It’s Chanukah – the Jewish Festival of Lights. As I’ve told you in the past, this is a ‘minor’ holiday on the Jewish calendar but has become more important in the past 3 or 4 decades as a gift-giving holiday. While I received a gift every one of the 8 days of Chanukah when the candles were lit, one day might be a very small bag of Chanukah gelt” – chocolate candies wrapped in foil to resemble coins; a navel orange; a new box of pencils with a small pencil sharpener, etc. Nothing like the X-Box, laptops, cell phones, etc. today’s kids expect!
Our family food tradition was the same every year … brisket with natural gravy, carrot tsimmes (carrots stewed with flanken [short ribs] or chicken and yams, sweetened with sugar so the carrots came out glazed); latkes (I gave you that recipe last year) but with the brisket, Mother would often make a Potato Kugel – a casserole of grated potatoes, egg, matzo meal, salt and pepper. Cooked, as so many Chanukah dishes were, in the oven in oil to maintain the tradition. Since we ALL liked the crusty ends, we’d beg Mother to use a large glass casserole dish (4 quart) so it would be thin and lots of crust! A huge square of Kugel with some of the brisket gravy, a couple slices of brisket, some tsimmes, maybe a small piece of the sweet flanken, some of Dad’s homemade dill pickles….a mechiah (a delicacy beyond belief).
This will work with a good, savory pot roast, too. OK so it’s not on your diet! But it is yummy I think I’ll make a small one for myself this year! Care to join me?
- 6 medium sized potatoes, peeled
- 1 medium sized onion
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1-1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/8 tsp. pepper
- 1/4 cup peanut or corn oil*
Preheat oven to 350. Pour oil into glass casserole and put it into the oven (or use 6 custard cups and portion the oil into the cups; place the cups on a rimmed pan so they don’t slide around). This will serve 6.
Grate 3 potatoes quickly so they don’t discolor. Grate in onion, then rest of potatoes. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Add flour, baking powder, salt and pepper.
Mix well. Carefully spoon or pour into preheated oil.
Bake about 1 hour until golden brown on all sides including the bottom. About half-way through the baking time, you can spoon some of the oil that comes up on the sides over the top to help brown and crisp the top.
*Years ago, the Jewish women would use ‘schmaltz’ – rendered chicken fat – which is rarely used today. Peanut oil is a great alternative as it has a high smoking temperature (much higher than corn oil) but avoid if someone has a peanut allergy.
Tip from the Toque: If you don’t want to make 6 servings, you can use a smaller pan and use the rest of the potatoes and fry them up for latkes; drain the latkes well; and chill or freeze. Reheat in the oven until crisp.