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Tradition! (Chanukah)

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Tradition! (Chanukah)

"Chanukah, the Jewish festival of rededication, also known as the festival
of lights, is an eight day festival beginning on the 25th day of the Jewish
month of Kislev.
Jewish Year 5771: sunset December 1, 2010 - nightfall December 9, 2010
(first candle: night of 12/1 last candle: night of 12/8)"
More info here.

('Fiddler on the Roof')

"Who must know the way to make a proper home,
A quiet home, a kosher home?
Who must raise the family and run the home,
So Papa's free to read the holy books?

The Mama, the Mama! Tradition!
The Mama, the Mama! Tradition!"

In no way am I really qualified to advise you concerning Chanukah traditions. I freely admit it. I am, after all, a gentile. (I thought about saying "goy" but I'm
not about to get started on the wrong foot and offend anyone by using the wrong terminology!) I am not trying to tell you that I am a schmuck! I just want to make
it clear up front that I don't know from Jewish traditions, but I know people who
do, okay? JEWISH people. And I have consulted them...
Now that I think of it, I am actually not your ordinary gentile! The fact that one
of my stepfathers was Jewish (his mother lived in New York and kept kosher!)
automatically puts me in a different category, does it not? I ate gefilte fish at a
very young age!
Anyway, not to worry. I have consulted people who are highly qualified, credible
JEWISH authorities on the tradition of Chanukah (Hanukkah). And that reminds
me, how is a gentile supposed to know whether 'Chanukah' is the correct spelling
(as seen on The experts at seem to prefer 'Chanukkah'.
Not to mention various much less official web sites who lean toward 'Hanukkah'
or even 'Hannukah'. See what I mean.? I decided on Chanukah (Hanukkah).
Hope that's okay with you...

Our purpose here, of course, is not to attempt to educate you on Jewish tradition (Chanukah or otherwise) but to further enrich La Belle Cuisine and its visitors
with more traditional Jewish recipes. Holiday traditions, their history, (and the
food that accompanies them) interest me considerably. Therefore, with heartfelt thanks to our friends at, we present the following brief introduction
to the traditional Chanukah celebration:

Chanukah in a Nutshell

"Chanukah -- the eight-day festival of light that begins on the eve of Kislev 25 -- celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, of purity over adulteration, of spirituality over materiality.
More than twenty-one centuries ago, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), who sought to forcefully Hellenize the people of Israel. Against
all odds, a small band of faithful Jews defeated one of the mightiest armies on
earth, drove the Greeks from the land, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem
and rededicated it to the service of G-d.
When they sought to light the Temple's menorah, they found only a single cruse
of olive oil that had escaped contamination by the Greeks; miraculously, the
one-day supply burned for eight days, until new oil could be prepared under
conditions of ritual purity.
To commemorate and publicize these miracles, the sages instituted the festival of Chanukah. At the heart of the festival is the nightly menorah lighting: a single
flame on the first night, two on the second evening, and so on till the eighth
night of Chanukah, when all eight lights are kindled."

So, just exactly what is a "traditional" Chanukah menu? As best we've been
able to determine, the primary consideration seems to be cooking in oil. There seems to be a lot of emphasis in particular on cooking potato latkes in oil. Yum! Once again, a brief explanation courtesy

Oil and Cheese

"Chanukah commemorates an oil-based miracle—which explains why we eat
oily foods to commemorate it. Some eat fried potato pancakes, a.k.a latkes,
while others eat sufganiyot—deep-fried doughnuts. Some eat both. Most
survive the holiday.
Yes, food can be dangerous. One of the greatest Maccabee victories was the
result of feeding the enemy cheese—so we also eat dairy foods on Chanukah.
Again, we survive."

Okay. Sounds great! But a potato pancakes and jelly doughnuts do not a
holiday meal make, right? Right! Research tells us that a roast (let's just
say brisket) with root vegetables is borderline mandatory. Most certainly
traditional. And yes, roast chicken with root vegetables is fine as well.
Latkes are a given. Green vegetables and salad too, if you like, just keep
it simple...
No such thing as too many brisket recipes I always say, and the same
goes for a great roast chicken, even if Emeril is not Jewish. And besides,
I knew I could not go wrong when I remembered Sara Moulton's brisket
recipe in Sara Moulton Cooks at Home. This may well be THE definitive
brisket recipe... (You can catch Sara Moulton on Food Network.)


