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The 9 Best Restaurants in America for Hanukkah Dinner

The 9 Best Restaurants in America for Hanukkah Dinner


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Want an extra-special Hanukkah this year? Try one of these special menus

Hanukkah tends to have a reputation as not being an amazing holiday for food, thanks largely to the fact that the primary dish associated with it is fried potato pancakes with applesauce (tasty, but nothing special). But visit one of these nine restaurants this Hanukkah and you’ll realize that when it’s placed into the hands of a good chef, Hanukkah food can be very, very tasty.

The 9 Best Restaurants in America for Hanukkah Dinner

Hanukkah tends to have a reputation as not being an amazing holiday for food, thanks largely to the fact that the primary dish associated with it is fried potato pancakes with applesauce (tasty, but nothing special). But visit one of these nine restaurants this Hanukkah and you’ll realize that when it’s placed into the hands of a good chef, Hanukkah food can be very, very tasty.

Artistry on the Green, Lexington, Mass.

Located at the Inn at Hastings Park, Artistry on the Green will be serving a $45 prix-fixe from Dec. 24 through Dec. 30 (closed on Dec. 26). The menu features potato latkes with crème fraîche, apple sauce, and smoked trout; matzo ball soup; keftes de prasas (Sephardic leek patties); Sephardic spiced fish served with Israeli couscous and roasted vegetables; pomegranate-braised lamb shank; and doughnuts with caramel chocolate sauce.

Lenoir, Austin

Lenoir chef Melissa Ross will be serving a family-style Hanukkah dinneron Dec. 27 for $60 per person. Snacks and spreads will include smoked vermilion snapper, chopped liver, and hard-boiled eggs; entrées include braised lamb shoulder with dried peaches, potato latkes with apple sauce and sour cream, and roasted vegetable salad; and desserts include sourdough doughnuts, persimmon sorbet, and sour cream fig ice cream.

Nightbird, San Francisco

From Dec. 27 to 30, Nightbird will be serving a $125 feast featuring chicken consommé with smoked egg, golden eye snapper, and latkes. Diners will also be treated to challah bread service.

Prairie Grass Café, Northbrook, Ill.

Prairie Grass Café chefs Sarah Stenger and George Bumbaris will be serving a special slow-roasted barbecue brisket from Cedar River Farms with roasted cauliflower purée ($26) and a special side dish of potato latkes ($6) on Dec. 24, along with their regular menu.

Shakewell, Oakland, Calif.

Photo by Pj L. via Yelp

Shakewell is serving a $55 prix-fixe Hanukkah menu on Dec. 24. The menu includes latkes with roasted quince butter, slow-roasted brisket with beet and cabbage salad, and apple churros with buttermilk syrup.

Shaya, New Orleans

Chef Alon Shaya’s New Orleans gem will be serving a $55 Hanukkah prix-fixe from Dec. 24 to 26, and all proceeds on the 26th will benefit Rama’s Kitchen, a 20-year-old Jerusalem restaurant recently destroyed in a fire. The four-course menu includes crispy potato latkes with salmon roe, pickled onion salad, and Turkish chile apples; winter lettuces with pumpkin seed tahini and pomegranate vinaigrette; roasted heritage turkey with creamy parsnip soubric, braised rainbow chard, and gribenes; and ricotta doughnuts with blood oranges and satsuma cream.

Station Casinos, Las Vegas

If you’re in the mood for a good old fashioned Las Vegas Hanukkah buffet, all of Station Casinos’ buffets will include brisket, roasted chicken, potato latkes, matzo ball soup, potato and apple kugel, tzimmes, honey and ginger salmon, roasted beets with carrots, and jelly doughnuts.

Tacuba; Toloache, New York City

From Dec. 24 to 30, chef Julian Medina will be hosting a Mexican Hanukkah at his restaurants Tacuba and Toloache with a special à la carte menu. Specialties will include guacamole with house-smoked whitefish; latkes (potato jalapeño with horseradish crema, zucchini with tomatillo apple salsa, and Mexican cheeses with chipotle and agave nectar); brisket tacos; salmon quesadillas; branzino with cauliflower gratin; and Mexican doughnuts with dulce de leche.

Zahav, Philadelphia

Chef Michael Solomonov’s modern Israeli masterpiece in Philadelphia will be serving a special $54 Hanukkah prix-fixe from Dec. 26 to 30. The eight-course menu includes pita and hummus with olive oil-poached lamb, salads, squash soup with fideos and kale, mackerel escabeche, kibbe with beef and sweet potato, potato latkes with smoked labneh and salmon, chicken and saffron rice maqluba, and persimmon jam doughnuts with white chocolate.


The History of Hanukkah Food in America

As a kid, I’m not sure which I looked forward to more during the winter holiday season—receiving a gift each of the eight nights we celebrated Hanukkah (either small, like a book or a pair of socks, or big, like a toy I’d been wishing for) or the meal my mom made for the occasion. My family and I indulged with joyful abandon on tender slices of beef brisket swimming in a savory onion-laden gravy and shredded potato latkes—crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside—topped with applesauce or sour cream. But I never really stopped to think about where these food traditions came from.

Chowhound spoke with a Jewish food historian and a Food Network star to learn the history of Hanukkah food in the U.S. and how it has evolved over time.

Jewish Cuisine Rich in History (and Fat)

“I feel that, in trying to elevate Hanukkah from a minor holiday to a major one, Jews really knocked it out of the park with latkes, because potato latkes are everything a french fry is and more. You know, that extra crunch, those caramelized sugars giving it a deeper potato taste,” says Jayne Cohen, food historian and author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking: A Food Lover’s Treasury of Classics and Improvisations.”

Jewish Holiday Cooking: A Food Lover's Treasury of Classics and Improvisations by Jayne Cohen, $2.85 on Amazon

A holiday handbook with a wide-ranging collection of traditional Jewish recipes and modern twists (including vegan variations).

Foods cooked in oil, such as latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts), are traditionally enjoyed during Hanukkah to commemorate the story behind the holiday. According to Jewish texts, Judah Maccabee and his followers were participating in the rededication of a temple around 200 B.C. when they witnessed a miracle: a small amount of olive oil that should only have lasted one night kept candles burning for eight nights instead (thus, the eight night celebration of Hanukkah).

However, the latkes of yore were pretty different from those we eat today. Before potatoes came to Europe, they were made with cereal grains like rye and buckwheat, or root vegetables, such as carrots and turnips. Depending on where Jewish people lived, olive oil was either extremely expensive or hard to find, so they also often cooked their latkes in animal fat. This may explain why rich cuts of meat, such as brisket, and even goose, were often made during Hanukkah, since the fat that cooked off them could then be used to fry up a batch of latkes.

“Potatoes didn’t really become an important food for Jews until the mid-19th century,” Cohen explains. “That’s when they made their way into Germany, and then Eastern Europe. It wasn’t until then that they became so important to the Jewish diet for making things like latkes and kugels.” American Jewish food traditions offer a surprising amount of variety. Take latkes’ marvelous versatility and evolution as part of American Jewish cuisine, for example. Cohen remembers seeing a latke recipe in a Crisco cookbook dating back to the 1930s that called for using spinach as the main ingredient. As different groups from the diaspora became part of the Jewish communities across the U.S., they brought their own interpretations with them, whether it’s adding jalapeños to their latkes or topping them with smoked salmon and caviar.

Festival of Bites

8 Ways to Top a Latke
Great Food Gifts for Hanukkah
Creative Takes on Sufganiyot

“Latkes in the U.S. have sort of been like a blank canvas to experiment on,” Cohen states, “with toppings, added ingredients or the changing of basic ingredients.” One of her favorite ways to eat them is with butter and pomegranate syrup.

