In honor of Hanukkah and the gluttony ahead, we asked some of Boston’s best-loved Jewish culinarians about their fondest holiday food memories. A few even shared recipes.
Avi Shemtov, The Chubby Chickpea and (forthcoming) Simcha: The Land of 1,000 Latkes
“Hanukkah was a big thing for us growing up, and of course making and eating latkes was a big part of it, as it is for many families. Latkes are pretty standard Hanukkah fare, and we ate them at least a couple nights each holiday with apple sauce and sour cream. Pretty traditional.
“Eventually my twin sister, Ronitte, and I became part of the team making them each year with our parents when we were very young.
“Chickpea had a big catering gig that Sunday for Chabad of Brookline. We had to prepare and serve 1,000 latkes for their Hanukkah party. So we raced home from Buffalo on Saturday and got back to the Chickpea kitchen at like 3 a.m. Sunday.
“My mom, dad and sister showed up long before sunrise, and we spent the next eight hours or so cranking out latke after latke, just like we did as a family when I was a kid, only way, way more latkes than we could have ever imagined back then.
“We got the job done, and the gig was a big success. So that’s a very special Hanukkah memory for me, to relive my childhood now as a professional and to have my family rally around me for the event.
“My latkes today are pretty unique. I add a lot of scallions, parsley and onions, and they’re more like a shredded potato latke than a puffy potato pancake.
“You might see something like that pop up at my new restaurant, Simcha in Sharon. It’s my first brick-and-mortar. We’re going to serve very cool, chef-driven versions of contemporary Israeli food but utilizing local New England ingredients and traditions. We’re hoping to open in December.”
Mathew Freid, Idle Hour: A Camper’s Craving
“I don’t have a specific memory, but every holiday obviously revolves around food—my favorite Jewish dish being my mom’s kugel. So much so that when I was a kid, I went to camp in Maine. On visiting day, I didn’t want them to bring candy. I wanted kugel!”
Steven Peljovich, Michael’s Deli: Melty Brisket
“Hanukkah is all about the latke: perfectly crispy with browned/blackened edges and rich potato and onion flavor, even better if you can fry them in shmaltz. My twist is to make latke and apple knishes, where I layer thin slices of apples in between the latkes.
“Sufganiyot is also a necessity. Yummy bite-sized strawberry jelly are my favorite.
“Finally, no Jewish holiday is complete without brisket, and my wife makes the best! Basically, it’s the same recipe every Jewish family has: starts with a great cut of brisket with the perfect amount of fat to flavor. Onion soup mix, ketchup and lots of carrots, onions and potatoes. Eight to 10 hours of slow cooking, and you have a melt-in-your-mouth, perfect holiday brisket.”
Rebecca Arnold, Whole Heart Provisions: The Root to Her Heart
“I love root vegetable latkes!” She shared her recipe with JewishBoston this summer; check it out (with applesauce!).
Kenny Hoshino, Alden & Harlow, Waypoint and (forthcoming) Longfellow Bar: Delicious Donuts
“Everyone likes potato latkes for good reason. But my favorite Hanukkah treats are donuts. You can serve them a million different ways by making them savory or sweet; either way, they showcase the importance that oil plays in the holiday.”
Dave Dubois, Our Fathers Deli: A Smorgasbord of Succulents
Michael Schlow, Tico: Luxurious Latkes
“My favorite food memory of Hanukkah? Potato pancakes! I know it’s what everyone eats on Hanukkah, but in our family we make them super crispy and crunchy and then put out lots of different toppings so people can customize them and make them however they like.
“I’m a sucker for being indulgent and topping mine with smoked salmon, sour cream, chives and caviar. It is definitely something I look forward to every year. Now, I love seeing my daughters experiment with the toppings they like.”
Michael Schlow’s Red-Wine Braised Brisket
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large brisket (3-4 pounds)
- ½ clove garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 large carrot, peeled and sliced
- 1 stalk celery, sliced
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 3 tablespoons butter
- ½ cup flour
- 2 cups red wine
- 28 ounces canned, peeled tomatoes
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup quartered button mushrooms
- 4 ounces dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in hot water to soften
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Put the olive oil in a roasting pan and place over high heat.
- Season the brisket with salt and pepper.
- When the oil is hot, gently sear the meat on all sides until golden brown.
- Remove meat from pan and set aside on a serving platter.
- Add the garlic, carrot, onion and celery in the pan and cook for two minutes on high heat.
- Add the rosemary and more salt and pepper.
- Add the butter and cook until melted.
- Lower the heat to medium and sprinkle in the flour. Cook for two minutes, stirring constantly.
- Add the red wine, raise the heat to high and cook for two minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan so the ingredients do not stick.
- Add the tomatoes, crushing them a bit in the pan.
- Add the chicken stock and button mushrooms and stir everything around the pan.
- Add porcini mushrooms along with some of the soaking liquid.
- Return the brisket to the pan and cover with the lid.
- Place in the oven and braise gently for two to three hours. Meat should be very tender and sauce should be thick.
- Turn off heat but leave in pan with oven off undisturbed for 50 minutes.
- Remove the meat to a cutting board and slice across the grain into thin slices and arrange on platter.
- Garnish with the sauce and vegetables from the pan and serve.