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Philly's take on Thanksgivukkah

Fancy restaurants and classic Jewish delis say what they’ll serve when Thanksgiving and the first night of Hannukah coincide.

Hymie's worker Joel Chesney with turkey breasts and manager Harry Zeisler with latkes.
Hymie's worker Joel Chesney with turkey breasts and manager Harry Zeisler with latkes.Read moreALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer

ONE WEEK from today, for the first time in 125 years and for the only time for the next 77,798 years, the first night of Hanukkah and the only night of Thanksgiving collide.

Call it coincidence. Call it festively fluky.

Call it "Thanksgivukkah."

To fans of both holidays, the rare occasion is a big deal. To honor the calendar concurrence, a 9-year-old New Yorker invented an instantly popular turkey menorah, a "menurkey." Homemade music-video makers have flooded YouTube with mash-up raps and Thanksgivukkah folk tunes.

As for foodies? They're using the ultrarare occasion to merge culinary traditions.

They're tweaking their turkey.

Next Wednesday, Old City's modern Middle Eastern restaurant, Zahav, will charge $39 a head for a one-night-only lineup of overlapping fare. Chef Michael Solomonov has planned a menu of Yemenite-style turkey necks with corn bread and cranberry stuffing, green bean and lentil salad with caramelized onions (his take on the green bean casserole; see recipe), honey-baked lamb with latkes, and challah doughnuts with sweet potato and burnt marshmallow.

"They don't celebrate Thanksgiving in Israel, so when else would we have the chance to blend these two things?" asked Zahav co-owner Steven Cook.

As of press time, there were a few seats left. Zahav is closed Thanksgiving Day.

At Supper on South Street, co-owners Mitch and Jennifer Prensky aren't messing with their traditional Thanksgiving menu. Next Thursday, they'll make bird and all the necessary fixins for 300.

But, through Global Dish, their catering company, the Prenskys have booked their first-ever Thanksgivukkah dinner party on the Main Line. The combined feast will include turkey, sweet potato latkes, matzoh-ball soup with autumn vegetables, Reuben stuffing (see recipe), pumpkin sufganiot (like bombolini) and "my mom's brisket - an incredibly Jewish-y thing to eat," said chef Mitch.

Prensky said it's important to tweak with a light touch. "You can sort of play around with the edges. You don't have to change the flavor of the turkey. . . . It's a little bit of a softer landing for people."

London Grill always hits both holidays hard. Next week, chef Michael McNally will add to his Turkey Day buffet a lotta latkes - traditional potato, then some made with Brussels sprouts, celery root, parsnips or sweet potato.

National outfits are getting into the act, too. Whole Foods devoted eight pages of its annual holiday takeout menu to the Day of Thanks, and two to the Festival of Lights.

Manischewitz offers endless recipes (including the Joy of Kosher's cranberry latkes; see recipe) on a website it created, dubbed Thanksgivukkah "The Best Holiday of All Time," and did a fancy photo shoot to show how to make a purplish Manischewitz-brined turkey. (Which actually looks delicious, so we've provided the recipe here.)

But not everyone is tweaking out about doubled-up dining.

Neil Parish owns the Kibitz Room, in Cherry Hill. "Usually we close on Thanksgiving, but we're open this year because of Hanukkah," he said.

He expects that most of his clients will do traditional Thanksgiving feasting at home, and "maybe they'll have potato latkes." The Kibitz Room offers hot latkes for $1.50 apiece, and typically sells up to 4,000 over the eight-night festival. They don't plan to add extra dishes for Thanksgivukkah.

For Parish, the calendar coincidence means that he can't close Kibitz. "It's a day I'd rather have off," he said. (His food truck, Reuben on Rye, will be serving potato knishes and brisket fries Thanksgiving night through Black Friday at an outlet mall in Tinton Falls, N.J.)

Hymie's Merion Deli is also open next Thursday, but for takeout only. Manager Harry Zeisler said he expected to "sell a lot of potato pancakes and turkey dinners" that day.

Zeisler said they might offer sweet-potato latkes. But as of press time, they hadn't decided. "Everything's last minute around here," he said.

The manager added that ever since the 50-something-year-old deli got robbed at gunpoint in July 2012, and a red pickup truck crashed through its front window in August of this year, he and his co-workers are just thankful to be open and healthy.

Call him a Thanksgivukkah mensch.


1 loaf seeded Jewish rye bread, cubed and toasted

2 cups pastrami, chopped

1 cup sauerkraut, chopped

1/4 cup kosher pickles, chopped

2 quarts chicken stock

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1/2 pound (one stick) melted butter

1/4 cup Gruyere cheese, shredded

Salt and pepper to taste

In a bowl, mix cubed bread, sauerkraut, pastrami, pickles and grated cheese.

In a saucepan, mix hot stock with mustard and heat until it simmers. Pour stock over bread mixture. Add melted butter. Season with salt and pepper. Let soak for 20 minutes.

Place in a greased baking dish and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Serves 8-10.