Hanukkah is also associated with eating dairy products as a result of the Maccabee story somehow getting conflated with the story of Judith, considered a heroine of Jews in the Middle Ages. Legend has it that Judith fed a cruel enemy a meal that included very salty cheese, which caused him to drink a lot of wine and enabled her to kill him in his drunken stupor to save her people from persecution. So it’s not uncommon for Jewish Americans to eat cheese blintzes, make their latkes with cottage cheese, and top both with sour cream to celebrate the holiday.

Meanwhile, doughnuts first became popular in Germany, where they were stuffed with fruit like apricots. “Then they became popular in Poland for Hanukkah,” says Cohen. Polish immigrants brought them to Israel, and from there, they came to the U.S. “A lot of people think they came from the Sephardic community,” Cohen explains, since Sephardic Jews eat bunuelos, a yeast-risen doughnut, for Hanukkah, but she poses this is not the case.

A New Generation of Hanukkah Foods

Molly Yeh, author of “Molly On The Range” and host of Food Network’s “Girl Meets Farm,” grew up making traditional Hanukkah foods like latkes and sufganiyot. “My least favorite part of those traditions was having to wait for the oil to heat up, I was always so impatient!” she writes via email.

Yeh is no stranger to coming up with innovative takes on traditional dishes. If you search her popular food and lifestyle blog, my name is yeh, you’ll find numerous creative Hanukkah recipes, like Brussels sprout latkes with balsamic Dijon sour cream and rose jam sufganiyot with vanilla glaze and pistachios. One of her favorite interpretations is sufganiyot filled with onion jam and tomato jam and dusted with za’atar and yogurt powder. “I love savory sufganiyot,” she enthuses. “Savory doughnuts are underrated.”

Molly on the Range: Recipes and Stories from An Unlikely Life on a Farm by Molly Yeh, $17.92 on Amazon

This book is full of delicious recipes celebrating the author's Jewish and Chinese heritage—and life on a Midwestern farm.

“Every year I love thinking up new sufganiyot flavors and new things to put on top of latkes,” Yeh explains. “A few years ago we put scoops of chocolate ice cream on top of latkes. It was just like dipping fries in a milkshake.” She adds, “There was some skepticism directed toward the latke ice cream sundae, but the few people who tried it liked it!”

Crispy latkes, savory brisket, and mouth-watering sufganiyot make for quite the decadent meal. Whether you choose to stick with tried and true traditional recipes or go wild experimenting with flavors and ingredients, it would probably be considered a Hanukkah miracle if you end up with any leftovers from the celebration.


The History of Hanukkah Food in America

As a kid, I’m not sure which I looked forward to more during the winter holiday season—receiving a gift each of the eight nights we celebrated Hanukkah (either small, like a book or a pair of socks, or big, like a toy I’d been wishing for) or the meal my mom made for the occasion. My family and I indulged with joyful abandon on tender slices of beef brisket swimming in a savory onion-laden gravy and shredded potato latkes—crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside—topped with applesauce or sour cream. But I never really stopped to think about where these food traditions came from.

Chowhound spoke with a Jewish food historian and a Food Network star to learn the history of Hanukkah food in the U.S. and how it has evolved over time.

Jewish Cuisine Rich in History (and Fat)

“I feel that, in trying to elevate Hanukkah from a minor holiday to a major one, Jews really knocked it out of the park with latkes, because potato latkes are everything a french fry is and more. You know, that extra crunch, those caramelized sugars giving it a deeper potato taste,” says Jayne Cohen, food historian and author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking: A Food Lover’s Treasury of Classics and Improvisations.”

Jewish Holiday Cooking: A Food Lover's Treasury of Classics and Improvisations by Jayne Cohen, $2.85 on Amazon

A holiday handbook with a wide-ranging collection of traditional Jewish recipes and modern twists (including vegan variations).

Foods cooked in oil, such as latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts), are traditionally enjoyed during Hanukkah to commemorate the story behind the holiday. According to Jewish texts, Judah Maccabee and his followers were participating in the rededication of a temple around 200 B.C. when they witnessed a miracle: a small amount of olive oil that should only have lasted one night kept candles burning for eight nights instead (thus, the eight night celebration of Hanukkah).

However, the latkes of yore were pretty different from those we eat today. Before potatoes came to Europe, they were made with cereal grains like rye and buckwheat, or root vegetables, such as carrots and turnips. Depending on where Jewish people lived, olive oil was either extremely expensive or hard to find, so they also often cooked their latkes in animal fat. This may explain why rich cuts of meat, such as brisket, and even goose, were often made during Hanukkah, since the fat that cooked off them could then be used to fry up a batch of latkes.

“Potatoes didn’t really become an important food for Jews until the mid-19th century,” Cohen explains. “That’s when they made their way into Germany, and then Eastern Europe. It wasn’t until then that they became so important to the Jewish diet for making things like latkes and kugels.” American Jewish food traditions offer a surprising amount of variety. Take latkes’ marvelous versatility and evolution as part of American Jewish cuisine, for example. Cohen remembers seeing a latke recipe in a Crisco cookbook dating back to the 1930s that called for using spinach as the main ingredient. As different groups from the diaspora became part of the Jewish communities across the U.S., they brought their own interpretations with them, whether it’s adding jalapeños to their latkes or topping them with smoked salmon and caviar.

Festival of Bites

8 Ways to Top a Latke
Great Food Gifts for Hanukkah
Creative Takes on Sufganiyot

“Latkes in the U.S. have sort of been like a blank canvas to experiment on,” Cohen states, “with toppings, added ingredients or the changing of basic ingredients.” One of her favorite ways to eat them is with butter and pomegranate syrup.

Hanukkah is also associated with eating dairy products as a result of the Maccabee story somehow getting conflated with the story of Judith, considered a heroine of Jews in the Middle Ages. Legend has it that Judith fed a cruel enemy a meal that included very salty cheese, which caused him to drink a lot of wine and enabled her to kill him in his drunken stupor to save her people from persecution. So it’s not uncommon for Jewish Americans to eat cheese blintzes, make their latkes with cottage cheese, and top both with sour cream to celebrate the holiday.

Meanwhile, doughnuts first became popular in Germany, where they were stuffed with fruit like apricots. “Then they became popular in Poland for Hanukkah,” says Cohen. Polish immigrants brought them to Israel, and from there, they came to the U.S. “A lot of people think they came from the Sephardic community,” Cohen explains, since Sephardic Jews eat bunuelos, a yeast-risen doughnut, for Hanukkah, but she poses this is not the case.

A New Generation of Hanukkah Foods

Molly Yeh, author of “Molly On The Range” and host of Food Network’s “Girl Meets Farm,” grew up making traditional Hanukkah foods like latkes and sufganiyot. “My least favorite part of those traditions was having to wait for the oil to heat up, I was always so impatient!” she writes via email.

Yeh is no stranger to coming up with innovative takes on traditional dishes. If you search her popular food and lifestyle blog, my name is yeh, you’ll find numerous creative Hanukkah recipes, like Brussels sprout latkes with balsamic Dijon sour cream and rose jam sufganiyot with vanilla glaze and pistachios. One of her favorite interpretations is sufganiyot filled with onion jam and tomato jam and dusted with za’atar and yogurt powder. “I love savory sufganiyot,” she enthuses. “Savory doughnuts are underrated.”

Molly on the Range: Recipes and Stories from An Unlikely Life on a Farm by Molly Yeh, $17.92 on Amazon

This book is full of delicious recipes celebrating the author's Jewish and Chinese heritage—and life on a Midwestern farm.

