Leah Koenig’s flavorful twists on Hanukkah favorites.

By Leah Koenig
December 01, 2020

Hanukkah brings warmth and brightness during the depths of winter. To commemorate the Hanukkah story, when a scrappy Judean army recaptured the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and found a jar of oil that miraculously lit the menorah for eight days and nights, Jewish families traditionally enjoy foods fried in oil—most famously potato latkes. When it comes to the holidays, I find that tradition tastes best when it gets the chance to play, which is why this year I’m cooking up twists on Hanukkah favorites, like an oversize skillet latke that delivers all of the crunchy charm of the classic fritters in one go. I’ll pair it with saucy, tender chicken, braised brisket-style and brimming with flavor. Then I’ll bake up a batch of savory onion jam rugelach to snack on throughout the festivities.

Brisket-Braised Chicken

Credit: Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Margaret Dickey / Prop Styling by Audrey Davis

Beef brisket is the most common latke pairing during the Jewish Festival of Lights. But for those looking to eat less red meat, or who simply want to switch up their holiday main-dish game, try braising chicken in a traditional brisket sauce. Heaped with sliced onions and flavored with red wine, paprika, and a touch of honey, the chicken is falling-off-the-bone tender with a deeply craveable sweet-savory sauce. And since chicken cooks significantly faster than a side of brisket, Hanukkah dinner doesn’t take all day to prepare.

Get the Recipe: Brisket-Braised Chicken

Onion Jam and Goat Cheese Rugelach

Credit: Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Margaret Dickey / Prop Styling by Audrey Davis

Originating in Eastern Europe, recipes for rugelach evolved after landing in America. The crescent-shaped cookies are typically layered with jam and chopped nuts and topped with a generous sprinkle of cinnamon sugar, but the dough makes a surprisingly compatible home for savory fillings. These are spread with a thick homemade onion jam flavored with balsamic vinegar, sumac, and coriander. Serve them as an hors d’oeuvre with a glass of sparkling wine while lighting Hanukkah candles, and save the leftovers for a decadent snack the next day.

Get the Recipe: Onion Jam and Goat Cheese Rugelach

Crispy Skillet Latke with Kale

Credit: Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Margaret Dickey / Prop Styling by Audrey Davis

For Ashkenazi Jews (those hailing from Central and Eastern Europe), latkes are the heart and soul of Hanukkah. Instead of frying batches of traditional pancakes, here the whole lot of shredded potato batter is pressed into a sizzling frying pan and finished in the oven. The oversized pancake emerges golden with a tender center and crackly shoestring curls around the perimeter. To amp this dish up for brunch, serve it topped with lox.

Get the Recipe: Crispy Skillet Latke with Kale