A Hanukkah spin on classic Thanksgiving menu

Apple Cider Doughnuts with cinnamon sugar.
Apple Cider Doughnuts with cinnamon sugar. (RON TARVER / Staff Photographer)
Posted: November 22, 2013

In modern America, Hanukkah generally overlaps with the Christmas season of gifts and parties. But this year, when the first day of Hanukkah falls on Thanksgiving Day, it bears reflecting on the commonalities of those two holidays:

Indeed, both are based on a quest for freedom and both include food traditions to recall days long ago.

The food traditions of Hanukkah center on oil, commemorating the story of one day's supply of oil burning for eight nights. So oil is used to fry latkes and doughnuts to remember our religious freedoms.

But this year offers a chance to marry traditions with the classic American Thanksgiving menu.

Deep-fried turkey wouldn't be wrong. This popular cooking style does ensure a crisp skin and moist meat, in a fraction of the time, usually outside in a propane-fueled setup, leaving oven space for other goodies.

The smell of roast turkey is too important in our family, so I plan to incorporate the miracle of oil in the appetizer, side dish, and dessert courses.

An old friend, former restaurateur Steve Frankel, suggested latkes fried in turkey fat (schmaltz) with crisped turkey skin cracklings (gribenes) and cranberries. Surely something our Jewish grandmothers would have adored.

Crispy pumpkin-parsnip latkes, cooked ahead, reheated just before serving, served atop a simple spinach salad garnished with maple pecans. These latkes are delicious with gravy, cranberry relish, applesauce, or whatever condiments are on your family's table.

Blanched green beans can be "Thanksgivukkahfied" for the holiday with olive oil-frizzled onions and a few dried cranberries or cherries. In fact, any casserole side dish will be enhanced with some crispy fried onions or shallots on top.

It is hard to beat pie for Thanksgiving dessert, but it's also hard also to top doughnuts for crowd appeal, especially apple cider doughnuts. The batter, featuring cider boiled down to a syrup, can be made ahead, but the doughnuts need to be fried at the last minute.

Pumpkin-Parsnip Latkes

Makes 6-8 servings

1 small pie pumpkin or butternut squash (about 2 pounds)

1 medium parsnip

2 eggs, lightly beaten

2/3 cup flour

1 level teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups olive oil, or to 1/2 inch in frying pan

Garnishes: maple pecans (see note), applesauce, thick yogurt, sour cream, spinach


cranberry relish

or compote

1. Peel the pumpkin or squash, remove seeds and membrane. If grating by hand leave the pieces, but if using a food processor, cut pieces to fit into the feed tube. Either way, grate the pumpkin and parsnip into fine shreds. You should have about 8 to 9 cups.

2. Add the eggs to a large bowl. Add the grated pumpkin-parsnip mixture. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper and mix well. (Add an additional egg and a few tablespoons of flour if you have more than 9 cups of pumpkin-parsnip). Season to taste.

3. Heat the oil in a large frying pan on medium heat until a drop of latke mixture sizzles when it hits the oil... dropped into the oil. Drop 1/2 cupfuls of mixture into the hot oil to make 3-inch latkes, 1/3 cup of mixture for 2-inch latkes. After 1 minute of cooking press the mixture lightly with a spatula to flatten. Cook for another 2-5 minutes until the edges brown. Turn each carefully and press once. Cook second side for another 2-3 minutes until crisped. They are tender, so try not to flip multiple times. Remove to a rack placed over a baking sheet. Serve immediately or keep warm (300 degree oven). Or reheat latkes made earlier in a 425 degree-oven. in single layers on baking sheets.  

4. Serve with maple pecans (see note), or as a side dish with turkey and gravy, or with garnishes listed above. Or serve as a first course with maple pecans over baby spinach tossed in a simple vinaigrette.

Note: For maple pecans, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss 2/3 cup shelled pecans with 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Spread pecans and syrup onto the baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cook about 10 minutes or until nuts are lightly browned. Cool at room temperature and store in a well-sealed container.

- From Anna Herman

Per serving (based on 8, without garnishes): 228 calories; 4 grams protein; 25 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams sugar; 14 grams fat; 41 milligrams cholesterol; 313 milligrams sodium; 4 grams dietary fiber.

Apple Cider Doughnuts

Makes about 50 doughnuts or 10-15 servings

3 cups apple cider

2/3 cup brown sugar

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temp

2 eggs, room temp

3 1/2 cups unbleached white flour

11/4 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/3 cup buttermilk

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Vegetable oil (for frying) about 1 liter

Cinnamon/ cardamom sugar (1 1/2 cups sugar mixed with 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon or cardamom)

1. Bring the cider to boil in a heavy saucepan. Reduce to simmer and cook until it becomes syrupy and is reduced to about 2/3 of a cup.

2. In a bowl, beat together sugar and butter, using a mixer, until mixture is smooth, scraping down the sides. Add eggs and beat until well incorporated. In a separate small bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

3. Add the boiled cider, buttermilk and vanilla to the sugar/butter/egg mixture. Mix well, the mixture will look a bit curdled. Add flour mixture and combine gently just until fully moistened, scraping the sides down. It will be a bit thicker than cake batter.

4. Fill a small bowl with warm water. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Use a melon baller or two spoons, to shape rounded 3/4-inch balls on the lined baking sheet. Dip your tools or hands between each scoop in the warm water.

5. Line a plate with a few layers of paper towels. In a Dutch oven or high-sided frying pan, heat 3 inches of oil to 350-360 degrees. Have your spiced sugar mixture in a large bowl or paper bag nearby. Gently drop 5 or 6 dough balls, one at a time, into the oil, being careful not to crowd the pan. Use a slotted spoon to move and turn the dough balls while frying to ensure even browning. Remove cooked doughnuts to paper towels.

6. Toss these warm doughnuts in spiced sugar and place on a warmed plate. These are best eaten right away, but can be stored well covered once cooled.

- From Anna Herman

Per serving (based on 15): 249 calories; 4 grams protein; 38 grams carbohydrates; 12 grams sugar; 9 grams fat; 37 milligrams cholesterol; 287 milligrams sodium; 2 grams dietary fiber.

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