“Every year I love thinking up new sufganiyot flavors and new things to put on top of latkes,” Yeh explains. “A few years ago we put scoops of chocolate ice cream on top of latkes. It was just like dipping fries in a milkshake.” She adds, “There was some skepticism directed toward the latke ice cream sundae, but the few people who tried it liked it!”

Crispy latkes, savory brisket, and mouth-watering sufganiyot make for quite the decadent meal. Whether you choose to stick with tried and true traditional recipes or go wild experimenting with flavors and ingredients, it would probably be considered a Hanukkah miracle if you end up with any leftovers from the celebration.


The History of Hanukkah Food in America

As a kid, I’m not sure which I looked forward to more during the winter holiday season—receiving a gift each of the eight nights we celebrated Hanukkah (either small, like a book or a pair of socks, or big, like a toy I’d been wishing for) or the meal my mom made for the occasion. My family and I indulged with joyful abandon on tender slices of beef brisket swimming in a savory onion-laden gravy and shredded potato latkes—crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside—topped with applesauce or sour cream. But I never really stopped to think about where these food traditions came from.

Chowhound spoke with a Jewish food historian and a Food Network star to learn the history of Hanukkah food in the U.S. and how it has evolved over time.

Jewish Cuisine Rich in History (and Fat)

“I feel that, in trying to elevate Hanukkah from a minor holiday to a major one, Jews really knocked it out of the park with latkes, because potato latkes are everything a french fry is and more. You know, that extra crunch, those caramelized sugars giving it a deeper potato taste,” says Jayne Cohen, food historian and author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking: A Food Lover’s Treasury of Classics and Improvisations.”

Jewish Holiday Cooking: A Food Lover's Treasury of Classics and Improvisations by Jayne Cohen, $2.85 on Amazon

A holiday handbook with a wide-ranging collection of traditional Jewish recipes and modern twists (including vegan variations).

Foods cooked in oil, such as latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts), are traditionally enjoyed during Hanukkah to commemorate the story behind the holiday. According to Jewish texts, Judah Maccabee and his followers were participating in the rededication of a temple around 200 B.C. when they witnessed a miracle: a small amount of olive oil that should only have lasted one night kept candles burning for eight nights instead (thus, the eight night celebration of Hanukkah).

However, the latkes of yore were pretty different from those we eat today. Before potatoes came to Europe, they were made with cereal grains like rye and buckwheat, or root vegetables, such as carrots and turnips. Depending on where Jewish people lived, olive oil was either extremely expensive or hard to find, so they also often cooked their latkes in animal fat. This may explain why rich cuts of meat, such as brisket, and even goose, were often made during Hanukkah, since the fat that cooked off them could then be used to fry up a batch of latkes.

“Potatoes didn’t really become an important food for Jews until the mid-19th century,” Cohen explains. “That’s when they made their way into Germany, and then Eastern Europe. It wasn’t until then that they became so important to the Jewish diet for making things like latkes and kugels.” American Jewish food traditions offer a surprising amount of variety. Take latkes’ marvelous versatility and evolution as part of American Jewish cuisine, for example. Cohen remembers seeing a latke recipe in a Crisco cookbook dating back to the 1930s that called for using spinach as the main ingredient. As different groups from the diaspora became part of the Jewish communities across the U.S., they brought their own interpretations with them, whether it’s adding jalapeños to their latkes or topping them with smoked salmon and caviar.

Festival of Bites

8 Ways to Top a Latke
Great Food Gifts for Hanukkah
Creative Takes on Sufganiyot

“Latkes in the U.S. have sort of been like a blank canvas to experiment on,” Cohen states, “with toppings, added ingredients or the changing of basic ingredients.” One of her favorite ways to eat them is with butter and pomegranate syrup.

Hanukkah is also associated with eating dairy products as a result of the Maccabee story somehow getting conflated with the story of Judith, considered a heroine of Jews in the Middle Ages. Legend has it that Judith fed a cruel enemy a meal that included very salty cheese, which caused him to drink a lot of wine and enabled her to kill him in his drunken stupor to save her people from persecution. So it’s not uncommon for Jewish Americans to eat cheese blintzes, make their latkes with cottage cheese, and top both with sour cream to celebrate the holiday.

Meanwhile, doughnuts first became popular in Germany, where they were stuffed with fruit like apricots. “Then they became popular in Poland for Hanukkah,” says Cohen. Polish immigrants brought them to Israel, and from there, they came to the U.S. “A lot of people think they came from the Sephardic community,” Cohen explains, since Sephardic Jews eat bunuelos, a yeast-risen doughnut, for Hanukkah, but she poses this is not the case.

A New Generation of Hanukkah Foods

Molly Yeh, author of “Molly On The Range” and host of Food Network’s “Girl Meets Farm,” grew up making traditional Hanukkah foods like latkes and sufganiyot. “My least favorite part of those traditions was having to wait for the oil to heat up, I was always so impatient!” she writes via email.

Yeh is no stranger to coming up with innovative takes on traditional dishes. If you search her popular food and lifestyle blog, my name is yeh, you’ll find numerous creative Hanukkah recipes, like Brussels sprout latkes with balsamic Dijon sour cream and rose jam sufganiyot with vanilla glaze and pistachios. One of her favorite interpretations is sufganiyot filled with onion jam and tomato jam and dusted with za’atar and yogurt powder. “I love savory sufganiyot,” she enthuses. “Savory doughnuts are underrated.”

Molly on the Range: Recipes and Stories from An Unlikely Life on a Farm by Molly Yeh, $17.92 on Amazon

This book is full of delicious recipes celebrating the author's Jewish and Chinese heritage—and life on a Midwestern farm.

“Every year I love thinking up new sufganiyot flavors and new things to put on top of latkes,” Yeh explains. “A few years ago we put scoops of chocolate ice cream on top of latkes. It was just like dipping fries in a milkshake.” She adds, “There was some skepticism directed toward the latke ice cream sundae, but the few people who tried it liked it!”

Crispy latkes, savory brisket, and mouth-watering sufganiyot make for quite the decadent meal. Whether you choose to stick with tried and true traditional recipes or go wild experimenting with flavors and ingredients, it would probably be considered a Hanukkah miracle if you end up with any leftovers from the celebration.


The History of Hanukkah Food in America

As a kid, I’m not sure which I looked forward to more during the winter holiday season—receiving a gift each of the eight nights we celebrated Hanukkah (either small, like a book or a pair of socks, or big, like a toy I’d been wishing for) or the meal my mom made for the occasion. My family and I indulged with joyful abandon on tender slices of beef brisket swimming in a savory onion-laden gravy and shredded potato latkes—crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside—topped with applesauce or sour cream. But I never really stopped to think about where these food traditions came from.

Chowhound spoke with a Jewish food historian and a Food Network star to learn the history of Hanukkah food in the U.S. and how it has evolved over time.

Jewish Cuisine Rich in History (and Fat)

“I feel that, in trying to elevate Hanukkah from a minor holiday to a major one, Jews really knocked it out of the park with latkes, because potato latkes are everything a french fry is and more. You know, that extra crunch, those caramelized sugars giving it a deeper potato taste,” says Jayne Cohen, food historian and author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking: A Food Lover’s Treasury of Classics and Improvisations.”

Jewish Holiday Cooking: A Food Lover's Treasury of Classics and Improvisations by Jayne Cohen, $2.85 on Amazon

A holiday handbook with a wide-ranging collection of traditional Jewish recipes and modern twists (including vegan variations).

