Thanksgivukkah Meal Tips From Michael Ruhlman, Josh Marcus And Other Cooks

Nov 21, 2013

Potato kugel from The Book of Schmaltz: Love Song to a Forgotten Fat
Credit Donna Turner Ruhlman

This year's Thanksgiving celebration coincides with the first day Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights. It's a convergence that hasn't occurred since 1888 and which may not occur again for more than 70,000 years.

Jokes about Manischewitz-hued turkeys aside, this is a fabulous opportunity to mingle two great food traditions.

Michael Ruhlman and his neighbor Lois Baron
Credit Donna Turner Ruhlman

Michael Ruhlman, the James Beard Award-winning cookbook author, has just written "The Book of Schmaltz: Love Song to a Forgotten Fat." Ruhlman isn't Jewish, but worked with his neighbor and "queen of schmaltz," Lois Baron, to develop many of the recipes for his cookbook.

Schmaltz is rendered chicken fat cooked with onions. The schmaltz is used as a cooking oil in all kinds of other recipes, like knishes and kugel: "We basically lost schmaltz in our cooking and so I wanted to bring it back, not just for Jews but for everyone, because it results in extraordinary food that doesn't taste the same any other way except with schmaltz."

For those who may be intimidated by schmaltz, rendering the fat from one's Thanksgiving turkey to make gravy is a vaguely similar process. Although Ruhlman adds, "According to Lois -- who has the last word as far as I'm concerned -- schmaltz must be rendered chicken fat with onion because that onion does give a sweetness and depth to the fat." He says a schmaltz-based gravy would also be terrific on turkey.

For a Thanksgivukkah meal, Ruhlman would set out appetizers of egg and gribenes (chicken cracklings) spread, as well as chicken liver with crackers. 

"Potato kugel would be a delicious side dish and appropriate for Thanksgiving," he says. Potato kugel, unlike noodle kugel, is like a giant latke or potato pancake. "You make it in a big skillet and then it's ready. It's every bit as a good as a latke and you don't have to stand there frying it in batches.

"You could even make kishke, which is a kind of stuffing, for the bird if you wanted."

Michael Ruhlman suggests a Thanksgivukkah canape of egg ang gribenes spread on crackers
Credit Donna Turner Ruhlman

Josh Marcus, the chef-owner of Josh's Deli in Surfside, has an idea for "Thanksgivukkes:" latkes topped with dark-meat turkey and cranberry or "maybe matzoh stuffing inside something else." 

Chef Todd Erickson of HaVen Gastro Lounge and Huahua’s Taqueria starts his Thanksgivukkah menu with breakfast:

 "I would serve cranberry blintzes, latkes with pumpkin butter and salmon lox quiche.

"Then, for the big dinner, I would serve:

Roast turkey with challah stuffing, mashed potato knish with chive creme fraiche, Manischewitz-cranberry gelee, roasted Brussels sprouts with buttered matzoh crumbs, pumpkin cheesecake and  cinnamon-pecan kugel with brown sugar caramel.”

And, finally, New York chef Josh Capon, who is opening a South Beach branch of Lure Fishbar this winter, suggests "turkey leg and thigh stuffed with herb-roasted wild mushrooms and a potato latke stuffing with roasted apples and chestnuts."

Click here to learn about the history of Jewish delis in Miami and hear an interview with Michael Ruhlman.