Monday, December 2, 2013

Thanksgivukkah 2013: Once in a Lifetime

by EP & Xani

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You may have heard that this year, for the first time since 1899, Thanksgiving and Hanukkah overlapped. This rare occurrence was given an adorable name: Thanksgivukkah.

We decided to embrace this special occasion and convergence of two of our favorite holidays and create a fabulous menu, if we do say so ourselves. Although there won't be another Thanksgivukkah for a long time to come (some say 70,000 years!), we spent countless hours researching and preparing for this day, and we wanted to document this wonderful meal with friends and family.

Here was the menu:

"The Chosen Cocktail" - Jack Daniel's Tennessee Cider + Fresh Apple Cider + Champagne

Xani found the Jack Daniel's Tennessee Cider a few weeks ago and found this recipe which featured it in a champagne cocktail of sorts. The cocktail was delicious and definitely a great accompaniment to our hors d'oeuvres and schmoozing.

Hors d'Oeuvres:
- Chopped Chicken Liver with Pickled Onions
- Crudites with Bleu Cheese Dressing
- Olives

These are standard family noshes and all the credit goes to BCD Mom and Dad. Mom's chopped liver is the best in the business, and since we started serving it alongside pickled red onions, it's even better.

The crudites and olives are an homage to our grandmother, who always served them before Turkey Day when we were growing up. The bleu cheese dressing is our Mom's recipe and it is legendary. Someday we'll convince Mom to go into the salad dressing business . . .

First Course: Parsnip-Thyme Latkes with Creme Fraiche and Cranberry Applesauce

Of course we had to have latkes! Although latkes go against our rule that fried foods (which must be prepared at the last minute) are a no-no for entertaining, we gave it a shot. We used the America's Test Kitchen recipe for potato pancakes, but we replaced some of the potato with shredded parsnip, and we added thyme (an inspiration from a new DC deli, DGS Delicatessen).

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Perhaps we made too much batter?

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Our good friend Jamie provided the cranberry applesauce, a nice combo of the traditional Thanksgiving condiment and traditional latke condiment. Not surprisingly, it was a great accompaniment to the latkes - sweet and tart. We also used this as our cranberry sauce for the main course.

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The latkes had great flavor but tried as we might to keep them warm for our guests, by the time they hit the table, they were cooled down. This confirms our theory: latkes should be served a la minute!

Main Course:

Turkeys! Yes, turkeys plural. We -- er, Dave, Xani's boyfriend -- made two. He brined both birds using this basic brine ratio. The first ("Smokey the Turkey") was brined in a solution flavored with apple, citrus, and cranberry, and was smoked with cherrywood flavor.

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The second was DEEP FRIED! Yes folks, we finally did it. Dave brined the the second turkey ("Fryer Turk") in a pastrami-spiced solution, and then he deep fried it in the backyard. He was nervous that it wouldn't work, that he'd burn down the house, etc., but it turned out beautifully! We couldn't believe how juicy it was, how delicious the crispy skin was, and how quickly it cooked. The bird was about 15 lbs and was done in about 45 minutes, plus a 30 minute rest. This may become a yearly tradition, not only because it was so delicious, but it frees up the oven completely, and that's worth its weight in gold on Turkey Day.

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The couple that fries turkeys together...

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...stays together!

Warm Brussels Sprouts with Maple and Paprika - This recipe was a nice shredded Brussels sprouts dish that could be made on the stovetop. It was flavored with smoked paprika, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, and pecans. Solid vegetable, though let's be honest, with so many other great dishes on the table, sometimes the green vegetable doesn't get so much love. It isn't easy being green.

Schmaltzy Cauliflower Puree a la Irma - We decided not to have a white potato dish in the main course since we had had latkes in the first course. Instead we made a cauliflower puree, which had just a few ingredients: butter, heavy cream, cauliflower, and salt. We prepared it in the Vitamix so it was super creamy, smooth, and almost fluffy. But, we modified the recipe by doctoring it up the same way our grandmother used to prepare her white potatoes: with schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) and paprika sprinkled over the top. We replaced half of the butter with homemade schmaltz, and the cauliflower tasted remarkably like our grandmother's potatoes! This was a big hit.

