My dear friend, Liz Lapidus, shared her personal touches to a Chanukah Celebration! Enjoy!
In sustenance and ceremony, we honor Chanukah with traditions. As with all holidays – I like to stick with tradition and add my own personal touch. The first call I make is to my fabulous florist John McDonald at Twelve. He always brings the 'WOW' factor to any event.
Next is lighting. Chanukah is referred to as the Festival of Lights in honor of the miracle oil that lit the temple lights for eight days when it should have only lasted for one. Thus we celebrate Chanukah with the lighting of the menorah, a candelabrum with eight candleholders in a row and a ninth elevated a little above the rest. I’ve had my Jonathan Adler menorah for years – love! But don’t stop with the menorah – light up your party with tea lights and other assorted candles throughout. There’s nothing more beautiful than walking up to a home aglow in soft candlelight.
The traditional Chanukah food is latkes, light and crispy potato pancakes topped with sour cream and/or applesauce. I swap Greek yogurt for the sour cream – more health benefits and a bit more flavor.
Latkes are easy to make and you can freeze and re-heat them (drain after cooking and let cool then place in a Ziplock and freeze – reheat on parchment paper). For about two people it’s just two Russet Potatoes to one Onion, an Egg and some Matzoh Meal. Simply place a box grater over a dish towel and grate the potatoes and onion onto the towel. Then wrap up the grated potato and onion in the towel and squeeze out all the liquid over the sink. Place the potato/onion mixture in a bowl and mix in the egg and a couple of tablespoons of matzoh meal. Heat canola oil in a pan until sizzling and scoop tablespoon sized pancakes into the oil. Flip when brown and drain on a layer of paper towels over paper grocery sacks – it’s a great way to absorb grease.
A nice accompaniment to latkes is smoked salmon. You can serve it with thinly sliced brown bread and herb butter. The herb butter is easy – toss a half a stick of butter into the food processor with your favorite herbs – parley and dill are pretty traditional – salt and pepper to taste and let it whirl. Scoop the herb butter into a small dish and serve on a platter with rows of smoked salmon, brown bread, capers and chopped egg.
A favorite holiday dish, which I serve for all the Jewish holidays, is Chopped Liver – major crowd pleaser. I use my friend Chef Shaun Doty’s recipe. You basically just combine seared chopped chicken livers with caramelized onions and egg salad. I make the egg salad in advance – to make the mayonnaise I drop one egg yolk into the food processor with the juice of a half a lemon and let it whirl until it turns a soft yellow color. I slowly drizzle one cup of light oil like canola oil until it forms the rich consistency of mayonnaise and add a little salt and white pepper to taste. Then hard boil six eggs, cool, peel, chop and combine with the mayo and add some chopped parsley. In a pan over medium low heat, caramelize one thinly sliced onion in two tablespoons of olive oil for about 30 minutes. Then move the onions to the side of the pan, crank up the heat, add more oil and place one pound of washed, drained and chopped livers and sear until cooked through. Season generously with salt and pepper. Mix the liver and onion mixture with the egg salad, scoop it into a bowl and sprinkle the top with a finished salt, drizzle of olive oil and chopped parsley. Serve with toast points or crackers.
Jelly doughnuts have recently come onto my radar as another Chanukah tradition. So now I get to eat them religiously. And no one does them better than Alon’s. Order early – they will run out.
Thirsty? Nothing says happy holidays better than Champagne. Serve it plain or, honor the Chanukah color of blue -- mix one part Champagne, one part Pineapple Juice and then a splash of Curacao.
For the music – I like to create a mix of all my favorite Jewish musicians. Think Lenny Kravitz, Beastie Boys (Mike D and MCA - Jews), Dinah Shore, Van Halen (David Lee Roth - Jew), Beck, Jane’s Addiction (Perry Pharrell - Jew) and our dearly departed Lou Reed. And even in fashion –Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein are Jewish.