This year, the 24th of this month isn’t just Christmas Eve; it also marks the first night of Hanukkah. To celebrate the occasion, host a party with this menu, created exclusively for Williams-Sonoma by Leah Koenig, author of the cookbook Modern Jewish Cooking: Recipes & Customs for Today’s Kitchen.
While each dish on the menu is rooted in tradition, here, Leah keeps the flavors and format fresh. Serve this menu of flavor-packed finger foods as we would: during cocktail hour with Champagne or sparkling cocktails.
“When it comes to food, the focus is oil,” Leah explains. “The story goes that the Maccabees were only able to find enough olive oil to light the Temple’s menorah for one night. But miraculously, the oil lasted eight full days and nights. The ‘miracle of oil’ translates today into all sorts of fried foods, most notably potato latkes.” She particularly loves making beet latkes, as the red root vegetable adds color and sweet, earthy flavor to the dish.
Salty-sour olives, a classic on the Mediterranean table, are a nice counterpoint to the pancakes. “To round out the party menu, [add] some bright and briny marinated olives to cut through all the fried deliciousness,” she suggests.
“I love the way the smoked trout on the crostini pairs with the earthiness of the beet and carrot latkes,” Leah explains. The smoked trout, shallots and capers cater to a sophisticated palate, yet the crostini are incredibly simple to assemble.
Fried cauliflower is a nod not only to the holiday’s miracle of oil, but also to Sephardi Jewish heritage. “Fried cauliflower is a popular side dish in Sephardi cuisine,” Leah tells us. Typically, it’s served simply with salt and a little lemon juice, but here she breaks from custom, offering a creamy, spicy and addictive cilantro sauce for dipping, adding: “Think of it as the Jewish answer to the jalapeño popper.”
“Potato latkes and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts) are the most well-known Hanukkah dishes in this country, so I wanted to make sure I had riffs on both of those classics,” Leah said of her fried dessert. The doughnut bites are a twist on the larger sufganiyot served at most Hanukkah celebrations; they make for an equally sweet ending to the celebration.
Check out our Hanukkah tabletop collection to find everything you need for a celebration showcasing the holiday’s colors and motifs.