The once-in-a-lifetime mashup of the all-American holiday of Thanksgiving with the second night of the eight-night Jewish holiday of Hanukkah brings us to Thanksgivukkah.
So, what’s to eat? Sweet potato latkes? Too obvious. Pumpkin-spiced sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts)? Too weird.
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With Thanksgiving leftovers lasting well into the remaining days of Hanukkah, what could better combine the two holidays than Turkey and Gravy Kugel?
What’s kugel? According to “Yiddish Cuisine” by Robert Steinberg, kugel is an Eastern European dish of privation for people unable to afford meat. Steinberg says kugel is a rich dish that American Jews typically serve as a side dish but that can be equally good as a main course. The best part of a noodle kugel is that the top gets very browned and crunchy.
Turkey meets kugel
As to Turkey and Gravy Kugel, I admit I’ve never had such a dish in my life. It never occurred to my mother or grandmothers to merge Thanksgiving turkey with wide egg noodles in a baked casserole, possibly because in their lifetimes — and mine — the two holidays had never intersected.
Calculations by Jewish genealogist Stephen P. Morse show that the last time Thanksgiving and Hanukkah overlapped was more than 100 years ago. Based on the lunar Hebrew calendar, it won’t happen again in our lifetimes.
This year, the convergence has given me a new family tradition. To test the recipe, I stuck a turkey in the oven to harvest pan juices and meat for shredding into the gravy.
To make sure I had enough gravy, I took a cue from the second edition of “The Texas Holiday Cookbook” by Dotty Griffith. Her mother’s gravy was legendary. Best of all, it was always made a few days before the holiday to avoid the last-minute rush when all the dishes are set on the Thanksgiving table.
To keep the kugel a meat dish — meat combined with dairy is not kosher — I avoided butter in Griffith’s roux and instead used the congealed fat that rose to the top of the liquid the giblets boiled in. Kugel is like most dishes of Eastern European origin. The secret ingredient is onion, lots of it.
Turkey and Gravy Kugel
1 pound turkey and chicken necks
½ pound chicken and turkey gizzards and hearts
4½ cups water
about 1 cup of shredded turkey
3 tablespoons risen fat, vegetable oil or schmaltz
1 large onion, minced
½ cup flour
Reserved pan drippings from roasted turkey, if available
Salt and black or white pepper, to taste
12 ounce package wide egg noodles, boiled in salted water according to package directions
3 large eggs, beaten
1. To make the stock, start by rinsing the necks, gizzards and hearts. Place these in a large saucepan. Cover with the water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to simmer. Using a large spoon, skim off foam until liquid is clear. Cook 2 to 3 hours, uncovered, until gizzards and hearts are soft and tender.
2. This should yield about 3 cups chopped, cooked gizzards and hearts, plus shredded meat from the cooked necks. Add some shredded meat from your Thanksgiving turkey until you have 4 cups.
3. Strain stock into a storage container, reserving cooked gizzards, necks and hearts in another container. Refrigerate both several hours or up to 2 days.
4. To make gravy, begin by carefully lifting the layer of congealed fat off chilled stock. You should have about 3 tablespoons. (If there is not enough, add vegetable oil.)
5. In a large saucepan, heat the 3 tablespoons fat over high heat. Add onion, reducing heat to medium. Cook until very soft, but do not allow onion to color, about 10 minutes.
6. Add the chopped gizzards and shredded meats, stirring with a wooden spatula to coat with fat. Add flour, stirring over medium high heat until meat becomes thick, pasty and tan, about 3 to 5 minutes.
7. Add the stock, stirring well to prevent lumps. At this point, add pan juices from your Thanksgiving turkey. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat so sauce simmers and becomes thick, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat; leave in pan.
8. To complete the kugel, first cook the noodles. Drain but do not rinse them.
9. Heat the oven to 375 F. Generously oil a 9-by-12-inch baking dish, or an attractive oven-to-table serving dish of similar size.
10. Take about a cup of the hot gravy and stir it quickly into the beaten eggs. Pour this egg mixture back into the gravy, stirring.
11. In a large bowl, combine the cooked noodles with all the gravy. Pour the noodles into the prepared baking dish.
12. Bake 1 hour, or until the noodles form a dark brown crunchy top. Serve with cranberry sauce.
Top photo: Turkey and Gravy Kugel for Thanksgiving and Hanukkah. Credit: Elaine Corn