As the Chanukah celebration approaches, home cooks start thinking about their menu. Their children dream of deliciously hot potato latkes served with applesauce.
Any number of dishes are served during Chanukah, but anything cooked with oil, such as potato latkes, are traditional and expected.
The oil used to cook traditional Chanukah dishes signifies the miracle of the holiday. It reminds Jews the world over of the temple oil that burned for eight days, rather than the expected one, after the Maccabee victory over the Greeks.
When, following three long years of war, the small Jewish resistance group known as the Maccabees returned to claim their temple in liberated Jerusalem, they found only enough oil for one night. The temple required eight days for purifying and rededication.
Miraculously, the oil burned for the eight days and nights during that dark winter of 165 B.C.
Today, Chanukah is celebrated for eight days and nights. Each night a candle is lit in the menorah until, on the eighth and final night, all eight, plus the shammash (the ninth candle used to light the others every night), are blazing.
This menu is suitable for any meal during Chanukah. Most families select a convenient night to celebrate, which may or may not be on Friday, the Sabbath, as it falls during Chanukah.
We have chosen to make traditional kreplach, roasted chicken, green beans, and carrots, as well as potato latkes. All the recipes call for olive oil, in varying amounts. The kreplach, which we poach in chicken broth, could be deep-fried or pan-fried in oil instead.
While many families choose to serve brisket on Chanukah, we have selected roasted chicken. It's an easy and familiar main course and is slightly reminiscent of roasted goose, which was a traditional Chanukah dish in cold climates more than 100 years ago.
In those days, goose and other poultry fat were highly valued as food. During Chanukah, copious amounts of fat were rendered from the goose and then some of it was saved for Passover.
Today, few home cooks roast goose, although it would fit very nicely with this meal in place of chicken.
Potato latkes are nothing more dramatic than potato pancakes. Ours are quickly made in a blender or food processor, which means they are super easy.
Kids and other latke lovers are likely to plead for latkes more than once during Chanukah. Make them often, if you wish, and serve them with applesauce or other toppings, such as sour cream or chopped friut.