The Year That Two Holidays Came Together Deliciously
by Rivkah Friedman
In my first year of what felt like real adulthood, when I had a condo with enough space for a dining room table and a sufficient number of plates to serve company, I insisted on hosting Thanksgiving. We moved our couch and armchair to accommodate an extra table, packed chairs armrest-to-armrest in a snake around our living room and proudly set out our wedding china for the very first time.
That year, Thanksgiving coincided with Hanukkah. It was an exceedingly rare occurrence, and I took full advantage, making “Thanksgivukkah” specialties like cornbread doughnuts filled with cranberry sauce and gravy. I prepped for weeks, and wrote a minute-by-minute cooking plan. In the end, I pulled it off without a hitch. Two holidays, two families, one big feast. I was awake at 6am to make three doughs (rolls, doughnuts, more doughnuts), seriously in the weeds when it came time to deep-fry, and absolutely over the moon when my Bubby said the dry-brined turkey was perfect. It is to this day my proudest culinary accomplishment.
But now, there’s a toddler at the table. She eats often, she eats quickly and when she’s done, she needs more attention than an ambitious Thanksgivukkah cooking plan can accommodate. Pizza would be easier.
Alas, pizza isn’t on the menu this Hanukkah, and truth be told, an ambitious dinner for company isn’t either. But when one door closes, another door opens. I’ve come to love hosting company for Hanukkah brunch when kids—and, frankly, their parents—are at their morning best.
I’ve always thought of Hanukkah as a dinner holiday: light the candles, eat dinner. But perhaps latkes are to blame, since they’re really not brunch food. That’s why, for a Hanukkah brunch, I turn to rösti, a grand potato dish that traces its roots to Sweden. More like a hash brown, rösti is cooked as one giant cake, then sliced into portions. I like it topped with a variety of brunch-friendly toppings: sour cream, smoked salmon and chives.
Most importantly, it can be cooked low and slow, removed when the moment is right with no risk of burning. A fried potato dish that doesn’t need constant monitoring and doesn’t make your house smell like burnt potatoes—imagine that! I make my rösti in a cast-iron pan, which is well-seasoned and releases the browned pancake with little effort. All it takes is a large spatula and a plate to flip it halfway through. When it’s browned on both sides, I cut it into eight pieces and top it with a big dollop of sour cream and some beautiful hot-smoked salmon from a new shop in town, Ivy City Smokehouse. All of their smoked fish is just gorgeous, and their fresh catch—filleted to order and priced wholesale—is a steal.
If latkes are the best-known Hanukkah food, sufganiyot—jelly doughnuts—are the most popular. Instead of the traditional berry jam or the more ambitious cranberry curd I made for Thanksgivukkah, I filled these brunch doughnuts with Toigo Farm’s apple and pear butters, two thick, perfectly spiced butters that I stock year-round. Doughnuts filled with fruit count as kid-friendly food, at least during the holidays.
And so we gather, at brunch time, for a Hanukkah feast. The kiddos help themselves to slices of rösti (and the enterprising ones snag a doughnut when no one is looking). We all drink coffee. And though it isn’t dark out, we light those Hanukkah candles anyway. Everyone is full and happy, and together. That is the miracle of the holiday this year.
Ivy City Smokehouse 202.529.3300 1356 Okie St NE, Washington, DC
Toigo Farms 717.530.9661 750 S Mountain Estates Rd. Shippensburg, PA