Cook for Hanukkah

Posted On December 29, 2009

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In many households potato latkes share the menu with chicken on Hanukka night dinners and at other festive meals. Whenever the menu includes meat, in kosher kitchens there won’t be sour cream to serve with the latkes. Instead, a main course with a savory sauce can complement the potato pancakes. Chicken stewed in a chunky tomato sauce with plenty of caramelized onions fits the bill perfectly. Flavored and enriched with the chicken juices, the sauce tastes great with the latkes. The recipe for this dish below has only six ingredients and is very simple to prepare. You can leave the entree to simmer while you are frying the latkes, or you can make the chicken dish a day or two in advance and reheat it before serving.

Another way to celebrate Hanukka, instead of serving potato pancakes, which originated in the Ashkenazi kitchen, is to follow an Italian-Jewish custom and serve fried chicken. To make it the Italian way, according to Edda Servi Machlin, author of Classic Italian Jewish Cooking, you marinate a cut-up chicken with lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, nutmeg and garlic salt. Then you flour the chicken, dip it in beaten eggs and deep fry it. For an easier way to prepare fried chicken, use boneless chicken and bread it schnitzel-style.

Fried meatballs are another tasty option. According to Wizo’s La Cucina Nella Tradizione Ebraica, an Italian-Jewish cookbook, Italians prepare fried meatballs in a variety of flavors, with chopped green olives, with spinach, with chopped cooked eggplant or with raisins and pine nuts added to the meat mixture. The meatballs are dipped in flour or bread crumbs and fried, then are sometimes briefly heated in tomato sauce. Or you might like to make Machlin’s polpettine di pollo e patate: Mix 21⁄2 cups diced cooked chicken, 450 grams of seasoned mashed potatoes and 3 eggs, form patties and fry them in olive oil. This way you have the best of both worlds, chicken and potato latkes in a single dish.

Chicken with chunky tomato and onion sauce > This tasty, easy-to-prepare stew depends for its good flavor on thoroughly browning the onions. Serve it with potato latkes on Hanukka, or with hot cooked rice or boiled potatoes on other occasions. If making the chicken ahead, skim fat from the sauce before serving.

Ingredients >
3 medium onions, halved and sliced
3 tbsp. olive oil
900 gr. to 1 kg. tomatoes, diced, or two 800-gr. cans, drained and diced
6 chicken thighs (about 900 gr)
salt and freshly ground pepper

Procedure >
Heat oil in large deep skillet or saute pan. Add onions and cook over medium heat, stirring often, for 20 to 25 minutes or until deep brown, taking care not to let them burn and reducing heat for the last 5 to 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper. Stir and cook over high heat for 3 to 4 minutes, until sauce begins to thicken. Add chicken, sprinkle lightly with salt and generously with pepper. Cover and cook over low heat for 25 minutes. Turn chicken pieces over and cook for 5 minutes. Uncover and cook for 15 minutes more or until chicken is tender. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve hot. Makes 4 servings.

Spicy fried chicken with capers > To prepare fried chicken is to use boneless chicken breasts, give them a spicy coating and add a tangy Mediterranean style topping like the capers and parsley in this recipe. The lean meat is kept juicy by the rich and crunchy bread crumb coating. To vary the coating, you can substitute whole-wheat flour for the white flour, or matza meal for the bread crumbs.

Ingredients >
4 boneless chicken breast halves (about 550 gr), skin removed
11⁄2 tsp. ground cumin
1⁄2 tsp. ground coriander
1⁄2 tsp. salt
1⁄4 tsp. ground black pepper
1⁄3 cup all-purpose flour
2⁄3 cup unseasoned dry bread crumbs
1 egg
1⁄3 cup plus 1 tbsp. olive oil
4 tsp. capers, rinsed and drained
2 tbsp. minced fresh parsley
lemon wedges (for serving)

Procedure >
Arrange chicken in one layer on a plate. Mix cumin, coriander, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Sprinkle 11⁄4 teaspoons spice mixture evenly over one side of chicken pieces and rub thoroughly into chicken. Turn chicken over, sprinkle with remaining spice mixture and rub into chicken. If you like, marinate for 1 or 2 hours on a covered plate in the refrigerator. Spread flour in a large plate. Spread bread crumbs in a second plate. Beat egg in a shallow bowl. Lightly coat 1 chicken piece with flour on both sides. Tap and shake to remove excess flour. Dip the piece in beaten egg. Last dip the chicken in bread crumbs so both sides are completely coated; pat lightly so crumbs adhere. Repeat with remaining chicken. Set pieces side by side on a large plate. Handle chicken lightly. Heat 1⁄3 cup oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add enough chicken to make one layer without crowding. Saute until golden brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Turn carefully using two wide spatulas. If oil in skillet begins to brown, reduce heat to medium. Set chicken pieces side by side on ovenproof platter and keep them warm in a 135º oven while sauteing remaining pieces. Sprinkle chicken with capers and parsley. Heat 1 tablespoon oil briefly in small skillet and pour immediately over chicken. Serve with lemon wedges. Makes 4 servings.

Quick and spicy chicken meatballs with mushrooms and peppers > These chicken meatballs, spiced in the Middle Eastern style, are easy to make with ground chicken or turkey but you can use ground beef if you like, or half beef and half chicken. After being fried, they are heated gently in tomato sauce with diced green peppers and sliced mushrooms so that they enrich the sauce and absorb flavor from it. If you prefer that the meatballs have more of a crusty, fried surface, serve the sauce separately.

Ingredients >
1 tbsp. bread crumbs
1 tbsp. chicken broth
4 garlic cloves, minced
1⁄4 tsp. cayenne pepper, plus a pinch for sauce
1⁄4 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. cumin
1⁄4 to 1⁄2 tsp. salt
285 gr. ground chicken (11⁄3 cups)
2 tbsp. olive oil
1⁄2 sweet green pepper, diced
1 cup tomato sauce
225 gr. mushrooms, sliced

Procedure >
Mix bread crumbs with broth, garlic, spices and 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 teaspoon salt, depending on whether you like food lightly or generously salted. Add to chicken and mix well. Make walnut-size balls, using 1 or 2 tablespoons mixture for each. Put on a plate. Refrigerate 5 minutes. Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add meatballs and brown them on all sides, taking 5 minutes. Reduce heat and cook over medium-low heat, turning them over carefully, until cooked through; cut into a few to be sure color has changed and they are well done. Transfer to paper towels with slotted spoon. Add green pepper to oil and saute 2 minutes over medium heat. Add mushrooms and saute 3 minutes. Heat tomato sauce in medium saucepan. If it is very thick, dilute with 2 or 3 tablespoons water. Add meatballs if you like. Add vegetables cover and cook 5 more minutes or until peppers are tender. Season sauce to taste with cayenne pepper. Serve meatballs in sauce; or serve sauce separately. Makes 2 or 3 servings.

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