Among Ashkenazi Jews (those of Eastern European descent), potato latkes and other foods fried in oil are a favorite for Hanukkah, the Jewish holiday that celebrates the miracle of the oil central to the story of the menorah's lighting. Hanukkah lasts eight days beginning on the 25th of Kislev. It is a time for great celebration and enjoyment. Friends and relatives gather to light the menorah, exchange gifts, sing songs, play dreidel games and enjoy great food. In fact, the Shulhkan Arukh -- the code of law -- forbids mourning and fasting during this time. These recipes should help you uphold the tradition of merrymaking during this joyous holiday. Read more about Hanukkah here.
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This Jewish beef brisket recipe produces a fork-tender piece of meat surrounded by braised vegetables. In the old days, women cleaned their houses all day Friday in preparation for the Sabbath, which is from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. They needed to cook something that didn't require a lot of watching and would reheat well the next day when no work, not even cooking, was allowed. Enter beef brisket -- a cut of meat suitable for a long, slow cook. Here's How I Learned to Cook Jewish Food.
When I was little, my mother made placki kartoflane, or placki ziemniaczane, on meatless days. They were thin and crispy and sprinkled with granulated sugar. Since then, I've come to love Jewish latkes infused with onion or garlic and served with sour cream and applesauce, and the puffy Czech and Bohemian varieties.
This recipe for Brandade Potato Latkes is from Joan Nathan's "Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France" (Alfred A. Knopf, 2011). It combines cooked fresh cod with potatoes in a spin on the French salt code dish known as brandade.
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I know, I know. It's all about the oil for Hanukkah, but for those who would otherwise abstain from eating potato pancakes, this recipe is a boon. Potato pancakes, also known as placki kartoflane or latkes are usually fried, but in this favorite Hanukkah food, the pancakes are made with egg whites and baked. That means a guilt-free indulgence -- 0 grams fat and only 65 calories per pancake.
Applesauce is common throughout Eastern Europe. With only three ingredients in the recipe -- apples, water and sugar -- it was an easy project for an overabundance of fruit. And busy farmwives could enlist the aid of their children in the peeling and stirring. Applesauce and sour cream are the perfect accompaniments for latkes.
Jewish noodle kugel recipes can be sweet or savory. Here, in this easy recipe, sugar and raisins are combined with cooked noodles, eggs, sour cream and cottage cheese to create a puffy side dish or dessert. Jewish noodle kugel is similar to Lithuanian kugelis, except the latter is made with potatoes, not noodles, and it's not a dessert.
Jewish blintzes are the same as French crepes, Polish nalesniki, Hungarian palacsinta and Serbian palachinke -- thin pancakes that are rolled around various sweet or savory fillings. They can be made ahead becaue they freeze well. Just skip the frying step. Do that from the frozen state when you're ready to enjoy them. If you can't find dry curd cheese, you might want to make your own farmers cheese from scratch.
Jewish challah bread is a rich, slightly sweet yeast bread that is typically braided and eaten at the Shabbat (Sabbath) evening meal on Friday nights and at ceremonial dinners. Beautiful, embroidered challah cloths are used to cover the challah until it is eaten. Catholic Poles adopted this bread and call it chałka, Bohemians and Czechs call it houska and nearly every Eastern European country has its version. The same steps for making houska bread apply to challah. See this Bread Machine Challah #2 Recipe.