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"Pastrami on Marble Rye" Stuffing, with House-Made Pastrami - We used Michael Ruhlman's ratio for stuffing (bread : eggs : stock)*, and we were inspired by this recipe for "a pastrami sandwich in stuffing form." But, as usual, we gave it our own twist. First we asked our Dad to make his homemade pastrami, which we then cubed up into little pastrami "lardons." Then we cubed up both rye bread and pumpernickel bread to give it that "marble rye" flavor. We used homemade turkey stock, parsley, thyme, and sage as the flavorings. Then we baked it for a while - there was a lot of it! It had a crunchy top and a soft center, and a lot of flavor. Definitely a great way to incorporate traditional Jewish flavors into our Thanksgiving menu.

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The night before, preparing the proteins!

* Xani commented on the Ruhlman blog post about stuffing and told him about our "pastrami on rye" take. He responded (!) and said it was "an inspired idea,"(!!) which had the two of us squealing and squee-ing, as we are total fangirls.

Manischewitz-Rosemary Gravy - Since we roasted neither turkey in the oven, neither resulted in drippings to be used for gravy. Not to worry - Xani used this recipe as an inspiration, and used some schmaltz, onions, and homemade turkey stock. She seasoned it with a bit of rosemary and yes, even used Manischewitz. Now she has the obligatory bottle in her pantry that'll never be touched, per tradition.

Rolls - Jamie brought a variety from Wegman's, which we served with delicious Amish salted butter, and a maple butter. Who doesn't love good bread with good butter? No friend of ours.

Dessert - Both of our dessert offerings were hybrids of traditional Jewish flavors and traditional Thanksgiving flavors and we have to say, both were great successes. First we had Pecan Pie Rugelach, from this recipe. EP did a test run of these cookies and found the pecan pie filling ran out of the cookies as they baked, leaving very little left in the actual cookie. So in the second run, she used less golden syrup in the filling, and chilled the cookies before baking. This prevented the spill-out to an extent, and they really did taste like pecan pie! The crust was tender and tangy from the cream cheese in the dough.

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We also made a Rye^2 Sweet Potato Cheesecake, inspired by this recipe (for the crust) and this recipe (for the filling). The crust was made with rye flour (the first rye) and ground up caraway seeds. The filling was a basic cheesecake filling, with some roasted sweet potatoes blended in, and seasoned with bourbon (the second rye!) and maple syrup. The cake was delicious and creamy, and the crust had a great caraway flavor and bit of salt, which played well off the sweet filling. The only thing we should have done differently was bring it in from the deck a bit earlier and let it warm up a bit before serving.

And that was our meal! It was delicious and the company was wonderful. We had a few really touching toasts from family members during the meal. It's not hard to feel super-thankful at moments like those.

One final thing for which we are grateful: SPARKLES! We decorated the table in gold and silver and tried to incorporate symbols of fall, Thanksgiving, and Hanukkah.

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Special place setting for Alex!
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Can't resist crafting the menu

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The favors doubled as place-cards. We used chocolate-covered Oreos (not homemade; what are we, crazy?) wrapped in foil to look like gelt. 

Happy Thanksgivukkah to all! Gobble Tov from the BCD Sisters!

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Hostess aprons are so hot right now

EP & X

A few more pics of our Thanksgivukkah crew:

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Alex meets Eddie. Eddie is unamused.

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Alex says "This better be good, Aunt Xani"

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This boy loves the camera!


  1. Hmmm - see getting a Vitamix is next on the kitchen wish list. I was wondering how you dealt with the turkey frying danger issue. Nicely thought out process for immersing the turkey.

  2. OMG. Sounds like an amazing meal. I was feeling very nostalgic for our childhood thanksgiving meal this year. (pie choices at my current thanksgiving include de-thawed frozen pumpkin and store-bought sugar free apple. *sighz*) I love the cauliflower idea!


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