So everybody knows that Hanukkah is all about miracles, right? I think when it comes to miracles we’re each entitled to our own, so I’d like to nominate my personal best modern day miracle: stepping on the scale after Hanukkah and noting that the number is lower than it was before the holiday.
This year, we’re combining our Thanksgiving feast with Hanukkah treats. That’s right. I know Hanukkah is “supposed” to happen at the end of December, but this year the Hebrew date falls in November, on Turkey Day! It’s all about crossing lunar calendars with solar calendars and somehow this year we wind up making latkes out of yams and tying paper dreidels to roasted drumsticks. I just know we’re going to waddle away from that table, fully stuffed, prayin’ for a really big mama miracle.
Somehow we’ll have to stagger through the next seven days and nights too. But we can handle it. Really. Strategy is important, as well as a few simple rules.
1. Eat your latkes standing over the sink. Everyone knows calories consumed over a sink don’t count.
2. For goodness sake, make those latkes smaller! No bigger than a quarter is good.
3. Choose unsweetened apple sauce over sour cream (like choosing water over champagne). It’s really great once you get used to it; so, um, subtle.
4. Eat no more than one latke for every candle you lit in the menorah that night. When you get to four, start eating ½ a latke for every candle. Better yet, eat the candles and light the latkes.
5. Drink two diet sodas for every Jewish Star cookie you consume.
6. Eat a carrot and pretend it’s a jelly doughnut. With frosting. And, oooh, powdered sugar.
7. Okay, if you must eat that doughnut, just suck out the jelly. Then do five hundred jumping jacks or jog three miles. Do that for each doughnut you eat.
8. Chocolate Hanukkah gelt is so cute. Eat only the small coins and put the rest in a charity box.
Armed with these preventive tactics, it’s time to get down to crafting the perfect latke. I’ve got my gourmet grandparents’ recipe, though I confess to taking a shortcut or two. I don’t grate the potatoes by hand because I don’t like the taste of my own knuckles in the food. So I use a food processor. Then there’s the agonizing question: do latkes of the purée variety, or shoestring? They’re both terrific, but such different textures! It’s a big decision. Sometimes I worry about it for days.
Anyway, when I do parties I always go with my grandma’s classic latke; then I dress it up by providing a topping bar, so my guests can mix and match. Some will go with guac and a poached egg, or slices of mozz, tomato, and a few fresh basil leaves, a shmear of brie, a dollop of jam, or a crumble of blue cheese… hey, the list is as endless as your imagination. Calorie counters will feel virtuous sticking with just the latke, in all its traditional simplicity. Or maybe they’ll just grab a basil leaf from the topping bar.
I’ve been known to wow my guests with “dressed up” Latkes with Caviar and Cream. Kiddies at my party table get my “dressed down” Sweet Cinnamon Latkes with Maple Sour Cream. Easier to make than they sound. Trust me: I’m your best friend in the kitchen.
Of course, you don’t have to cook up those incredible dishes, if you don’t want to. Just an idea. And you’re free to weigh in on your own miracle, your very own this-could-never-happen -but-it-did-so-let’s-party experience. We’ll celebrate it together.
Pronounced: KHAH-nuh-kah, also ha-new-KAH, an eight-day festival commemorating the Maccabees’ victory over the Greeks and subsequent rededication of the temple. Falls in the Hebrew month of Kislev, which usually corresponds with December.
Pronounced: muh-NOHR-uh, Origin: Hebrew, a lamp or candelabra, often used to refer to the Hanukkah menorah, or Hanukkiah.