A Gourmet Facelift for Your Traditional Hanukkah Meal

Hanukkah is low-key holiday that involves family and friends gathering to light a menorah, open some presents, and feast on latkes. Chances are, you are already pretty content with your latke prep and brisket marinade. They have been tried and true for years, passed on through the generations. But that does not mean that your traditional meal might not benefit from a gourmet facelift. There is no reason to change your menu or your style, but here are some suggestions to elevate your standard Hanukkah dinner to a higher level of sophistication.

No Jewish holiday meal is complete without a little Horseradish.  Combine ¼ cup of prepared white horseradish with 2 cloves of minced garlic and ½ T canola oil. Spread the garlic-horseradish paste on the fat side of the brisket and proceed with your bubba’s brisket. This is an easy way to add a little kick to your kick-ass brisket.

That brisket that has been soaking in Dr. Pepper and baby carrots wants to grow up. This Cabernet Reduction takes you there. Use the holiday to try an Israeli Cabernet like a 2009 Galil Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, available at CoolVines. Make this sauce in the roasting pan will absorb all the flavors from the brisket and give you one less pan to scrub, but you can make it separately too. Simply heat 1 T extra virgin olive oil in a medium skillet on medium. Add 2 shallots, 1 spring fresh rosemary, ½ t salt and ¼ t black pepper. Stir lightly for 3 minutes then add wine and cook over medium-high heat for 20 minutes. Add 1½ cups beef broth and cook another 20 minutes. In a separate small bowl mash 2T unsalted butter at room temperature with 1T all-purpose flour to create the roux. Add roux mixture to skillet and stir until thickened, about 1 minute. Strain and serve with brisket.

Butter makes everything better, and it will add a creative festive touch to your holiday meal. Impress your guests with these very simple to make Flavored Butters. Rub the paprika butter (4T unsalted butter and ½ t paprika) over and under skin of roast chicken to give it beautiful flavor and a golden crispy skin. Or make an easy herb butter with 4 T unsalted butter and ¼ cup chopped fresh herbs such as flat leaf parsley, chives, tarragon and/or dill. Add a dollop of the herb butter to your latkes or enjoy grilled or broiled on sliced baguette. Whatever you don’t use right away, you can roll in wax paper, seal edges by twisting, and store in freezer. Slice off rounds as needed.

There is a recipe going around town based on my friend’s Chocolate Oreo Truffles (see photo above).While truffles sound, look and taste exciting and sophisticated, they take only minutes to make and require only 3 ingredients. Use extra melted chocolate to dip fruit like strawberries, kiwi or bananas. Here’s an easy recipe to try, you can also mix it up with different toppings, cookies, chopped fruit or nuts.

Finely crush 1 (16 ounce) package OREO Chocolate Sandwich Cookies in a ziplok plastic bag using a rolling pin. Add to a medium bowl, reserving about 20% for later. Add 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, whipped and softened; and mix until well blended. Roll cookie mixture into 42 balls, about 1-inch in diameter. Melt 2 (8 ounce) packages BAKER’S Semi-Sweet Baking Chocolate. Dip balls in chocolate and place on wax paper-covered baking sheet. Sprinkle with reserved cookie crumbs. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

Happy Hanukkah!

Lauren WeissJersey Bites Union County Regional Editor is a freelance food writer who loves everything culinary. Weiss created her blog Westfield Foodie in 2009, chronicling her experiences cooking, dining and shopping for food while a stay home mom of 2. She also writes about foodie interests in & around Union County for JerseyBites and pens The Foodie State for The Alternative Press. Prior to her change of career as a food writer, Lauren previously served as Director of PR at the JCC of Central NJ, VP of Business Development at Impact Productions and for 8 years as VP of Conferences & Special Events at Bear Stearns. She graduated with a Masters from Rutgers University in 1992 and a Bachelors in Psychology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 1990. Lauren lives in Westfield, NJ with her husband, 2 girls and a floppy Cavechon. In addition to food & family, she loves running, hiking, tennis, golf, skiing, photography, music and travel.