Source: Global Dish Caterers


1/4 cup beluga lentils

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)

1/4 cup cider vinegar

Pinch ground black pepper, ground

Pinch ground fenugreek

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cups green beans, stems removed, cut into 1-inch pieces

1/2 cup button mushrooms, halved

2 shallots, peeled

1/4 cup vegetable oil

4 cloves garlic, sliced paper thin

2 tablespoons flat parsley

Kosher salt

1 lemon

Bring two cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add a pinch of salt, the cinnamon and lentils. Loosely cover and lower the heat to medium. Simmer the lentils for 20 minutes or until tender but not mushy. Strain the lentils thoroughly and set aside to cool.

In a blender, puree one shallot with tahini, cider vinegar, black pepper, fenugreek and a pinch of salt. Season to taste with additional salt, and refrigerate.

Warm the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add green beans and a pinch of salt. Sauté slowly, so the beans don't burn but brown evenly. While the beans are cooking, thinly slice the remaining shallot and add to the sauté pan along with the mushrooms.

Continue to cook until the green beans are tender and lightly browned. Remove the contents of the pan to a bowl and keep warm.

In a small sauce pot, add vegetable oil, slivered garlic and reserved lentils. Bring up to high heat and stir continuously until the garlic begins to brown and the lentils start to swell. When garlic and lentils are golden brown, drain onto a plate lined with paper towels and season aggressively with salt.

To assemble, mix the tahini sauce with green beans and mushrooms. Season with lemon juice and salt, if needed. Place the dressed green beans on a serving platter and sprinkle the crispy lentil mixture on top. Garnish with parsley leaves. Serves 4.

Source: Zahav


6 quarts (24 cups) water, divided

1 1/2 cups kosher salt

3 tablespoons caraway seeds

1 tablespoon fennel seeds

1 tablespoon mustard seeds

10 cloves garlic, crushed

5 sprigs rosemary

10 sprigs thyme

4 lemons, halved

4 oranges, halved

3 750-ml bottles Manischewitz Concord Grape wine

1 18- to 20-pound turkey

1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature

Bring 4 cups water with salt, caraway, fennel and mustard seeds to a gentle boil. Stir to ensure salt has dissolved, then let cool to room temperature.

Pour into a 5-gallon container. Add the remaining 20 cups water, garlic, herbs, lemons, oranges and wine.

Remove turkey from packaging and discard excess liquid. Remove neck and giblet bag from inside turkey.

Submerge turkey in brine, making sure that it is completely covered. Refrigerate for 24-36 hours. If brine doesn't completely cover turkey, flip the bird over halfway through to ensure even brining.

To roast: Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Leave one rack in the oven, on the lowest rung.

Take turkey out of brine and dry thoroughly, inside and out, with paper towels. Take new paper towels to dry it again, inside and out.

Let turkey sit out until it is room temperature, about an hour. Rub room-temperature butter all over the turkey.

Place turkey on a roasting rack, breast side down. Cook in the hot oven for 30 minutes, or until skin on top starts to brown. Flip the bird over, turn the oven down to 350 degrees and cook, breast side up for 3 to 3½ hours, until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees on a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh.

If the skin of your turkey starts to burn, tent a piece of aluminum foil over the part that is burning.

Once the thigh meat temperature reaches 165 degrees, remove from the oven and let rest on a cutting board for at least 20 minutes before carving. Save pan drippings.


Drippings from roasted turkey

1/4 cup Manischewitz Concord Grape wine

3 cups turkey stock (or canned chicken broth)

cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 sprig thyme

1 sprig rosemary

Pour most of the turkey pan drippings into a heatproof container or bowl and reserve. Place the roasting pan across two burners over medium heat.

When the pan is hot, add wine and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon or metal spatula for about 15 seconds to loosen brown bits stuck to the bottom.

Strain these drippings into a heatproof container, and add enough of the reserved drippings to make 2/3 cup. Discard the rest.

Put mixture in a small saucepan over low heat and add flour. Whisk constantly over low heat for about 2 minutes, until it is sticky and pastelike. Slowly pour in turkey stock, whisking continuously. Add herbs and cook on low, whisking occasionally, for about 3 minutes.

Take gravy off the heat and remove herb sprigs. Serve immediately. Gravy will continue to thicken as it cools. Serves 14-16.



4 medium Idaho potatoes

Oil for frying

3 eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons matzoh meal

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

5 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries

Applesauce, optional

Fill a large bowl or pot with cold water. Peel potatoes and place in cold water to prevent browning.

Meanwhile, cut potatoes lengthwise into halves or quarters so they fit into a food processor feed tube. Process potatoes using the blade that creates thin, shoestringlike strips.

Transfer to a large bowl. Add eggs, matzoh meal, salt and pepper and mix well. Add cranberries and mix well until combined.
Pour oil about a quarter-way up the side of a large skillet. Heat over medium heat until hot.

Drop heaping tablespoons of mixture into hot oil. Using the back of a spoon, pat each latke to flatten it. Put as many as you can in the skillet without crowding.

Fry 3 to 4 minutes on each side until golden and crisp around the edges. Drain on paper-towel-lined baking sheets.

Serve warm with applesauce if desired.

Note: To turn these tart Turkey Day latkes into a sweet side dish, omit the pepper, reduce the salt to a pinch, and add 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon and 3 tablespoons sugar.

Source: "The Joy of Kosher"