Elevate your Hanukkah meals with these recipes from East Bay chefs

Oil. Hash browns. Donut. As far as food goes, these are staples during Hanukkah, the Jewish holiday celebrating the Maccabean revolt against the Greeks and the rededication of the Second Temple.

People who celebrate this holiday light candles every eight nights to enjoy their glow during the darkest days of winter. During the rededication of the temple, a day’s supply of oil lasted for eight days, leading to the tradition of lighting the menorah each night and cooking festive meals in the oil.

As a Jew of Eastern European descent, I still feel like it’s not Hanukkah unless I have oil oozing from my pores at the end of the eight days. Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but the smell of potatoes and onions sizzling in hot oil is one of my strongest associations with this holiday.

Which leads to some caveats: For some, like me, if you don’t splash on your stove, filling your kitchen with the smell your guests will smell as soon as they walk in (and whatever clothes you happen to be wearing) , then this isn’t really Hanukkah. Dressed by the stove. ) It’s a sign of a beloved holiday filled with nostalgia and memories, but the smell can linger for days. Consider yourself warned.

Nosh took a sneak peek at the recipe books of East Bay Jewish chefs and restaurateurs to see what they might be cooking for the holiday this year, and if not in their restaurants, then what they’d like to see on their tables.

Hanukkah begins on the evening of December 7, and below you’ll find a full menu of meal recipes, including entrees, new latkes, desserts and cocktails to add culinary creativity to this year’s celebrations.

Saul’s Deli’s You Maccabee Kidding Me cocktail is made with mezcal and Besamim liqueur.Photo Credit: Sol’s Deli

Cocktail: Are you kidding me Maccabi?

Will Bekker, Sauls Deli Bar Manager

Hash browns and matzo soup are staples at Sauls Deli in Berkeley, and they’re on the menu year-round. Its seasonal cocktails, however, are a different story. Under new owners Sam Tobis and Jesus Chuy Mendoza, the deli has been experimenting with cocktails with cheeky Jewish names, like the seasonal Winter product “You Maccabee Kidding Me”.

The concoction is the invention of Will Bekker, who oversees the Sowers bar program among other management responsibilities. It’s a riff on the margarita, with mezcal as the main spirit.

Other ingredients include a kosher liqueur called Besamim, lime juice, Campari and agave nectar. Besamim, the Hebrew word for spice, has the flavor of vanilla, cloves and cinnamon. It is a handcrafted spirit brewed by Sukkah Hill Spirits.

The spices of the liqueur and the smokiness of the mezcal symbolize the incense that burned when the Second Temple was rededicated, Tobes said.

(Don’t want to make your own this year? Soles has all your latke needs covered, selling pre-made latkes, batter, and homemade applesauce in addition to other Hanukkah staples, and will be lighting menorahs in the restaurant daily at 4 p.m. 30 Reservation recommended.)

raw material:

Make a cocktail

1 ounce mezcal

oz Campari

ounces of besamine liqueur

1 ounce lime juice

oz agave nectar


Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake. Serve in a martini glass and garnish with dried grapefruit peel.

Red wine and honey brisket

David Jacobson, Sous Chef, ACRE Kitchen & Bar

If meat and potatoes are a classic culinary combination, then the Jewish version is brisket and hash browns. Because, while applesauce and sour cream are standard latte toppings, brisket sauce is an excellent, lesser-known third option (at least in this writer’s opinion).

Chef David Jacobson of Oaklands ACRE Kitchen and Bar is best known for his pizza, but he’s been working on the restaurant’s first Hanukkah menu, which will be available Dec. 7-15. There will also be roast chicken, some vegetable sides and olive oil cake, and of course hash browns. Reservations recommended.

While he’s previously added bittersweet chocolate to braised brisket, this year he’s serving up a more classic version.

“I started wearing flannel, and the warm flavors of red wine, rosemary, thyme and beef fit right in right now,” Jacobson says.

raw material:

NOTE: A good rule of thumb is to get one pound of brisket per person; the fat needs to be trimmed and will shrink while cooking, but it also ensures leftovers, and brisket freezes well.

1 trimmed brisket, preferably second cut

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 cup olive oil

1 whole head of garlic

2 yellow onions, peeled and sliced

2 bay leaves

Half a bunch each: thyme, rosemary, parsley

1 bottle of delicious and cheap red wine

1 cup chicken broth

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons orange juice

1/4 cup honey


Preheat oven to 325 F.

Season the brisket generously with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat. Cook the brisket for about five minutes on each side, then remove.

Add the garlic and onions to the pan and cook until they are translucent but not browned, about five minutes. Add the onion, garlic powder and bay leaf and stir for another 30 seconds until fragrant. Add the fresh herbs and 1/2 cup of the wine, then deglaze, reducing the liquid until almost gone. Add honey, chicken broth, balsamic vinegar, orange juice and remaining wine and stir.

Add brisket. Cover and bake for two hours, then flip and bake for another two hours. Let rest 20 minutes before slicing.

Comal chef Matt Gandin makes latkes with jalapeños and tops them with spiced apple salsa.Photo credit: Komar

Chipotle Hash Browns with Spiced Apple Salsa

Matt Gandin, chef at Comal

Latkes are a favorite Hanukkah food and a staple in almost any Ashkenazi Jewish household (those with roots in Eastern Europe). Oil is the key here.

For years, Berkeley-based Mexican restaurant Comal has been offering Jewish-themed dinners in its abajo, or private dining room, during Hanukkah and Passover. Chef Matt Gandin plays on words by naming his Hanukkah dinner Oaxanukkah. Both are sold out in advance (already fully booked this year).