Foods cooked in oil, such as latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts), are traditionally enjoyed during Hanukkah to commemorate the story behind the holiday. According to Jewish texts, Judah Maccabee and his followers were participating in the rededication of a temple around 200 B.C. when they witnessed a miracle: a small amount of olive oil that should only have lasted one night kept candles burning for eight nights instead (thus, the eight night celebration of Hanukkah).

However, the latkes of yore were pretty different from those we eat today. Before potatoes came to Europe, they were made with cereal grains like rye and buckwheat, or root vegetables, such as carrots and turnips. Depending on where Jewish people lived, olive oil was either extremely expensive or hard to find, so they also often cooked their latkes in animal fat. This may explain why rich cuts of meat, such as brisket, and even goose, were often made during Hanukkah, since the fat that cooked off them could then be used to fry up a batch of latkes.

“Potatoes didn’t really become an important food for Jews until the mid-19th century,” Cohen explains. “That’s when they made their way into Germany, and then Eastern Europe. It wasn’t until then that they became so important to the Jewish diet for making things like latkes and kugels.” American Jewish food traditions offer a surprising amount of variety. Take latkes’ marvelous versatility and evolution as part of American Jewish cuisine, for example. Cohen remembers seeing a latke recipe in a Crisco cookbook dating back to the 1930s that called for using spinach as the main ingredient. As different groups from the diaspora became part of the Jewish communities across the U.S., they brought their own interpretations with them, whether it’s adding jalapeños to their latkes or topping them with smoked salmon and caviar.

Festival of Bites

8 Ways to Top a Latke
Great Food Gifts for Hanukkah
Creative Takes on Sufganiyot

“Latkes in the U.S. have sort of been like a blank canvas to experiment on,” Cohen states, “with toppings, added ingredients or the changing of basic ingredients.” One of her favorite ways to eat them is with butter and pomegranate syrup.

Hanukkah is also associated with eating dairy products as a result of the Maccabee story somehow getting conflated with the story of Judith, considered a heroine of Jews in the Middle Ages. Legend has it that Judith fed a cruel enemy a meal that included very salty cheese, which caused him to drink a lot of wine and enabled her to kill him in his drunken stupor to save her people from persecution. So it’s not uncommon for Jewish Americans to eat cheese blintzes, make their latkes with cottage cheese, and top both with sour cream to celebrate the holiday.

Meanwhile, doughnuts first became popular in Germany, where they were stuffed with fruit like apricots. “Then they became popular in Poland for Hanukkah,” says Cohen. Polish immigrants brought them to Israel, and from there, they came to the U.S. “A lot of people think they came from the Sephardic community,” Cohen explains, since Sephardic Jews eat bunuelos, a yeast-risen doughnut, for Hanukkah, but she poses this is not the case.

A New Generation of Hanukkah Foods

Molly Yeh, author of “Molly On The Range” and host of Food Network’s “Girl Meets Farm,” grew up making traditional Hanukkah foods like latkes and sufganiyot. “My least favorite part of those traditions was having to wait for the oil to heat up, I was always so impatient!” she writes via email.

Yeh is no stranger to coming up with innovative takes on traditional dishes. If you search her popular food and lifestyle blog, my name is yeh, you’ll find numerous creative Hanukkah recipes, like Brussels sprout latkes with balsamic Dijon sour cream and rose jam sufganiyot with vanilla glaze and pistachios. One of her favorite interpretations is sufganiyot filled with onion jam and tomato jam and dusted with za’atar and yogurt powder. “I love savory sufganiyot,” she enthuses. “Savory doughnuts are underrated.”

Molly on the Range: Recipes and Stories from An Unlikely Life on a Farm by Molly Yeh, $17.92 on Amazon

This book is full of delicious recipes celebrating the author's Jewish and Chinese heritage—and life on a Midwestern farm.

“Every year I love thinking up new sufganiyot flavors and new things to put on top of latkes,” Yeh explains. “A few years ago we put scoops of chocolate ice cream on top of latkes. It was just like dipping fries in a milkshake.” She adds, “There was some skepticism directed toward the latke ice cream sundae, but the few people who tried it liked it!”

Crispy latkes, savory brisket, and mouth-watering sufganiyot make for quite the decadent meal. Whether you choose to stick with tried and true traditional recipes or go wild experimenting with flavors and ingredients, it would probably be considered a Hanukkah miracle if you end up with any leftovers from the celebration.


The History of Hanukkah Food in America

As a kid, I’m not sure which I looked forward to more during the winter holiday season—receiving a gift each of the eight nights we celebrated Hanukkah (either small, like a book or a pair of socks, or big, like a toy I’d been wishing for) or the meal my mom made for the occasion. My family and I indulged with joyful abandon on tender slices of beef brisket swimming in a savory onion-laden gravy and shredded potato latkes—crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside—topped with applesauce or sour cream. But I never really stopped to think about where these food traditions came from.

Chowhound spoke with a Jewish food historian and a Food Network star to learn the history of Hanukkah food in the U.S. and how it has evolved over time.

Jewish Cuisine Rich in History (and Fat)

“I feel that, in trying to elevate Hanukkah from a minor holiday to a major one, Jews really knocked it out of the park with latkes, because potato latkes are everything a french fry is and more. You know, that extra crunch, those caramelized sugars giving it a deeper potato taste,” says Jayne Cohen, food historian and author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking: A Food Lover’s Treasury of Classics and Improvisations.”

Jewish Holiday Cooking: A Food Lover's Treasury of Classics and Improvisations by Jayne Cohen, $2.85 on Amazon

A holiday handbook with a wide-ranging collection of traditional Jewish recipes and modern twists (including vegan variations).

Foods cooked in oil, such as latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts), are traditionally enjoyed during Hanukkah to commemorate the story behind the holiday. According to Jewish texts, Judah Maccabee and his followers were participating in the rededication of a temple around 200 B.C. when they witnessed a miracle: a small amount of olive oil that should only have lasted one night kept candles burning for eight nights instead (thus, the eight night celebration of Hanukkah).

However, the latkes of yore were pretty different from those we eat today. Before potatoes came to Europe, they were made with cereal grains like rye and buckwheat, or root vegetables, such as carrots and turnips. Depending on where Jewish people lived, olive oil was either extremely expensive or hard to find, so they also often cooked their latkes in animal fat. This may explain why rich cuts of meat, such as brisket, and even goose, were often made during Hanukkah, since the fat that cooked off them could then be used to fry up a batch of latkes.

“Potatoes didn’t really become an important food for Jews until the mid-19th century,” Cohen explains. “That’s when they made their way into Germany, and then Eastern Europe. It wasn’t until then that they became so important to the Jewish diet for making things like latkes and kugels.” American Jewish food traditions offer a surprising amount of variety. Take latkes’ marvelous versatility and evolution as part of American Jewish cuisine, for example. Cohen remembers seeing a latke recipe in a Crisco cookbook dating back to the 1930s that called for using spinach as the main ingredient. As different groups from the diaspora became part of the Jewish communities across the U.S., they brought their own interpretations with them, whether it’s adding jalapeños to their latkes or topping them with smoked salmon and caviar.

Festival of Bites

8 Ways to Top a Latke
Great Food Gifts for Hanukkah
Creative Takes on Sufganiyot

“Latkes in the U.S. have sort of been like a blank canvas to experiment on,” Cohen states, “with toppings, added ingredients or the changing of basic ingredients.” One of her favorite ways to eat them is with butter and pomegranate syrup.

