of vegetable oil in a heavy frying pan. Drop a teeny bit of batter into the pan to see if the oil is ready. When ready, drop latke-sized amounts of batter into the pan and let they sizzle. When you see them browning and crisping around the edges, turn them. Again, when browned and crisped to your liking, put your latkes on paper towels to catch the residual oil. Add oil as needed if the oil gets absorbed. Note: you can put your cooked latkes in the oven to keep them warm.
Sour cream or applesauce. What to serve your latkes with? I have come to prefer creme fraiche with a bit of black caviar (well, fish roe). Gives them the creamy dairy with a bite of crunchy salt.
I’m not sure if I’ve written about chopped liver – one of our appetizers. It’s easy with few ingredients – onion, garlic, chicken livers, hard boiled eggs, and schmaltz (chicken fat). Here goes – chop the onions and saute. Add chopped garlic followed by chicken livers (remove as much fat as you can), add salt and pepper to taste. Cook nicely, about 20 minutes, stirring until cooked through. Put it all in the good processor, I don’t use the hochmeister/chopper. Schmaltz, not a usual ingredient in many kitchens. I replace it with duck fat – yum. Spin just a little to just chop up, not emulsify. Chill and serve topped with chopped hard boiled eggs and baguette slices, crackers, a nice bread. Good for any celebration or just to eat anytime.
You can imagine, tonight was tasty leftovers, still yummy, after we lit our candles! And we still have six more nights of Hanukah ahead of us!
Fun Notes: This year Christmas falls in the middle of Hanukah. Wednesday you will find out family at our favorite Chinese restaurant – a long-standing Jewish tradition. Apparently, the only restaurants open on Christmas day historically were the Chinese. Thank you very much.
You also might wonder about the Hanukah candle holder called a hanukiah or menorah. It has holders for eight candles (one for each night, they burn bright). But maybe you’ve seen a menorah with only six spots for candles. This is a representative of one of the fixtures in the ancient Temple in Jerusalem which is found in many modern synagogues.
And a joke in closing –
Goldie went to the post office to buy stamps for her Hanukah cards. She said to the cashier, “May I please have 50 Hanukah stamps?” The cashier then asked, “What denomination?”
“Oy vey, has it come to this?” Goldie replied, “Okay, give me 6 Orthodox, 12 Conservative, and 32 Reform.”
Warmest wishes for the holiday season and the New Year –
Looks wonderful! Chag Chanukah Sameach to you!
And to you with a healthy New Year!