Red-Wine Braised Beef Brisket with
Horseradish Sauce and Aunt Rifka's
Flying Disks

Sara Moulton
Cooks at Home
by Sara Moulton, 2002,
Broadway Books/Random House

"My husband Bill has been telling me about his Aunt Rifka and her asbestos
hands for as long as we've known each other. He claims there was no pot so
hot she couldn't pick it up barehanded. (This amazing ability seems just slight-
ly less amazing to me since I went to cooking school and developed some heat
resistance of my own.) He also used to brag about his aunt's delicious flying
disks. I always wondered just what they heck they were and decided to find
out when I started on this book.
Rifka Silverberg Mellen was actually Bill's great aunt - his mother's mother's
older sister. She and Uncle Peter lived upstairs from Esther and her folks in
Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, where the whole family flourished after fleeing
Odessa in the first decade of the twentieth century. It turns out that Rifka's
flying disks are nothing more exotic than matzo balls formed in silver-dollar-
sized disks and served in brisket gravy instead of chicken soup. Contrary to
the image called up by their Space Age sobriquet, flying disks are not exactly
lighter than air. In truth, they are dense and heavy. It's more accurate (if con-
siderably less glamorous) to call them sinkers, which is what Bill's Aunt Yetta called hers. Whatever. They're scrumptious..."

Serves 8

For the Braised Brisket:
1 large head garlic, separated into cloves
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground
black pepper
1 (4 to 5-pound) beef brisket, preferably the
2nd cut (also called the point cut)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, thinly sliced
3 cups dry red wine (kosher)
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 dried bay leaves, preferably Turkish
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 quart chicken stock, preferably homemade

For the Horseradish Sauce:
1/2 cup finely grated fresh or drained
prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Flying Disks:
1/4 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
4 large eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons pareve margarine, melted
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup matzo meal

To make the Brisket: preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Fill a small saucepan with water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Add
the garlic, bring back to a boil, and cook rapidly until slightly softened,
about 1 minute. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the garlic to a bowl of
ice water. Peel when cool enough to handle.
Combine the flour, salt, and pepper in a large shallow dish or large platter. Add the brisket and turn to coat on all sides. Shake off the excess. Heat
the oil in a large covered casserole or Dutch oven over medium-high heat
until almost smoking. Add the brisket and cook, turning often, until well browned, about 6 to 8 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate or platter and pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat. Stir in the onions and the peeled garlic. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring often, until golden,
about 10 minutes. Pour in the wine and stir to pick up any browned bits
on the bottom of the casserole. Stir in the tomato paste and add the bay
leaves and thyme. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Cook
rapidly, stirring often, until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Pour in
the stock and bring back to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and add
the brisket. Cover tightly with a piece of foil, then cover the pot with the
lid. Transfer to the lower third of the oven and cook until a fork comes
out easily when pierced, 3 to 4 hours.
To make the Horseradish Sauce: mix the horseradish, vinegar, mayon-naise, chives, and lemon juice in a small bowl. Stir well to blend and
season with salt and pepper. You should have about 1 cup. Keep refrig-
erated until ready to serve.
To make the Disks: whisk the stock, eggs, and margarine together in a
small bowl. Stir in the salt and matzo meal to form a soft dough. Cover
with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well-chilled, about 1 hour. Bring a
large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Working with 1 table-
spoon of dough at a time, use wet hands to form the dough into disks
about 1 1/2 inches wide and 1/2-inch thick. You should have about 18
disks. Drop them into the boiling water and reduce the heat to medium-
low. Cover and simmer until the disks are puffy and cooked through,
30 to 35 minutes.
Transfer the brisket from the casserole to a cutting surface and cover
loosely with foil. Let rest for 15 minutes. Gently skim the surface of the
liquid in the casserole with a spoon to remove as much fat as possible.
Remove and discard the bay leaves. Add the disks to the cooking liquid
and cook on top of the stove over medium heat, covered, until they've
turned dark and absorbed some of the sauce, about 10 minutes.
Thinly slice the brisket on an angle, cutting against the grain. Arrange
the slices on a warmed serving platter or plate and spoon on some of
the horseradish cream. Place the disks on the side and ladle on the
pan gravy. Serve warm.

Note: A Brisket Primer:
You can buy beef brisket 3 ways:
1. Whole with deckle (the deckle is a thin layer of meat with a lot of
connective tissue and fat that lies on the underside of the brisket;
it can be removed easily), weight in at 8 to 10 pounds. If you
remove the deckle, the remaining piece of brisket weighs 7
to 8 pounds.
2. Flat cut, also known as the first cut or thin cut. This is the leanest
of the possibilities and the most popular, and it usually weighs
around 4 pounds.
3. Point cut, cheaper and fattier and than the flat cut, also 4 to
5 pounds.

Chanukah page 2

Chanukah pg 3 (doughnuts!)

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