Hanukkah is also associated with eating dairy products as a result of the Maccabee story somehow getting conflated with the story of Judith, considered a heroine of Jews in the Middle Ages. Legend has it that Judith fed a cruel enemy a meal that included very salty cheese, which caused him to drink a lot of wine and enabled her to kill him in his drunken stupor to save her people from persecution. So it’s not uncommon for Jewish Americans to eat cheese blintzes, make their latkes with cottage cheese, and top both with sour cream to celebrate the holiday.

Meanwhile, doughnuts first became popular in Germany, where they were stuffed with fruit like apricots. “Then they became popular in Poland for Hanukkah,” says Cohen. Polish immigrants brought them to Israel, and from there, they came to the U.S. “A lot of people think they came from the Sephardic community,” Cohen explains, since Sephardic Jews eat bunuelos, a yeast-risen doughnut, for Hanukkah, but she poses this is not the case.

A New Generation of Hanukkah Foods

Molly Yeh, author of “Molly On The Range” and host of Food Network’s “Girl Meets Farm,” grew up making traditional Hanukkah foods like latkes and sufganiyot. “My least favorite part of those traditions was having to wait for the oil to heat up, I was always so impatient!” she writes via email.

Yeh is no stranger to coming up with innovative takes on traditional dishes. If you search her popular food and lifestyle blog, my name is yeh, you’ll find numerous creative Hanukkah recipes, like Brussels sprout latkes with balsamic Dijon sour cream and rose jam sufganiyot with vanilla glaze and pistachios. One of her favorite interpretations is sufganiyot filled with onion jam and tomato jam and dusted with za’atar and yogurt powder. “I love savory sufganiyot,” she enthuses. “Savory doughnuts are underrated.”

Molly on the Range: Recipes and Stories from An Unlikely Life on a Farm by Molly Yeh, $17.92 on Amazon

This book is full of delicious recipes celebrating the author's Jewish and Chinese heritage—and life on a Midwestern farm.

“Every year I love thinking up new sufganiyot flavors and new things to put on top of latkes,” Yeh explains. “A few years ago we put scoops of chocolate ice cream on top of latkes. It was just like dipping fries in a milkshake.” She adds, “There was some skepticism directed toward the latke ice cream sundae, but the few people who tried it liked it!”

Crispy latkes, savory brisket, and mouth-watering sufganiyot make for quite the decadent meal. Whether you choose to stick with tried and true traditional recipes or go wild experimenting with flavors and ingredients, it would probably be considered a Hanukkah miracle if you end up with any leftovers from the celebration.


The History of Hanukkah Food in America

As a kid, I’m not sure which I looked forward to more during the winter holiday season—receiving a gift each of the eight nights we celebrated Hanukkah (either small, like a book or a pair of socks, or big, like a toy I’d been wishing for) or the meal my mom made for the occasion. My family and I indulged with joyful abandon on tender slices of beef brisket swimming in a savory onion-laden gravy and shredded potato latkes—crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside—topped with applesauce or sour cream. But I never really stopped to think about where these food traditions came from.

Chowhound spoke with a Jewish food historian and a Food Network star to learn the history of Hanukkah food in the U.S. and how it has evolved over time.

Jewish Cuisine Rich in History (and Fat)

“I feel that, in trying to elevate Hanukkah from a minor holiday to a major one, Jews really knocked it out of the park with latkes, because potato latkes are everything a french fry is and more. You know, that extra crunch, those caramelized sugars giving it a deeper potato taste,” says Jayne Cohen, food historian and author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking: A Food Lover’s Treasury of Classics and Improvisations.”

Jewish Holiday Cooking: A Food Lover's Treasury of Classics and Improvisations by Jayne Cohen, $2.85 on Amazon

A holiday handbook with a wide-ranging collection of traditional Jewish recipes and modern twists (including vegan variations).

Foods cooked in oil, such as latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts), are traditionally enjoyed during Hanukkah to commemorate the story behind the holiday. According to Jewish texts, Judah Maccabee and his followers were participating in the rededication of a temple around 200 B.C. when they witnessed a miracle: a small amount of olive oil that should only have lasted one night kept candles burning for eight nights instead (thus, the eight night celebration of Hanukkah).

However, the latkes of yore were pretty different from those we eat today. Before potatoes came to Europe, they were made with cereal grains like rye and buckwheat, or root vegetables, such as carrots and turnips. Depending on where Jewish people lived, olive oil was either extremely expensive or hard to find, so they also often cooked their latkes in animal fat. This may explain why rich cuts of meat, such as brisket, and even goose, were often made during Hanukkah, since the fat that cooked off them could then be used to fry up a batch of latkes.

“Potatoes didn’t really become an important food for Jews until the mid-19th century,” Cohen explains. “That’s when they made their way into Germany, and then Eastern Europe. It wasn’t until then that they became so important to the Jewish diet for making things like latkes and kugels.” American Jewish food traditions offer a surprising amount of variety. Take latkes’ marvelous versatility and evolution as part of American Jewish cuisine, for example. Cohen remembers seeing a latke recipe in a Crisco cookbook dating back to the 1930s that called for using spinach as the main ingredient. As different groups from the diaspora became part of the Jewish communities across the U.S., they brought their own interpretations with them, whether it’s adding jalapeños to their latkes or topping them with smoked salmon and caviar.

Festival of Bites

8 Ways to Top a Latke
Great Food Gifts for Hanukkah
Creative Takes on Sufganiyot

“Latkes in the U.S. have sort of been like a blank canvas to experiment on,” Cohen states, “with toppings, added ingredients or the changing of basic ingredients.” One of her favorite ways to eat them is with butter and pomegranate syrup.

Hanukkah is also associated with eating dairy products as a result of the Maccabee story somehow getting conflated with the story of Judith, considered a heroine of Jews in the Middle Ages. Legend has it that Judith fed a cruel enemy a meal that included very salty cheese, which caused him to drink a lot of wine and enabled her to kill him in his drunken stupor to save her people from persecution. So it’s not uncommon for Jewish Americans to eat cheese blintzes, make their latkes with cottage cheese, and top both with sour cream to celebrate the holiday.

Meanwhile, doughnuts first became popular in Germany, where they were stuffed with fruit like apricots. “Then they became popular in Poland for Hanukkah,” says Cohen. Polish immigrants brought them to Israel, and from there, they came to the U.S. “A lot of people think they came from the Sephardic community,” Cohen explains, since Sephardic Jews eat bunuelos, a yeast-risen doughnut, for Hanukkah, but she poses this is not the case.

A New Generation of Hanukkah Foods

Molly Yeh, author of “Molly On The Range” and host of Food Network’s “Girl Meets Farm,” grew up making traditional Hanukkah foods like latkes and sufganiyot. “My least favorite part of those traditions was having to wait for the oil to heat up, I was always so impatient!” she writes via email.

Yeh is no stranger to coming up with innovative takes on traditional dishes. If you search her popular food and lifestyle blog, my name is yeh, you’ll find numerous creative Hanukkah recipes, like Brussels sprout latkes with balsamic Dijon sour cream and rose jam sufganiyot with vanilla glaze and pistachios. One of her favorite interpretations is sufganiyot filled with onion jam and tomato jam and dusted with za’atar and yogurt powder. “I love savory sufganiyot,” she enthuses. “Savory doughnuts are underrated.”

Molly on the Range: Recipes and Stories from An Unlikely Life on a Farm by Molly Yeh, $17.92 on Amazon

This book is full of delicious recipes celebrating the author's Jewish and Chinese heritage—and life on a Midwestern farm.

“Every year I love thinking up new sufganiyot flavors and new things to put on top of latkes,” Yeh explains. “A few years ago we put scoops of chocolate ice cream on top of latkes. It was just like dipping fries in a milkshake.” She adds, “There was some skepticism directed toward the latke ice cream sundae, but the few people who tried it liked it!”

