‘Thanksgivukkah’ 2013 inspires culinary innovation

Such ingenious new dishes as potato latkes with cranberry sauce combine the culinary traditions of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving. --Photo courtesy of BuzzFeed
Such ingenious new dishes as potato latkes with cranberry sauce combine the culinary traditions of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving. –Photo courtesy of BuzzFeed

It has reached the point in the semester when almost everyone is looking forward to the Thanksgiving holiday – to turkey and television, stuffing and stress relief, family and fun. But for some, this year’s Thanksgiving feast will be much more than your standard, turkey-and-mashed-potatoes kind of holiday. For the first time since 1888, and only the second time in history, another holiday will also fall on our national day of thanks, creating a combination so glorious it has been given its own name: “Thanksgivukkah.”

The first day of Hanukkah exactly coincides with Thanksgiving this year because the former falls very early and the latter very late. The last time the two came close was 2002, when Hanukkah began on Black Friday, but the situation this year is truly unique. In fact, because of the drift of the Jewish calendar and the placement of Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November, Thanksgivukkah will not occur again for another 70,000 years (barring some adjustment of the Jewish calendar). In other words, November 28, 2013 will be a once-in-a-lifetime celebration, which makes one thing absolutely clear: the food has to be incredible.

But what kind of food should one eat (or overeat) on Thanksgivukkah? How can the turkey and cranberry sauce of America’s favorite harvest feast be combined with the brisket, latkes and noodle kugel of Hanukkah? I decided to do some research and found a few awesome recipes. One Buzzfeed article titled, “How To Celebrate Thanksgivukkah, The Best Holiday Of All Time,” pointed me to a few clutch recipe ideas. The first thing I learned was that the traditional main dish of Thanksgiving, turkey, can be brined in Manischewitz, a kosher wine, that makes the meat darker and sweeter. Another central part of the meal – to complement the turkey and satiate any vegetarians – are the potato latkes. A standard dish at any Hanukkah dinner, these fried potato patties can be adapted to the dual holiday in several ways. Latkes are usually served in a thick layer of delicious applesauce, but the Buzzfeed article pointed out that the perfect Thanksgivukkah latke can be dunked into cran-applesauce, a dish that both combines the two holidays, and creates the perfect combination of sweet and tart.

More ambitious cooks may go even further in the quest to “Thanksgiving-ize” latkes by making mashed potato latkes. The secret to these is to start with mashed potatoes instead of raw, grated ones. Make sure to flavor the potatoes with lots of garlic, salt and pepper, add a whisked egg and some flour and then make balls out of the potatoes using an ice cream scooper. These potato balls should be placed in the freezer for at least 45 minutes (so that they will not disintegrate when placed in the hot oil), and then fried as Hanukkah latkes ordinarily would be. The result will be latkes that are crispy on the outside but soft and creamy on the inside, like buttery mashed potatoes. Another alternative is sweet potato latkes, which can be made by starting with raw, grated sweet potatoes, adding in brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, marshmallows, flour and eggs and then frying them as usual.

Two other must-have dishes I found were challah stuffing and the Thanksgivukkah-approved noodle kugel, the recipe for which I found on yumsugar.com. The recipe for the first dish, which can also be found on Buzzfeed, starts with a braided loaf or two of sweet challah bread; cut it up into small squares, and allow these pieces to sit out and get somewhat stale for at least 24 hours. Then make stuffing using these bread pieces, chopped celery, onion, herbs and turkey stock, add in some extra-diced apples and bake it in the oven until it is browned on top. The result? A buttery, sweet and delicious stuffing. The Thanksgiving version of noodle kugel can be made by using puréed sweet potatoes to coat the noodles, baking it in the oven and adding a topping of chopped pecans, cornflakes, butter and brown sugar and then baking it for a little longer.

Of course, no Thanksgivukkah could be complete without desert – and specifically, without some Sufganiyot, everyone’s favorite Hanukkah donut. But this year’s donut can be filled with cranberry jelly, in honor of Turkey Day. I found a recipe for these delicious fried pastries at thanksgivukkahboston.com, a site whose entire purpose is to prepare the best possible celebration of the upcoming feast.

Thanksgivukkah doesn’t have to end after the first course. After all, the best part of Thanksgiving is arguably the leftovers. But this year, the ordinary Black Friday luncheon of turkey sandwiches can be spiced up by making them on latkes instead of bread, with some gravy or cranberry applesauce for the purposes of dipping. For extra holiday cheer, don’t forget to get a “menurkey” (a menorah in the shape of a Thanksgiving turkey, the brainchild of a nine-year-old from New York City according to the article “Ingenious Ten-Year-Old Creates ‘Menurkey’ for Thanksgivukkah” published on ABC News) and look out for the giant dreidel that will be featured in this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.