Hanukkah According to Wise Sons
This year marks quite possibly the one and only chance in our lifetime to experience the overlap of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah on our calendars (and in our stomachs). The mashup of these two food-centric holidays, officially dubbed Thanksgivukkah, has our brains running wild with ideas like challah stuffing, pecan pie rugelach, and latkes with cranberry sauce.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, we've turned to our friends Evan Bloom and Leo Beckerman, owners of Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen, for advice on how to make the most of this holiday and for a tips on hosting your own Hanukkah dinner, without Bubbie.
The new generation of Jewish deli-style cooking takes a twist on classics, like braising brisket in beer instead of red wine and making latkes with a mixture of mashed and shredded potato. Though when it comes to the nostalgia of the holiday, these guys don't consider it a proper Hanukkah celebration without the classics: brisket cooked in a mixture that involves a packet of Lipton onion soup mix or a healthy dollop of Heinz chili sauce, and the non-kosher pairing of latkes with sour cream.
Before we dive into Hanukkah tips and a recipe, Bloom and Beckerman are strong supporters of "latke parties," where the evening takes place in the kitchen while you fry latkes all night and before they hit the paper towel, they've already been claimed by various guests. Latke parties are the perfect way to transition yourself into a full-blown dinner party next year.
But if you're taking on everyone's favorite Jewish-food feast, the two biggest pieces of advice that they had to offer were to cook things in advance and use a food processor for latkes instead of grating potatoes by hand.
"Personally, I think that doing everything in advance is the best because if you don't, you're hosting a party and you're not really there. You're in the kitchen," says Bloom. "Brisket is way better cooked the night before or two nights before serving anyway."
"Yeah, do everything ahead so that the day of you can shower, clean the house and get things in the oven to warm up," says Beckerman. "Then when your guests arrive you can pull dishes out of the oven, just like 'oh here it is!' and dinner is served."
For latkes, Beckerman explained that his family grates the potatoes and onion by hand, which is great because it gives you a more rustic latke with different textures of potato.
"Well yeah, everyone does it that way because the knuckle blood makes them taste good!" Bloom joked.
To save time, make a more uniform latke, and avoid grating your knuckles, Beckerman suggests using a food processor, which will still yield delicious results.
If you're not quite comfortable in the kitchen, Wise Sons is offering platters of latkes by the dozen, with the option for toppings like homemade applesauce, Straus sour cream and smoked salmon or trout. Pinkies Bakery will provide raspberry-filled sufganiyot (Iraeli doughnuts) by the dozen for dessert. Both latkes and sufganiyot will be available individually at all three locations for the eight crazy nights of Hanukkah.
They've also decided to cater to the holiday in a different way this year, "I think a lot of people will have brunches since they'll have a lot of family around for Thanksgiving and after that one giant meal, you're good for a few weeks," says Bloom.
With that in mind, instead of offering trays of brisket, they're doing platters of pastrami with rye and smoked salmon with bagels to fill post-Thanksgiving brunch appetites when family is in town and there aren't enough turkey leftovers for everyone to have a sandwich. See the full menu on the website, and be sure to put your orders in before Friday, Nov. 22.
If you've decided to attempt cooking a Hanukkah or Thanksgivukkah meal, Evan and Leo have provided us with their take on brisket, braised in onion and beer instead of wine and Lipton onion soup mix. Though if you're a stickler for tradition, you can buy the mix at their Jewish Museum location when picking up latkes. Because sometimes, Bubbie's way is the only way.
Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen, 3150 24th St., at the Contemporary Jewish Museum or Tuesday Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market, 415-787-DELI and wisesonsdeli.com
BEER & ONION BRAISED BRISKET (courtesy of Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen)
MAKES 12 SERVINGS
1 5-6 pound brisket, trimmed of some fat
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon deli-style brown mustard
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or schmaltz
4 cups chicken stock, divided
1 12-ounce bottle dark brown ale
6 whole dry pitted prunes
1 tablespoon brown sugar
6 cups thinly sliced yellow onions (about 2 ½ pounds)
8 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 pound medium carrots, peeled and cut crosswise into 2-inch lengths
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a small bowl, mix the salt, mustard, black pepper and thyme. Rub the mixture on the brisket.
2. In a large roasting pan heat oil or schmaltz over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the brisket and cook, turning once until well browned on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer brisket to a rimmed baking sheet.
3. Add 3 cups of chicken stock to the now-empty pan and, with a wooden spoon, scrape any browned bits from the pan. Stir in the beer, prunes, and brown sugar and return brisket to pot, fat side down. Cover the meat with onions and garlic.
4. Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid or aluminum foil and place in oven. After 1 hour, uncover and flip brisket. Return to oven and cook uncovered 30 minutes more. Cover again and continue to cook 1 hour 30 minutes. Add 1 cup stock to the pot, then add carrots. Cover and cook until carrots are tender, about 45 minutes. Let cool and refrigerate overnight. This will keep up to 3 days.
5. When ready to serve, preheat oven to 350°F. Skim off any fat from surface of brisket pan juices and discard. Transfer brisket to cutting board and thinly slice across the grain. Bring braising liquid and onions to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Return the meat to the pan, cover tightly and cook for 1 hour until heated through. Serve immediately.