Crispy latkes, savory brisket, and mouth-watering sufganiyot make for quite the decadent meal. Whether you choose to stick with tried and true traditional recipes or go wild experimenting with flavors and ingredients, it would probably be considered a Hanukkah miracle if you end up with any leftovers from the celebration.


The History of Hanukkah Food in America

As a kid, I’m not sure which I looked forward to more during the winter holiday season—receiving a gift each of the eight nights we celebrated Hanukkah (either small, like a book or a pair of socks, or big, like a toy I’d been wishing for) or the meal my mom made for the occasion. My family and I indulged with joyful abandon on tender slices of beef brisket swimming in a savory onion-laden gravy and shredded potato latkes—crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside—topped with applesauce or sour cream. But I never really stopped to think about where these food traditions came from.

Chowhound spoke with a Jewish food historian and a Food Network star to learn the history of Hanukkah food in the U.S. and how it has evolved over time.

Jewish Cuisine Rich in History (and Fat)

“I feel that, in trying to elevate Hanukkah from a minor holiday to a major one, Jews really knocked it out of the park with latkes, because potato latkes are everything a french fry is and more. You know, that extra crunch, those caramelized sugars giving it a deeper potato taste,” says Jayne Cohen, food historian and author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking: A Food Lover’s Treasury of Classics and Improvisations.”

Jewish Holiday Cooking: A Food Lover's Treasury of Classics and Improvisations by Jayne Cohen, $2.85 on Amazon

A holiday handbook with a wide-ranging collection of traditional Jewish recipes and modern twists (including vegan variations).

Foods cooked in oil, such as latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts), are traditionally enjoyed during Hanukkah to commemorate the story behind the holiday. According to Jewish texts, Judah Maccabee and his followers were participating in the rededication of a temple around 200 B.C. when they witnessed a miracle: a small amount of olive oil that should only have lasted one night kept candles burning for eight nights instead (thus, the eight night celebration of Hanukkah).

However, the latkes of yore were pretty different from those we eat today. Before potatoes came to Europe, they were made with cereal grains like rye and buckwheat, or root vegetables, such as carrots and turnips. Depending on where Jewish people lived, olive oil was either extremely expensive or hard to find, so they also often cooked their latkes in animal fat. This may explain why rich cuts of meat, such as brisket, and even goose, were often made during Hanukkah, since the fat that cooked off them could then be used to fry up a batch of latkes.

“Potatoes didn’t really become an important food for Jews until the mid-19th century,” Cohen explains. “That’s when they made their way into Germany, and then Eastern Europe. It wasn’t until then that they became so important to the Jewish diet for making things like latkes and kugels.” American Jewish food traditions offer a surprising amount of variety. Take latkes’ marvelous versatility and evolution as part of American Jewish cuisine, for example. Cohen remembers seeing a latke recipe in a Crisco cookbook dating back to the 1930s that called for using spinach as the main ingredient. As different groups from the diaspora became part of the Jewish communities across the U.S., they brought their own interpretations with them, whether it’s adding jalapeños to their latkes or topping them with smoked salmon and caviar.

Festival of Bites

8 Ways to Top a Latke
Great Food Gifts for Hanukkah
Creative Takes on Sufganiyot

“Latkes in the U.S. have sort of been like a blank canvas to experiment on,” Cohen states, “with toppings, added ingredients or the changing of basic ingredients.” One of her favorite ways to eat them is with butter and pomegranate syrup.

Hanukkah is also associated with eating dairy products as a result of the Maccabee story somehow getting conflated with the story of Judith, considered a heroine of Jews in the Middle Ages. Legend has it that Judith fed a cruel enemy a meal that included very salty cheese, which caused him to drink a lot of wine and enabled her to kill him in his drunken stupor to save her people from persecution. So it’s not uncommon for Jewish Americans to eat cheese blintzes, make their latkes with cottage cheese, and top both with sour cream to celebrate the holiday.

Meanwhile, doughnuts first became popular in Germany, where they were stuffed with fruit like apricots. “Then they became popular in Poland for Hanukkah,” says Cohen. Polish immigrants brought them to Israel, and from there, they came to the U.S. “A lot of people think they came from the Sephardic community,” Cohen explains, since Sephardic Jews eat bunuelos, a yeast-risen doughnut, for Hanukkah, but she poses this is not the case.

A New Generation of Hanukkah Foods

Molly Yeh, author of “Molly On The Range” and host of Food Network’s “Girl Meets Farm,” grew up making traditional Hanukkah foods like latkes and sufganiyot. “My least favorite part of those traditions was having to wait for the oil to heat up, I was always so impatient!” she writes via email.

Yeh is no stranger to coming up with innovative takes on traditional dishes. If you search her popular food and lifestyle blog, my name is yeh, you’ll find numerous creative Hanukkah recipes, like Brussels sprout latkes with balsamic Dijon sour cream and rose jam sufganiyot with vanilla glaze and pistachios. One of her favorite interpretations is sufganiyot filled with onion jam and tomato jam and dusted with za’atar and yogurt powder. “I love savory sufganiyot,” she enthuses. “Savory doughnuts are underrated.”

Molly on the Range: Recipes and Stories from An Unlikely Life on a Farm by Molly Yeh, $17.92 on Amazon

This book is full of delicious recipes celebrating the author's Jewish and Chinese heritage—and life on a Midwestern farm.

“Every year I love thinking up new sufganiyot flavors and new things to put on top of latkes,” Yeh explains. “A few years ago we put scoops of chocolate ice cream on top of latkes. It was just like dipping fries in a milkshake.” She adds, “There was some skepticism directed toward the latke ice cream sundae, but the few people who tried it liked it!”

Crispy latkes, savory brisket, and mouth-watering sufganiyot make for quite the decadent meal. Whether you choose to stick with tried and true traditional recipes or go wild experimenting with flavors and ingredients, it would probably be considered a Hanukkah miracle if you end up with any leftovers from the celebration.


The History of Hanukkah Food in America

As a kid, I’m not sure which I looked forward to more during the winter holiday season—receiving a gift each of the eight nights we celebrated Hanukkah (either small, like a book or a pair of socks, or big, like a toy I’d been wishing for) or the meal my mom made for the occasion. My family and I indulged with joyful abandon on tender slices of beef brisket swimming in a savory onion-laden gravy and shredded potato latkes—crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside—topped with applesauce or sour cream. But I never really stopped to think about where these food traditions came from.

Chowhound spoke with a Jewish food historian and a Food Network star to learn the history of Hanukkah food in the U.S. and how it has evolved over time.

Jewish Cuisine Rich in History (and Fat)

“I feel that, in trying to elevate Hanukkah from a minor holiday to a major one, Jews really knocked it out of the park with latkes, because potato latkes are everything a french fry is and more. You know, that extra crunch, those caramelized sugars giving it a deeper potato taste,” says Jayne Cohen, food historian and author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking: A Food Lover’s Treasury of Classics and Improvisations.”

Jewish Holiday Cooking: A Food Lover's Treasury of Classics and Improvisations by Jayne Cohen, $2.85 on Amazon

A holiday handbook with a wide-ranging collection of traditional Jewish recipes and modern twists (including vegan variations).

Foods cooked in oil, such as latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts), are traditionally enjoyed during Hanukkah to commemorate the story behind the holiday. According to Jewish texts, Judah Maccabee and his followers were participating in the rededication of a temple around 200 B.C. when they witnessed a miracle: a small amount of olive oil that should only have lasted one night kept candles burning for eight nights instead (thus, the eight night celebration of Hanukkah).

