While some Jewish holidays have full dinners associated with them, Hanukkah doesn’t have as prescribed a sit-down dinner situation. One of the most Hanukkah-connected foods of all is latkes. According to Jewish history, after the Jews reclaimed their desecrated temple in Jerusalem, they found only enough oil to light the lamp for one night, but by some miracle the lamp stayed lit for eight days and eight nights. That’s why Hanukkah lasts for eight nights, and that’s why the foods most associated with the holiday are those cooked in oil such as doughnuts and — most notably — potato pancakes or latkes.
But while you basically have to have latkes on Hanukkah, you may also want a nice full-on family meal, here is a menu featuring some traditional Jewish foods, and yes, potato pancakes.
These savory pancakes are made with shredded potatoes, onions, eggs, and cooked in a generous amount of oil. If you are not worried about keeping kosher, you may also want to use some butter along with the oil to cook your potato pancakes. Though it’s not traditional, it sure is delicious. Sour cream and applesauce are the traditional toppings for the latkes, one or the other, or in our house, both. Again, if you are serving meat with the latkes, and keeping kosher, skip the sour cream. These can be served as an appetizer or a side dish. I like to serve a big old honking tray of these while everyone opens presents.
Jewish brisket is the featured main course at many a Jewish holiday dinner, and as Hanukkah falls at the end of the year, there couldn’t be a more perfect cold-weather entrée. The wild mushrooms take this recipe up a notch. You could chop up the leftovers and turn them into brisket-barley soup.
Serve the brisket with:
A simple string bean preparation, easy to sauté up at the last minute.
I love fruit in salads; it feels so festive and sophisticated, and there’s nothing to it. The balsamic dressing also features some citrus juices, which not only add flavor, but also keep the pear from turning brown too quickly. Little nuggets of dried apricots add tangy-sweetness and texture.
And if you are keeping kosher, then you might have to save the doughnut festival for another time … but whenever you choose to eat them, make them jelly doughnuts, also called sufganiyot. Try this recipe with two interesting possible filling twists!
More holiday tips and recipes
- First course: Roasted butternut squash soup or green salad with butternut squash, pear and goat cheese
- Side dish ideas: Roasted butternut squash with sage and roasted Brussels sprouts
- 5 cocktail hacks for healthier, festive holiday drinks
- What chefs and food pros bring to potlucks
- More recipes