Like a comet, it is coming: Thanksgivukkah 2013! For only the second time since Abraham Lincoln decreed Thanksgiving a national holiday, it coincides with Hanukkah. Enjoy the remarkable calendrical oddity this year; it won’t happen again for another 70,000 years. Officially, Hanukkah begins at sunset Nov. 27 and continues on for seven more nights. Thanksgiving, as we all know, is a big, one-day blowout with plenty of fall food leftovers, this year on Nov. 28.
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Marjorie Druker, a Boston chef and owner of the New England Soup Factory and The Modern Rotisserie, has been hard at work on her Thanksgivukkah recipes since her spring vacation on the beach. After 32 years as a professional chef, Druker still loves to be inventive, and she says marrying the traditional late-fall flavors of Thanksgiving with the traditional early winter traditions of Hanukkah “wasn’t that hard. We’d warmed up by thinking about Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur coinciding with Labor Day. In September for the Jewish holidays we made corn on the cob and apple vichyssoise.” Druker, a cook weaned on Jewish holiday foods and married to an Italian man, says, “Thanksgivukkah is sort of like a mixed marriage. You take the best from each side.”
Druker shares three Thanksgivukkah recipes to inspire us, and help make the mixed marriage of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving a success.
Pumpkin Custard Kugel
A pumpkin-pie flavor but with cream cheese and the noodle legacy and identity of a classic Jewish kugel. “Make enough and it will last all eight days,” Druker says. Can pumpkin latkes be far behind?
For the kugel:
1 stick butter, plus more for greasing baking dish
16-ounce cream cheese
1 pint sour cream
1 15-ounce can pumpkin purée
1¾ cups sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
8 extra-large or jumbo eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 quart whole milk
1 pound cooked wide egg noodles (slightly undercook noodles by 2 minutes)
For the topping:
¾ cup chopped pecans
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. In a mixing bowl, whip together the butter and cream cheese.
3. Add the sour cream, pumpkin purée and sugar and mix again.
4. Add the vanilla and the eggs one at a time, beating a little after each one.
5. Add the salt and milk and mix to incorporate the custard.
6. Place the cooked noodles in a large mixing bowl. Pour the custard over the noodles and mix well.
7. Pour into a large baking dish that has been generously buttered. Place this dish in an even larger roasting pan and add water so you create a water bath for the pudding. Add enough water so that it comes halfway up the pan of kugel.
8. Mix the pecans, cinnamon and sugar to make the topping and then sprinkle it over the kugel and place in the oven for 1 hour uncovered.
9. Remove from the oven and let rest a day before serving. Cut into pieces and warm up in a 350-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.
Turkey and Root Vegetable Soup With Sage-Scented Matzo Balls
Makes 12 to 14 servings
Druker is a well-lauded local soup queen, selling more than 100 gallons daily from her two New England Soup Factory locations. “I love turkey soup. People either love it or associate it with leftovers. But this version is wonderful,” she says. “I make it with roasted parsnips, carrots and sweet potatoes. The sweet potatoes are like rich jewels in the broth! And then, of course, there’s the matzo balls!”
She notes many people don’t know what to do with the turkey carcass. Druker uses it to make stock. “I like to be thrifty, and always use bones and carcasses to make stock, which I keep in my freezer,” she explains. “My mother-in-law, who is Sicilian, never throws anything useful away. I’ve learned a lot from her. Turkey stock is a basic staple. The way I think of it, as long as you have good stock and a bag of barley, the world is your oyster. Oysters aren’t exactly kosher, but so what?”
For the sage-scented matzo balls:
Makes 12 to 15 matzo balls
7 eggs, separated
1 tablespoon kosher salt
¼ cup chicken fat
2 cups matzo meal
3 tablespoons club soda or seltzer water
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons rubbed sage
1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley
For the turkey and root vegetable soup:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves freshly minced garlic
1 large Spanish onion, diced
1 fennel bulb, diced
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 parsnips, peeled and sliced
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 pound butternut squash, peeled and diced
4 quarts poultry stock
3 cups cooked, roasted turkey, diced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the matzo balls:
1. Fill an 8-quart pot three-quarters of the way with salted water and bring to a boil.
2. Place the egg whites in a mixing bowl and add a pinch of salt. Whip the egg whites until they form stiff peaks and set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, mix together the egg yolks, salt, chicken fat, matzo meal, club soda, onion powder and herbs.
4. Gently fold in the egg whites, then place this mixture in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
5. Using your hands, roll the mixture into walnut-size pieces and drop into boiling water. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook covered for 35 minutes.
6. Remove with a slotted spoon.
For the soup:
1. In a large, heavy-lined stock pot, add the olive oil and place on medium high heat.
2. Add all the garlic and all the vegetables and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes.
3. Add the poultry stock and bring to a boil.
4. Once you have reached a boil, turn down slightly and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the turkey meat, fresh herbs and seasoning and cook an additional 5 minutes.
5. Add the matzo balls and ladle into soup bowls and serve.
Challah, Apple and Cornbread Stuffing With Cashews
Druker has a smart way to handle her stuffing. She butters a large sheet of cheesecloth, sets the turkey stuffing in the cheesecloth and inserts the whole package into the prepared turkey cavity when she puts the bird in the oven. “Fabulous presentation when it comes out. All in one very attractive shape,” she says.
1 loaf challah bread, diced
2 cups rye bread, diced
6 cornbread muffins crumbled into large pieces
1 stick butter
2 cups onions, diced
1 cup celery, diced
2 cups golden delicious apples, peeled and diced
4 cups poultry stock
2 teaspoons dried rubbed sage
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 cup large, salted cashew nuts
¼ cup freshly chopped parsley
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Place the diced bread and muffin pieces onto a large baking pan and toast in the oven until lightly browned, about 15 to 18 minutes.
2. In a large sauté pan, melt the stick of butter. Add the onions, celery and apples and sauté for 8 minutes. Add the poultry stock and bring to a boil.
3. Remove from heat.
4. Add the sage, thyme and onion powder to the apple mixture.
5. Place the toasted breads into a large mixing bowl and pour the apple mixture over the bread; mix gently with a large fork. Add the cashews and parsley.
6. Place the mixture into a baking dish and place uncovered in the oven for 30 minutes. You may add additional stock if needed.
Top photo: Turkey and Root Vegetable Soup With Sage-Scented Matzo Balls. Credit: Daniel Rastes