However, the latkes of yore were pretty different from those we eat today. Before potatoes came to Europe, they were made with cereal grains like rye and buckwheat, or root vegetables, such as carrots and turnips. Depending on where Jewish people lived, olive oil was either extremely expensive or hard to find, so they also often cooked their latkes in animal fat. This may explain why rich cuts of meat, such as brisket, and even goose, were often made during Hanukkah, since the fat that cooked off them could then be used to fry up a batch of latkes.

“Potatoes didn’t really become an important food for Jews until the mid-19th century,” Cohen explains. “That’s when they made their way into Germany, and then Eastern Europe. It wasn’t until then that they became so important to the Jewish diet for making things like latkes and kugels.” American Jewish food traditions offer a surprising amount of variety. Take latkes’ marvelous versatility and evolution as part of American Jewish cuisine, for example. Cohen remembers seeing a latke recipe in a Crisco cookbook dating back to the 1930s that called for using spinach as the main ingredient. As different groups from the diaspora became part of the Jewish communities across the U.S., they brought their own interpretations with them, whether it’s adding jalapeños to their latkes or topping them with smoked salmon and caviar.

Festival of Bites

8 Ways to Top a Latke
Great Food Gifts for Hanukkah
Creative Takes on Sufganiyot

“Latkes in the U.S. have sort of been like a blank canvas to experiment on,” Cohen states, “with toppings, added ingredients or the changing of basic ingredients.” One of her favorite ways to eat them is with butter and pomegranate syrup.

Hanukkah is also associated with eating dairy products as a result of the Maccabee story somehow getting conflated with the story of Judith, considered a heroine of Jews in the Middle Ages. Legend has it that Judith fed a cruel enemy a meal that included very salty cheese, which caused him to drink a lot of wine and enabled her to kill him in his drunken stupor to save her people from persecution. So it’s not uncommon for Jewish Americans to eat cheese blintzes, make their latkes with cottage cheese, and top both with sour cream to celebrate the holiday.

Meanwhile, doughnuts first became popular in Germany, where they were stuffed with fruit like apricots. “Then they became popular in Poland for Hanukkah,” says Cohen. Polish immigrants brought them to Israel, and from there, they came to the U.S. “A lot of people think they came from the Sephardic community,” Cohen explains, since Sephardic Jews eat bunuelos, a yeast-risen doughnut, for Hanukkah, but she poses this is not the case.

A New Generation of Hanukkah Foods

Molly Yeh, author of “Molly On The Range” and host of Food Network’s “Girl Meets Farm,” grew up making traditional Hanukkah foods like latkes and sufganiyot. “My least favorite part of those traditions was having to wait for the oil to heat up, I was always so impatient!” she writes via email.

Yeh is no stranger to coming up with innovative takes on traditional dishes. If you search her popular food and lifestyle blog, my name is yeh, you’ll find numerous creative Hanukkah recipes, like Brussels sprout latkes with balsamic Dijon sour cream and rose jam sufganiyot with vanilla glaze and pistachios. One of her favorite interpretations is sufganiyot filled with onion jam and tomato jam and dusted with za’atar and yogurt powder. “I love savory sufganiyot,” she enthuses. “Savory doughnuts are underrated.”

Molly on the Range: Recipes and Stories from An Unlikely Life on a Farm by Molly Yeh, $17.92 on Amazon

This book is full of delicious recipes celebrating the author's Jewish and Chinese heritage—and life on a Midwestern farm.

“Every year I love thinking up new sufganiyot flavors and new things to put on top of latkes,” Yeh explains. “A few years ago we put scoops of chocolate ice cream on top of latkes. It was just like dipping fries in a milkshake.” She adds, “There was some skepticism directed toward the latke ice cream sundae, but the few people who tried it liked it!”

Crispy latkes, savory brisket, and mouth-watering sufganiyot make for quite the decadent meal. Whether you choose to stick with tried and true traditional recipes or go wild experimenting with flavors and ingredients, it would probably be considered a Hanukkah miracle if you end up with any leftovers from the celebration.


The History of Hanukkah Food in America

As a kid, I’m not sure which I looked forward to more during the winter holiday season—receiving a gift each of the eight nights we celebrated Hanukkah (either small, like a book or a pair of socks, or big, like a toy I’d been wishing for) or the meal my mom made for the occasion. My family and I indulged with joyful abandon on tender slices of beef brisket swimming in a savory onion-laden gravy and shredded potato latkes—crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside—topped with applesauce or sour cream. But I never really stopped to think about where these food traditions came from.

Chowhound spoke with a Jewish food historian and a Food Network star to learn the history of Hanukkah food in the U.S. and how it has evolved over time.

Jewish Cuisine Rich in History (and Fat)

“I feel that, in trying to elevate Hanukkah from a minor holiday to a major one, Jews really knocked it out of the park with latkes, because potato latkes are everything a french fry is and more. You know, that extra crunch, those caramelized sugars giving it a deeper potato taste,” says Jayne Cohen, food historian and author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking: A Food Lover’s Treasury of Classics and Improvisations.”

Jewish Holiday Cooking: A Food Lover's Treasury of Classics and Improvisations by Jayne Cohen, $2.85 on Amazon

A holiday handbook with a wide-ranging collection of traditional Jewish recipes and modern twists (including vegan variations).

Foods cooked in oil, such as latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts), are traditionally enjoyed during Hanukkah to commemorate the story behind the holiday. According to Jewish texts, Judah Maccabee and his followers were participating in the rededication of a temple around 200 B.C. when they witnessed a miracle: a small amount of olive oil that should only have lasted one night kept candles burning for eight nights instead (thus, the eight night celebration of Hanukkah).

However, the latkes of yore were pretty different from those we eat today. Before potatoes came to Europe, they were made with cereal grains like rye and buckwheat, or root vegetables, such as carrots and turnips. Depending on where Jewish people lived, olive oil was either extremely expensive or hard to find, so they also often cooked their latkes in animal fat. This may explain why rich cuts of meat, such as brisket, and even goose, were often made during Hanukkah, since the fat that cooked off them could then be used to fry up a batch of latkes.

“Potatoes didn’t really become an important food for Jews until the mid-19th century,” Cohen explains. “That’s when they made their way into Germany, and then Eastern Europe. It wasn’t until then that they became so important to the Jewish diet for making things like latkes and kugels.” American Jewish food traditions offer a surprising amount of variety. Take latkes’ marvelous versatility and evolution as part of American Jewish cuisine, for example. Cohen remembers seeing a latke recipe in a Crisco cookbook dating back to the 1930s that called for using spinach as the main ingredient. As different groups from the diaspora became part of the Jewish communities across the U.S., they brought their own interpretations with them, whether it’s adding jalapeños to their latkes or topping them with smoked salmon and caviar.

Festival of Bites

8 Ways to Top a Latke
Great Food Gifts for Hanukkah
Creative Takes on Sufganiyot

“Latkes in the U.S. have sort of been like a blank canvas to experiment on,” Cohen states, “with toppings, added ingredients or the changing of basic ingredients.” One of her favorite ways to eat them is with butter and pomegranate syrup.

Hanukkah is also associated with eating dairy products as a result of the Maccabee story somehow getting conflated with the story of Judith, considered a heroine of Jews in the Middle Ages. Legend has it that Judith fed a cruel enemy a meal that included very salty cheese, which caused him to drink a lot of wine and enabled her to kill him in his drunken stupor to save her people from persecution. So it’s not uncommon for Jewish Americans to eat cheese blintzes, make their latkes with cottage cheese, and top both with sour cream to celebrate the holiday.

