There’s no denying that the season of food is upon us. For the past month or so, it has been impossible to escape conversation about Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve menus. However, I haven’t heard very much—not enough, I say—about Hanukkah in the scheme of this holiday food frenzy.
Unlike Thanskgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve, Hanukkah isn’t over in 24 hours. Rather, it spans eight nights, to celebrate the miracle when one day’s worth of oil burned for eight entire days to keep the eternal flame in the Temple of Jerusalem burning in 165 BC. If you celebrate Hanukkah, you’ll probably eat a holiday dinner more than once with friends and family over the course of the eight nights. Perhaps you’ll even gather to eat for all eight! (Now that, my friends, is a lot of food.)
Much of the traditional Hanukkah menu consists of fried foods such as potato latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts) to pay homage to the oil that lasted eight days. Often, brisket, blintzes, kugel, and challah find their way to the table as well. I love Hanukkah food—after all, who can resist crispy fried potatoes and juicy beef?— so I was extremely surprised when one of my friends recently cautioned that I should not make traditional Hanukkah meals to post on this blog.
He explained, “On most of the Jewish holidays, we usually eat the same traditional Jewish dishes. Beef brisket, for example, is one thing we eat over and over and over again. Our grandparents got those recipes from their grandparents… and so on. It’s not about the recipes anymore as much as it is the family history behind them—so most people aren’t looking for traditional recipes. What we want is something new, for the days in between when we want something a little different—more modern, I guess.”
I took that advice and ran with it, putting a modern, spiced-up twist on the usual latkes and beef brisket with the help of my slow cooker, barbecue sauce, Jack Daniel’s, honey, a lot of spices, and some jalapenos. Try them once, and I’m sure they’ll become a new tradition in your home!
- 1 lb barbecue sauce (can be store bought, or you can make your own)
- 3 jalapenos, diced and seeds removed
- ½ cup Jack Daniel’s whiskey, room temperature
- ½ cup honey
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 2 lbs beef brisket, visible fat removed
- Salt and pepper
- Jalapeno slices to garnish
- 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- ¼ cup flour
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 3 cups water for boiling
- Canola oil for frying
- Season the beef brisket with salt and pepper. Then, put the chopped onion into your slow cooker and lay the beef brisket on top. Cover and set to high.
- Pour ½ cup room temperature Jack Daniel’s into a medium saucepan, and then turn the stove on to medium-high heat. (Do not use cold whiskey, as it will not ignite. Additionally, make you aren’t pouring the whiskey into a hot pan, and that the stove is not already on as you pour, to avoid any accidental fires. Use extreme caution here!)
- Carefully tilt the saucepan toward the stove flame until the whiskey ignites. (You can also ignite with a long match, such as fireplace matches. The flame should not touch the liquid itself as you light it, rather, it should ignite the fumes coming from your saucepan.)
- Let the alcohol burn off until about ¼ cup Jack Daniel’s remains. Then cover the saucepan with a lid to extinguish the flames.
- Add barbecue sauce, jalapeno, honey, and cayenne. Simmer for about an hour, mixing occasionally.
- After an hour, add the barbecue sauce to your slow cooker, pouring it over the beef brisket. Cover the slow cooker again and let sit for another 6 hours.
- Place sweet potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover with 3 cups of water (make sure potatoes are completely covered by about ½”. If not, add more water. Then, add a tablespoon of salt to the water. Boil for about 10 minutes, or until they are tender but still firm. (I know what you’re thinking—Boil potatoes for latkes?—but if you want latkes that are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, this is the best method out there!)
- Drain in a colander. Then put potatoes through a potato ricer (I recommend using the Oxo Good Grips Adjustable Potato Ricer on the course setting), and rice the potatoes into a large bowl.
- Add onion, eggs, flour, brown sugar, cayenne, cinnamon, and a pinch to half a tablespoon of salt. Gently mix until all ingredients are combined, but don’t over-stir to mashed potato consistency. Cover and place in refrigerator until you are ready to fry the latkes.
- After 6 hours, check the beef brisket. Shred the brisket using two forks, and mix into the barbecue sauce. Set the slow cooker to warm.
- Add ¼ cup canola oil to a large skillet and heat to medium-high. After oil warms, carefully spoon about ¼ cup increments of latke mixture into the oil to fry (I used a ice cream scoop, and it worked wonderfully!). Fry for about 2-3 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Place fried latkes on paper towels to absorb some of the excess oil.
- Spoon warm pulled beef brisket over the sweet potato latkes and garnish with a slice of jalapeno. Serve and enjoy.
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