I grew up in a family that combined two different cultures. Each December, like many of you out there, we celebrated both Christmas and Hanukkah - not on the same night, and not usually in the same house, but both holidays were always given their special time to shine. Such is still the case today, and I look forward to this time of year twice as much for that very reason.
Rachel's adorable Hanukkah Tree - her own tradition.
I remember many happy Hanukkahs as a child, lighting candles and squinting my eyes until each tiny flame doubled, then tripled in front of me. We'd always say prayers, open gifts and peel foil wrappers off of chocolate coins - the whole shebang. Except for dreidel, that is. The famous game didn't get much play in our house, as we pretty much focused on food once the candle-lighting and present-opening were complete. Come to think of it, games of chance still take a backseat to eating in my book. A trip to Vegas is more about dinner reservations than ponying up at the tables, as far as I'm concerned...
Anyway, it's traditional on Hanukkah to eat foods fried in oil. Rich and golden, they are a delicious tribute to the oil that burned long and bright, eight times longer than expected, inspiring this annual celebration. Needless to say, when it comes to this custom, my family is happy to oblige.
Latkes, or potato pancakes, are perhaps the most famous fried Hanukkah delight. Never missing an opportunity for culinary creativity, we put the family stamp on this dish in a most unexpected way. Correction - my Dad, kitchen pioneer and trailblazing chef extraordinaire, put his stamp on the latkes some years back, and ever since, it just wouldn't be Chrismakkah without 'em.
Dad with his cast iron skillet, frying our latkes to golden perfection.
We call them Christmas Latkes, with a wink and a smile. Much like enchiladas served Christmas-style in Santa Fe, wherein they're doused with red and green chile sauces, this name refers to the classic holiday color combination. In our case, red and green are represented by sweet and spicy nibbles mixed into the batter before it's time to get a-fryin'. Craisins and minced jalepeno are the additions, to be exact, and this tweak on tradition results in a treat you have to taste to believe.
The final product, ready for the feast.
It's a simple recipe, really - just take your favorite potato pancake formula and mix in the aforementioned additions in the proportions desired. Then fry the little bejewelled beauties in a neutral-flavored oil and serve them with apple sauce and a dollop of sour cream. Different and delicious. When it comes to family traditions, we file this one under Holiday, Unique.