Meanwhile, doughnuts first became popular in Germany, where they were stuffed with fruit like apricots. “Then they became popular in Poland for Hanukkah,” says Cohen. Polish immigrants brought them to Israel, and from there, they came to the U.S. “A lot of people think they came from the Sephardic community,” Cohen explains, since Sephardic Jews eat bunuelos, a yeast-risen doughnut, for Hanukkah, but she poses this is not the case.

A New Generation of Hanukkah Foods

Molly Yeh, author of “Molly On The Range” and host of Food Network’s “Girl Meets Farm,” grew up making traditional Hanukkah foods like latkes and sufganiyot. “My least favorite part of those traditions was having to wait for the oil to heat up, I was always so impatient!” she writes via email.

Yeh is no stranger to coming up with innovative takes on traditional dishes. If you search her popular food and lifestyle blog, my name is yeh, you’ll find numerous creative Hanukkah recipes, like Brussels sprout latkes with balsamic Dijon sour cream and rose jam sufganiyot with vanilla glaze and pistachios. One of her favorite interpretations is sufganiyot filled with onion jam and tomato jam and dusted with za’atar and yogurt powder. “I love savory sufganiyot,” she enthuses. “Savory doughnuts are underrated.”

Molly on the Range: Recipes and Stories from An Unlikely Life on a Farm by Molly Yeh, $17.92 on Amazon

This book is full of delicious recipes celebrating the author's Jewish and Chinese heritage—and life on a Midwestern farm.

“Every year I love thinking up new sufganiyot flavors and new things to put on top of latkes,” Yeh explains. “A few years ago we put scoops of chocolate ice cream on top of latkes. It was just like dipping fries in a milkshake.” She adds, “There was some skepticism directed toward the latke ice cream sundae, but the few people who tried it liked it!”

Crispy latkes, savory brisket, and mouth-watering sufganiyot make for quite the decadent meal. Whether you choose to stick with tried and true traditional recipes or go wild experimenting with flavors and ingredients, it would probably be considered a Hanukkah miracle if you end up with any leftovers from the celebration.


The History of Hanukkah Food in America

As a kid, I’m not sure which I looked forward to more during the winter holiday season—receiving a gift each of the eight nights we celebrated Hanukkah (either small, like a book or a pair of socks, or big, like a toy I’d been wishing for) or the meal my mom made for the occasion. My family and I indulged with joyful abandon on tender slices of beef brisket swimming in a savory onion-laden gravy and shredded potato latkes—crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside—topped with applesauce or sour cream. But I never really stopped to think about where these food traditions came from.

Chowhound spoke with a Jewish food historian and a Food Network star to learn the history of Hanukkah food in the U.S. and how it has evolved over time.

Jewish Cuisine Rich in History (and Fat)

“I feel that, in trying to elevate Hanukkah from a minor holiday to a major one, Jews really knocked it out of the park with latkes, because potato latkes are everything a french fry is and more. You know, that extra crunch, those caramelized sugars giving it a deeper potato taste,” says Jayne Cohen, food historian and author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking: A Food Lover’s Treasury of Classics and Improvisations.”

Jewish Holiday Cooking: A Food Lover's Treasury of Classics and Improvisations by Jayne Cohen, $2.85 on Amazon

A holiday handbook with a wide-ranging collection of traditional Jewish recipes and modern twists (including vegan variations).

Foods cooked in oil, such as latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts), are traditionally enjoyed during Hanukkah to commemorate the story behind the holiday. According to Jewish texts, Judah Maccabee and his followers were participating in the rededication of a temple around 200 B.C. when they witnessed a miracle: a small amount of olive oil that should only have lasted one night kept candles burning for eight nights instead (thus, the eight night celebration of Hanukkah).

However, the latkes of yore were pretty different from those we eat today. Before potatoes came to Europe, they were made with cereal grains like rye and buckwheat, or root vegetables, such as carrots and turnips. Depending on where Jewish people lived, olive oil was either extremely expensive or hard to find, so they also often cooked their latkes in animal fat. This may explain why rich cuts of meat, such as brisket, and even goose, were often made during Hanukkah, since the fat that cooked off them could then be used to fry up a batch of latkes.

“Potatoes didn’t really become an important food for Jews until the mid-19th century,” Cohen explains. “That’s when they made their way into Germany, and then Eastern Europe. It wasn’t until then that they became so important to the Jewish diet for making things like latkes and kugels.” American Jewish food traditions offer a surprising amount of variety. Take latkes’ marvelous versatility and evolution as part of American Jewish cuisine, for example. Cohen remembers seeing a latke recipe in a Crisco cookbook dating back to the 1930s that called for using spinach as the main ingredient. As different groups from the diaspora became part of the Jewish communities across the U.S., they brought their own interpretations with them, whether it’s adding jalapeños to their latkes or topping them with smoked salmon and caviar.

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“Latkes in the U.S. have sort of been like a blank canvas to experiment on,” Cohen states, “with toppings, added ingredients or the changing of basic ingredients.” One of her favorite ways to eat them is with butter and pomegranate syrup.

Hanukkah is also associated with eating dairy products as a result of the Maccabee story somehow getting conflated with the story of Judith, considered a heroine of Jews in the Middle Ages. Legend has it that Judith fed a cruel enemy a meal that included very salty cheese, which caused him to drink a lot of wine and enabled her to kill him in his drunken stupor to save her people from persecution. So it’s not uncommon for Jewish Americans to eat cheese blintzes, make their latkes with cottage cheese, and top both with sour cream to celebrate the holiday.

Meanwhile, doughnuts first became popular in Germany, where they were stuffed with fruit like apricots. “Then they became popular in Poland for Hanukkah,” says Cohen. Polish immigrants brought them to Israel, and from there, they came to the U.S. “A lot of people think they came from the Sephardic community,” Cohen explains, since Sephardic Jews eat bunuelos, a yeast-risen doughnut, for Hanukkah, but she poses this is not the case.

A New Generation of Hanukkah Foods

Molly Yeh, author of “Molly On The Range” and host of Food Network’s “Girl Meets Farm,” grew up making traditional Hanukkah foods like latkes and sufganiyot. “My least favorite part of those traditions was having to wait for the oil to heat up, I was always so impatient!” she writes via email.

Yeh is no stranger to coming up with innovative takes on traditional dishes. If you search her popular food and lifestyle blog, my name is yeh, you’ll find numerous creative Hanukkah recipes, like Brussels sprout latkes with balsamic Dijon sour cream and rose jam sufganiyot with vanilla glaze and pistachios. One of her favorite interpretations is sufganiyot filled with onion jam and tomato jam and dusted with za’atar and yogurt powder. “I love savory sufganiyot,” she enthuses. “Savory doughnuts are underrated.”

Molly on the Range: Recipes and Stories from An Unlikely Life on a Farm by Molly Yeh, $17.92 on Amazon

This book is full of delicious recipes celebrating the author's Jewish and Chinese heritage—and life on a Midwestern farm.

“Every year I love thinking up new sufganiyot flavors and new things to put on top of latkes,” Yeh explains. “A few years ago we put scoops of chocolate ice cream on top of latkes. It was just like dipping fries in a milkshake.” She adds, “There was some skepticism directed toward the latke ice cream sundae, but the few people who tried it liked it!”

Crispy latkes, savory brisket, and mouth-watering sufganiyot make for quite the decadent meal. Whether you choose to stick with tried and true traditional recipes or go wild experimenting with flavors and ingredients, it would probably be considered a Hanukkah miracle if you end up with any leftovers from the celebration.


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