First off, I know you're all thinking: "What's with the redheaded shiksa cooking a Hanukkah Dinner?"
In fact, I had the identical thought, during both the planning and the cooking stages, but I soldiered on gamely because, frankly, Hanukkah dinner was pretty fucking fun to cook.
So, having never attended a real, honest to God (you should excuse the expression) Hanukkah dinner, I felt somewhat liberated from outside expectations.
Here's the Invite:
Yep, hungry kiddies, That’s right… Hannukah. Late. And not your Bubby’s Hannukah.
Zora is off in Pittsburgh singing along with Loretta Lynn, I am returned from a very Christian funeral in Phoenix, and the only thing I can think of is….. Beef Cheek “brisket” with wild mushrooms. (Wild—Wild I say! I’m just wild about Harry……”) I know they are saying the entrée is dead, but I just don’t believe it. I WANT to eat a main course along with a bunch of other vegetable sides… I guess that makes me behind the times, but I don’t care. I am going to continue to foist this ideal on you—continuing with…. Latkes with Karl’s famous (in our house, anyway) applesauce. Roasted beets with garlic aioli. Leek Cauliflower puree, some sort of bitter salad with roasted pears and sherry/pomegranate dressing, sweet and sour red cabbage with chestnuts. And to top it all off…….. apple FRITTERS.
Sorry about the late notice—think of it as a whim. Arrive anytime after 4pm, dinner at 5. If you have a menorah, bring it along—we don’t. I can’t promise the dreidle song, but I can promise a rollicking good time.
Sunday, December 9th 4pm Reynolds/Wasserman Love Shack/Ranch
In love and garlic (and fritters!!)
Crispy potato goodness...I knew potato latkes would definitely be a starting player...
I was obsessively (some might say) focused on cooking a brisket-type dish with beef cheeks. Sadly, late planning and a required minimum purchase of 60 lbs (!) kept it from becoming reality, so I used short ribs and oxtails instead.
Oxtails are good food...
To my taste, they are the "beefiest" cuts of beef... you can really taste the animal, so to speak.
I also knew that perhaps (my favorite) Candied Bacon might NOT be an ideal Hanukkah accompaniment, even though it goes perfectly on a roasted pear/mache/bitter green salad with pomegranate seeds, as we have seen before...
I thought I might give a perverse little shout-out to my people (the Austrians) by making a sweet/sour Riesling Braised Red Cabbage With Caraway and Chestnuts that shows up in many Jewish and Austrian cookbooks.
Riesling makes it even better!
A delicious Leek Cauliflower Puree was nearly overpowered by a few Jerusalem artichokes (note to self), but underneath the braised shortribs and oxtails it was wonderfully starchy, silky and nutty.
I copied Prune's roasted beets with their tops (and beautiful blenderized aioli!) to the letter, which I considered a feat, a) having never made it before, and b) being an avowed beet hater. Strangly, I do like the tops and the aioli, but that's a discussion for another day.
Lots of boiling, peeling slicing and other prep...
After his own multi potato/onion grater workout, Karl fried and topped the latkes with his fabulous homemade applesauce.
Miss Beth declared it the Greatest Applesauce Of All Time and (I believe) managed to score a little "traveller" to take home...
We polished it all off with some Apple Fritters. The batter I chose wound up kind of thin (a beer batter with flour, sugar, beer and salt) and wouldn't adhere to the skins well, so we added a little more flour and an egg. That helped a bit, but next time I'll use Jean Halberstam's Fried Peaches batter...
Whatever batter you use, fried apples make everyone happy; It's like the State Fair right at home, only without Journey and Bob Seger playing...
There were new peeps and old peeps-- and most impressively, STARVING peeps.
The Butcher's Bill: 11 pounds of short ribs and 8 pounds of oxtails fed 14 mouths with very few leftovers.
Now THAT is what I call fucking delicious.