Gandin worked for years at San Francisco’s Delfina restaurant, where Jewish chef and owner Craig Stoll created the Hanukkah menu. Gandin said that while some of Italy’s most iconic dishes were created and popularized by its Jewish community, that’s not the case in Mexico, despite its sizable Jewish population.

“My idea was just to have fun with it,” he said. Mexico doesn’t really have a Jewish culinary tradition like Italy does, so I just took recipes or dishes that I was familiar with growing up in an Ashkenazi Jewish household and added some Mexican flavors to them. It’s nothing like what you see in Mexico City, but it’s fun.

That’s how he came up with the chipotle latkes. Instead of traditional applesauce and sour cream, he paired it with homemade apple salsa and chipotle.

Chipotle Hash Browns

raw material:

Serves 6 to 8 people

6 medium russet potatoes

1 medium yellow onion

1 whole egg

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour (can substitute potato starch to stay gluten-free)

Fresh jalapenos, chopped

Coarse salt and black pepper to taste

Neutral oil for frying, such as rice bran or avocado


The day before preparing the latkes, place whole potatoes with the skin on in a pot and cover them with cold water. Bring the pot to a boil. Once boiling, drain the water immediately. Cool the potatoes in a single layer, then refrigerate overnight. This step solidifies the starch in the potato, and there are three reasons for this. First, it prevents the potatoes from oxidizing and browning. Secondly, there is no need to squeeze out the excess water after grating the potatoes.

Third, it prevents any raw potato texture from developing in the center of the hash brown.

Grate potatoes into a large mixing bowl. Grate the yellow onion. Place grated onions in cheesecloth and squeeze out excess water. Add the remaining onion pulp to the bowl along with the grated potatoes.

Add the chopped chiles to the bowl. If you want extra spice, add the seeds and pith.

Place the eggs in a bowl along with the flour, salt and black pepper. Mix well and form into patties, using a few tablespoons per patty.

In a wide, shallow pan, add oil until about 1 inch deep and heat on stovetop to medium heat, about 360 F (if you have an oil thermometer). Fry the potatoes until they begin to brown on the edges, then flip and continue frying until golden brown on both sides.

Remove and drain on a plate lined with paper towels, sprinkle the exterior with a pinch of salt and serve warm with crème fraiche and spiced apple salsa.

Spiced Apple Salsa

raw material:

8 large Fuji or other firm apples

1 lemon, juiced

2 ounces piloncillo (Mexican, unrefined brown sugar)

4 ounces water

1/8 teaspoon grated roasted chile de arbol

1 stick Canela (Mexican cinnamon)

Pinch of kosher salt


Peel and roughly chop the apples, discard the core, and toss the apples with lemon juice to prevent oxidation.

Chop the piloncillo and form it into cones. (Piloncillo is sold in most Mexican markets, but dark brown sugar can be substituted.)

In a heavy-bottomed pot add the apples, lemon, chopped piloncillo, water, chile de arbol, canela and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over low heat.

Continue cooking until the sugar has dissolved, most of the liquid has evaporated, and the apples are tender. Stir frequently to prevent mixture from burning. Remove the pot from the heat. Remove and discard canela rod.

Using a bean/potato masher or heavy-duty blender, roughly mash the apple mixture.

Cheese fritters served with chocolate sauce.Photo credit: Lydia Danielle

Whey Cheese Fritters

Mica Talmor, Pomella owner and chef

“When I was a kid in Israel, our Moroccan neighbor would make sfinge for Hanukkah, chewy hand-shaped donuts that she would coat with granulated sugar,” Talmo said. A few years ago, when I was asked to bring dessert to a Hanukkah event, I scoured the Internet for a sfinge recipe. Since I can’t spell, I found Sfingi: Sicilian ricotta cheese fritters dusted with powdered sugar. Due to the general excitement about the connection between Sicilian food and North African food, I set out to create a hybrid.

Talmors ricotta cheese fritters are her interpretation of sfinge. They’re not on the menu at Pomella, the Israeli-California restaurant on Piedmont Avenue, but she’s been known to make them for special Hanukkah events. She uses overnight pools (pre-fermented with equal parts flour and water), but Talmo says the secret is the baking powder, which aerates the batter as it contacts the hot oil.

I used cake mix to make sure the churros would be tender even when squeezed through the piping bag, and I used a lot of citrus zest because, according to me, when you make a ricotta dessert, you have to use a lot of citrus zest, she said.

Pomella also serves latkes during Hanukkah, and the restaurant hosts community candlelight events on the second and last night of the holiday, Dec. 8 and 14, with a Donut Savant pop-up and Klezmer music on the 8th.

raw material:

Make 36 fried dough sticks

cup unbleached organic flour

glass of water

teaspoon dry instant yeast

2 cups cake flour, sifted

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup whole milk ricotta

4 large eggs

cup cane sugar

4 teaspoons lemon zest

4 teaspoons orange zest

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups cake flour, sifted

2 teaspoons baking powder

8 cups canola oil

2 cups powdered sugar


Mix the yeast and water together, add the all-purpose flour to make a pool and leave it in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, sift the cake mix and baking powder together. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or by hand, mix together the ricotta, eggs, sugar, zest, vanilla and salt. Add the flour and cake mix and let sit for at least half an hour.

Heat oil in a heavy shallow pot to 350 F.

Using a piping bag (or a plastic bag with one corner cut off), place a tablespoon-sized amount of dough into the pan. Make sure not to overcrowd the pot. Fry until golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Use a spider knife (or slotted spatula) to flip the fritters over, making sure the insides are cooked.

Continue frying in batches until done. Sprinkle the cooled fritters with powdered sugar through a strainer.

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