My parents’ marriage was what they called at the time a “mixed marriage.” Meaning my father was Jewish, my mother was Lutheran.
Neither side of the family was particularly religious, so it wasn’t a big deal to them. We lived in a diverse neighborhood, my mother’s best friends were Irish and Italian, and the Irish woman was married to a Greek, so it was a real melting pot. The winter holidays were fun because we got to celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah. I always thought the Jewish food at Hanukkah was awful until I spent the holidays with my husband’s family, and then I realized it was just that my grandmother was a lousy cook.
When we lived near his family, I used to look forward to celebrating Hanukkah with them. Latkes (potato pancakes) were always frying and there was always a juicy brisket, kishka, matzoh ball soup, and other delights. Since we’ve moved to Florida, we don’t get those familial treats, but there are plenty of places where you can make, that most Jewish of Jewish specialties, reservations!
Too-Jay’s Deli is offering a Hanukkah special that seems tailor-made for my family. The holiday prix fixe is $24.99 per person and starts with a choice of soup or salad and a choice of oven-roasted sliced turkey, baked salmon, or honey-cured ham (must be Reform Jews?!), as an entrée. The meal is accompanied by mashed potatoes, gravy, cornbread stuffing, green beans, cranberry sauce, and artisan rye bread. The meal concludes with a choice of seven-layer cake or pecan pie cheesecake. Maybe it’s a Southern Jewish thing, but I’ve never seen most of these dishes at a Hanukkah meal up north.
Evelyn’s at the Four Seasons Fort Lauderdale offers a Mediterranean-influenced Hanukkah meal Dec. 7-15 with a menorah blessing and lighting ceremony, Hanukkah treats at sundown, and á la carte specials in Evelyn’s such as potato latkes, red wine and pomegranate braised brisket tagine, and spiced cranberry jelly donuts.
On Dec. 15 and 16, Gary Rack’s Farmhouse Kitchen in Boca is serving a prix fixe meal in celebration of Hanukkah. The menu incorporates locally sourced farm-fresh ingredients and includes matzo ball soup, braised brisket with sweet onions, horseradish mashed potatoes, spinach, and tzimmes cake with apricots, carrots, and prunes, and cranberry sorbet for $55 per person, $27.50 for children 12 and under.
The one person in my family who could cook was my Aunt Harriet and her brisket was a treat. I’m happy to share the recipe.
Aunt Harriet’s Sweet & Sour Brisket
1 (4 to 5-lb.) beef brisket
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1½ lbs. baby potatoes, halved
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2" pieces
2 shallots, sliced into 1/4"-thick rounds
2 tomatoes, cubed
4 cups apple cider
1½ cups beef broth
½ cup brown sugar
6 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 325°.
Pat brisket dry with paper towels; season all over with salt and black pepper.
In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, heat oil.
Add brisket and brown for five minutes on both sides.
Remove brisket and reduce heat to low heat.
Place potatoes cut side down in fat rendered from brisket.
Put brisket on top of potatoes.
Add carrots, shallots, and tomatoes.
Sprinkle with brown sugar.
Pour cider and broth over all.
Add thyme and bay leaves.
Season with salt and black pepper.
Cover and simmer for 2½-3 hours.
Discard thyme and bay leaves.
Transfer brisket to a platter, shred, or slice, as preferred.
Arrange vegetables alongside.
Reduce liquid as necessary and spoon juices over or serve on the side.