With the first night of Hanukkah being just a bit over two weeks away, we figured we’d write up a little article that talks a little bit about some tasty snacks and appetizers you may be having during your celebrations. We’ve included some seafood and some non-seafood dishes, as well as some Jewish cuisine classics and some more cutting-edge cuisine.
The first Hanukkah dish we’ll introduce is one you’ve most likely already heard of, even if you aren’t Jewish. This dish would be the ever-famous gefilte fish. Gefitle fish was first introduced by the Ashkenazi Jewish population of Eastern Europe. This is a seafood appetizer that is usually made using Pike or some form of whitefish, though salmon and perch have found their way into this recipe from time to time as well. While gefilte fish is more associated with Passover than it is with Hanukkah, it still can be included in the festivities.
Regardless of what fish species one chooses to make gefilte fish with, it is important that the particular specimen they choose weighs at least 7 lbs. Once the fish has been procured, gutted, and cleaned, it must be de-boned. As de-boning fish is not allowed to occur on the Sabbath according to Orthodox Jewish law, one must be mindful of what day it is when they choose to make gefilte fish if they do not buy the fish already de-boned.
It takes about 3 hours to cook gefilte fish, though before cooking, the necessary steps of preparation must be carried out. There are different ways to do this, but most recipes will include browned onions, salt, pepper, eggs, and matza. Gefilte fish is served cold and has a gelatin-like consistency. It is frequently topped with sliced carrots, though some people prefer using sour cream or a horseradish sauce called khreyn.
Our next Hanukkah dining suggestion is of the non-seafood variety. While it is not an exclusively Jewish delicacy, challah bread has long been associated with Jewish cuisine. It goes great with gefilte fish or nearly any other seafood for that matter. To be candid about the matter, there’s very little that this delicious bread doesn’t go well with.
The religious significance of challah bread to followers of Judaism stems from the custom of beginning every Sabbath and holiday meal with two full loaves of bread. This tradition is a result of the belig. ef that during their 4o years wandering the desert following their exodus from Egypt, Jewish people dined on manna that fell from the heavens each day. Scripture states that on Sabbath days and on holidays, a double portion would rain down for consumption1. This is why challah bread is made of two separately made and then intertwined sets of bread dough. Each loaf features six overlapping strands. When added together, they represent the 12 tribes of Israel1.
Challah is a delicious yet relatively simple bread. Its ingredients usually include eggs, yeast, salt, sugar, flour, and water. In authentic challah bread, there will be no milk or any other form of dairy product within the ingredients. Challah bread may sometimes be topped with sesame or poppy seeds and will usually be given an egg bath prior to cooking. This is what creates its distinctive glow. On occasion, one will be able to find challah in the form of rolls rather than a bread loaf, but this is somewhat rare.
Another delicious seafood appetizer that can be enjoyed year-round but also makes a great Hanukkah treat is bagels with lox. The term “lox” refers to brined and usually smoked salmon fillets that are frequently served in small strips. Lox can be served with or without cream cheese, though many people will opt in favor of the latter. Capers, tomatoes, and onions, particularly red or purple onions, are also frequently added to the equation as a tasty garnish.
There are several alternatives to lox that are highly similar. Some of these include cold-smoked Nova Scotia salmon, salted and sugared dry-brined “Scottish Salmon”, and Scandanavian style gravlax, which we’ve already discussed in a previous holiday seafood blog post.
Another non-seafood yet still delicious treat that can be enjoyed during a Hanukkah gathering is kugel. Kugel is another culinary innovation credited to the Ashkenazi Jewish people of Eastern Europe. Although its name is derived from a word meaning “ball” or “sphere”, most modern examples of kugel will be either square or rectangular in shape.
There are several different types of kugel that can be made, with sweet and savory varieties of this time-honored
treat existing in abundance. Sweet kugel will usually be egg and dairy based with a custard-like taste and consistency. Added to the mix will usually be some combination of raisins, sugar, and cinnamon. Savory kugel dishes have a greater degree of variety. When you’re lucky enough to be dining on one of these, you may find that some or all of the following ingredients are present: potatoes, matzah, carrots, zucchini, cabbage, spinach, and cheese.
We’ll wrap up this entry with a more modern appetizer that is perfect for Hanukkah. This recipe is courtesy of SeriousEats.com and is called Smoked Salmon Tartare with Potato Chip Canapes.
Smoked Salmon Tartare with Potato Chip Canapes
Ingredients: 6 oz diced smoked salmon, 5 oz potato chips, 1 minced shallot, 1/2 cup fromage blanc, 2 tbsp chopped parsley, ground black pepper (to taste), the juice and zest of one half lemon, 1 tsp dijon mustard, 2 tsp of capers, and 40 snipped chives2.
Directions: 1. Mix the salmon, capers, lemon, olive oil and mustard together in a mixing bowl.
2. In a second mixing bowl, blend the fromage blanc, parsley, and chives.
3. Set the potato chips out on a large platter. Spoon a small amount of the contents of the second mixing bowl over all of the potato chips. Follow this up by spooning contents of the first mixing bowl on top of what is already on the platter2.
1. Author Unavailable
2. Saretsky, Karen
Smoked Salmon Tartare and Potato Chip Canapes
SeriousEats.com, December 24, 2008