Latkes and Vodka: Hanukkah With a Twist; includes recipes Nov 21, 2013 16:26:07 GMT -5
Post by shira on Nov 21, 2013 16:26:07 GMT -5
Hanukkah With a Twist
There is an art to throwing a stress-free Hanukkah party. When trying to balance tradition with memorable food and festivities, don't work so hard that you don't get to enjoy the holiday.
"It's just about hanging out, a time to gather family and friends together," says Jenn Louis, chef and owner of Lincoln Restaurant, Sunshine Tavern and the catering service, Culinary Artistry, in Portland, Ore. Ms. Louis throws a "latke and vodka" party to celebrate Hanukkah each year. "It's really a joyful holiday."
Ms. Louis says she has done parties that range from a handful of people to 75 adults and children. "Sometimes we do it with just Jewish friends, sometimes we have guests who aren't Jewish," she says. "I think it's fun to share our traditions and explain the foods that we eat."
With the first day of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving on the same day this year, Ms. Louis is having a party for both of the holidays on the Friday after instead. She plans on serving her usual Hanukkah menu with a few twists as well as a turkey and cranberry sauce.
She typically starts to prep for the party days in advance. "I try to plan a menu that I can divide between a couple of days because I want to enjoy my guests," she says. "It's really important to me that the whole party doesn't go by and I go, 'I really didn't have time to talk to anyone.' "
Ms. Louis braises a brisket a few days ahead, cooking it with red wine, onions, herbs and dried porcini mushrooms. "This creates a really nice sauce that is really kind of decadent," she says. "For the holidays, you should have something more decadent, rich and special." The meat takes on more flavor as it "sits in its braising liquid for a few days."
Ms. Louis tries to keep the rest of her menu very simple. Sometimes she'll start the evening with a chicken-liver mousse appetizer, calling it a modern take on traditional chopped liver. The only other main dish she'll serve is latkes. These "can't be done too far ahead," she warns. But you don't have to cook them to order during the party. "Just make them earlier that day. They warm up beautifully." Instead of cooking them fully in the pan so they're dark, she takes them out just before they're done and finishes them off in the oven, making the look of the latke a little lighter.
She likes to jazz up this traditional staple, however. She uses Yukon Gold potatoes, which "gives it a bit richer flavor."
And instead of serving the usual applesauce with the latkes, she says, "I like to serve a pear sauce. They taste similar but it's something a little bit different." Also, she'll often make crème fraîche from scratch, noting this is a "fancier" take on the usual sour-cream accompaniment.
When serving latkes—as well as fried jelly doughnuts for dessert—Ms. Louis makes sure to explain the significance of fried food at Hanukkah to her guests, noting it is a homage to the miracle of light and the oil that lasted for eight days to keep the temple light burning. "This is a great gateway holiday for people who've never experienced Jewish holidays," she says.
Vodka is a star of this party as well—a nod to Ms. Louis's Eastern European Jewish heritage. She'll typically buy bottles of D.L. Franklin vodka, a spirit that's made in small batches by her favorite maker—Dogwood Distilling in Oregon.
She sets out little glasses so guests can sip vodka on its own, as well as mixers such as soda water, tonic water and pomegranate juice. (For children, she'll make flavored sparkling waters ahead of time, cooking lemon, lime or orange juices with sugar and adding soda water to that.)
In keeping with tradition, Ms. Louis decorates simply with various dreidels around the house and teaches her guests and their children how to play the game. While this game is usually played with Hanukkah gelt, foil-wrapped chocolate coins, Ms. Louis likes to use caramel candies she makes ahead of time. The evening is capped with the lighting of the menorah candles and a prayer.
Such activities add to the overall welcoming atmosphere of the event, Ms. Louis says.
"When you have someone over, you want to make them comfortable, and if they have children, you make sure the children are comfortable, then the parents can relax a bit," she says. That way "everyone can have a good time."
Jewish brisket, Jenn's style
2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
8 pounds brisket, trimmed of most of its fat
¼ cup olive oil
2 onions, julienne
3 cloves garlic, cut in half
3-inch piece rosemary
3 bay leaves
½ cup tomato paste
1 cup red wine
4-6 cups chicken stock
Preheat oven to 325F.
Cover mushrooms with boiling water and weigh down with a dish to fully submerge and rehydrate. Set aside.
Generously season brisket with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan, adding additional oil to cover bottom of pan as needed. Sear brisket on both sides, then remove meat and place in a roasting pan. Set meat aside.
Lift mushrooms out of water, leaving any dirt that has settled in the bottom of the container. Reserve liquid. Add mushrooms, onions, garlic and herbs to pan and cook until onions are translucent. Add tomato paste and stir to combine. Tomato should begin to caramelize on bottom of pan.
Strain mushroom liquid through a fine mesh sieve and add liquid to pan with wine. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, then add chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and season very gently with salt and pepper.
Pour hot liquid over brisket and cover with foil. Braise in oven for 90 minutes, then turn brisket over, cover with foil and continue braising. Check brisket every 20 minutes for tenderness. Brisket should be tender enough to release a skewer when pierced.
Remove from oven when done and allow to cool in braising liquid. When cool, remove brisket and slice into thin slices across the grain.
Strain liquid and reduce until thickened. Add meat to sauce and warm.
Yield: 18 latkes
3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
1 medium yellow onion
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. matzo meal
1 tsp. salt, plus more for seasoning
1 tsp. pepper
2-3 large eggs
3 cup olive oil
Preheat oven to 350F.
Peel potatoes and onion and grate them finely, wrap in a clean towel and wring out all moisture. Place potato-onion mixture in a large bowl with all remaining ingredients and mix well without kneading.
Heat olive oil in 10-inch frying pan until shimmering. Form 2-inch patties with the potato mixture and fry in oil until golden on first side. (If patties are too dry to hold shape, add one more egg.) Turn to second side and fry until golden.
Season after frying with kosher salt and place on a sheet pan. Bake at 350F for 12 minutes. Repeat until all patties are made.
Yield: 3 cups
5 pears, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
1½ cups apple cider
6 tbsp. sugar
½ vanilla pod
In a large saucepot, combine pears, cider and sugar. Scrape vanilla bean into pot and add vanilla pod. Simmer until pears are soft, then remove pears, leaving remaining liquid behind. Simmer remaining liquid until reduced to syrup. Process pears through a food mill or food processor until smooth, then add syrup, a few scrapes of fresh nutmeg, zest of 1/3 orange and salt to taste.
Fish sauce caramels
2 cups cream
2¼ cups sugar
6 tbsp. butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
1¼ cups light corn syrup
½ tsp. sea salt
5 tbsp. flax seeds, toasted
2 tsp. fish sauce, Red Boat 40N
Lightly brush a 9x13 baking pan with olive oil and line with parchment, leaving 2-inch overhang. Lightly brush parchment with oil and set aside.
In a medium sauce pot, combine cream, sugar, butter and corn syrup. Bring to a simmer and cook until light amber and 250F. Immediately remove from heat and gently stir in salt and fish sauce. Pour into prepared pan and allow to cool completely.
Remove from pan by holding sides of overhanging parchment. Cut into individual candy portions and wrap in parchment. Store in an airtight container.
How You Know Her
Chef and owner of Lincoln Restaurant, Sunshine Tavern and the Culinary Artistry catering service in Portland, Ore.
Semifinalist for the 2010 and 2011 James Beard Foundation's 'Best Chef Northwest' award.
Cast member on season five of Bravo's 'Top Chef Masters.'
Write to Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan at firstname.lastname@example.org