When Thanksgiving and Hanukkah collide
It takes more than a little chutzpah to make it through the holidays.
Add a second holiday to your annual cooking, baking and decorating routine and you might find yourself needing some inner shalom.
This year, the beginning of the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving coincide on Nov. 28, and some experts predict it won’t happen again until 79811.
This double-header holiday — dubbed “Thanksgivukkah” in pop culture — needn’t give celebrants a double dose of stress, or at least Jewish cookbook author and food educator Tina Wasserman, doesn’t think so.
“I think it’s fortuitous,” said Wasserman, who lives in Dallas. “Think of all the grandparents and grandchildren who might be together for Thanksgiving, but then can’t be together for Hanukkah because traveling twice is difficult. This will be the first time a lot of families get to be together for both, and that’s terrific.”
Wasserman’s family lives across the country, but they will meet in Washington, D.C., for the convergence of these two holidays. She said her children expect her classic Hanukkah dishes, as well as her Thanksgiving ones, and both will be on the table.
“If you think about it, the foods are so similar and so are the holidays,” she said. “Both are giving thanks for religious freedom. Both are harvest holidays. A lot of the same foods are used, like pumpkin, which has always been a festive food on Jewish tables because it’s symbolic of prosperity and success. So having a pumpkin dish isn’t a big difference.”
Wasserman’s 2009 book, Entree to Judaism: A Culinary Exploration of the Jewish Diaspora (Urj Press, $39.95), features several pumpkin dishes, as does her latest one, Entree to Judaism for Families: Jewish Cooking and Kitchen Conversations With Children (Urj Press, $24.95), on sale Dec. 2.
The recipes appeal to every cook — Jewish and non-Jewish — and are inspired by recipes from around the world. Her sweet potato pumpkin cazuela, for one, is a unique dish cultivated by Jewish explorers in the Caribbean in the 18th and 19th centuries. Not to mention it’s an easy-to-make addition to any holiday menu.
Your family’s favorite recipes needn’t be lost to new Thanksgivukkah ones, though, Wasserman said.
“I feel very strongly about tradition, and I don’t think people should substitute their family’s favorite recipes with mine if, say, everyone’s expecting Grandma Marie’s cranberry sauce. You might edit that dish or have two different varieties of relishes, but you never want to substitute tradition or that connection to your grandma, especially if she’s no longer around.”
There is one part of Wasserman’s worry-free Thanksgivukkah plan that might entail a “latke” trouble.
Latkes are tricky to make while working on the bird and other big dishes, not to mention hard to store when made in advance. Wasserman has a few tips on latke preparation and preservation.
Latkes freeze well if you know what you’re doing, she said. She advises cooks to make the latkes, cook them at room temperature and freeze them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. When they’re frozen, quickly transfer them to a freezer bag, close it almost all the way, insert a straw and suck out the air. Then seal the bag as you withdraw the straw to prevent air from getting into it.
When you need to put latkes on the table, she said, preheat the oven to 400 degrees, place your frozen latkes on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake for 5 to 7 minutes or until the insides are hot.
Wasserman offers a gluten-free version, Ethiopian-inspired sweet potato and carrot latkes.
Desserts on the menu
For a sweeter, dessertlike latke, try apple latkes from another baleboste in kosher baking, Paula Shoyer. The Chanukah chapter of her new cookbook, The Holiday Kosher Baker (Sterling, $35), features a apple latke that doubles as dessert or side dish.
Shoyer created this recipe and others before she even realized that Thanksgivukkah was going to happen, but she echoes Wasserman’s observation that traditional Thanksgiving foods are easy to combine with Jewish ones at the table.
Take Jewish sufganiyot, a doughnutlike fried dessert. This Hanukkah staple is fried in oil to recall the miracle of a one-day supply of oil that burned for eight days. Shoyer’s sufganiyot harkens back to that holiday miracle while adding in rich pumpkin flavor.
As a pumpkin alternative, Shoyer’s cranberry and raspberry rugelach has a soy-based cream cheese for those wanting to remain kosher.
Once dinner is served, you’ll want to raise a kosher glass, too. Local Goody Goody wine consultants Kate Kostamo and Jared Cadahia recommend a kosher Concord grape variety, such as The Carmel King David Concord, a New York state wine. Its subtle sweetness would pair well with the sweet potato-pumpkin cazuela or any of Shoyer’s desserts.
An Israeli wine called Barkan Chardonnay offers “an exciting nose of guava and pear,” with a hint of acidity, said Cadahia, making it a crisp and refreshing complement to Wasserman’s mixed fruit relish.
Flavors of red cherries, strawberry jam and a hint of spice in the Baron Herzog Merlot, a California wine, would play up the savory spices in the sweet potato and carrot latkes.
Teal Lake Chardonnay from Australia provides soft fruit aromas and a clean citrus finish that won’t detract from the flavors of the turkey or any of the other dishes.
Setting the table
When it comes to putting the finishing touches on your table, what should Thanksgivukkah decor look like? Darla Bettencourt, owner of Blossoms on the Bricks florist in Fort Worth ( www.blossomsonthebricks.com/), designed a hybridized holiday centerpiece that celebrates both traditions.
To play up the harvest aspect of both holidays, Bettencourt started with a tree stump base and stacked it with blue-gray “Cinderella pumpkins,” and the blues and silvers associated with Jewish faith are muted to work with the warmer colors of Thanksgiving.
To bring a harvest feel to the table, moss, mushrooms, stones, and pine cones give natural texture to the centerpiece of flowers, featuring white and ivory roses, blue hydrangeas and white larkspur.
Finally, a warm fall glow from the votives and the Menorah draw attention to the center of the table, pulling together both traditions for a once-in-a-lifetime convergence of Thanksgivukkah.