Chanukah

Schnitzel (Boneless Fried Chicken)

img_1736I found schnitzel to be ubiquitous when I visited Israel, and like their hummus, delicious everywhere I had it.  Their schnitzel is so much better than what ours has become, basically a chicken nugget- that I was inspired to try and recreate it.  Of course thanks to the Internet, that’s pretty easy since there are lots of great recipes out there.   The one I started with is from Janna Gurr.  As she notes, and I agree with, it is best served with hummus, pickles and something green, like a salad.

Even though it is fried in oil, a good schnitzel should be light — not heavy, so make sure your oil is the right temperature and get your pieces in and out quickly.

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 half pounds of chicken.  (If you buy fillets you won’t have to pound them).
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, seasoned with:
    • Onion powder
    • Garlic Salt
    • White Pepper
    • Adobo Seasoning
  • 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • Dijon mustard
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Canola and Peanut oil for frying 

Directions

  1. If necessary, pound your chicken to scallopini thickness or whenever your hand gets tired (I find it optimal to not just pound but also cut the breasts in half or smaller.  This allows me to put more pieces in the pan at once, cook them faster and provide each one with more crispy surface.  But that is for you to decide).
  2. Beat the eggs in a bowl with dijon mustard and 1-2 tablespoons water.
  3. Prepare the flour by sifting it together with the additional spices.
  4. Add your Panko to a bowl and prepare a plate covered with wax paper next to it for finished pieces.
  5. First—Dip chicken in flour mixture.  Then, shaking off the excess, drag through egg mixture, and when done, drop in Panko. Place finished pieces on wax paper while you prepare oil.
  6. Using at least a 12-inch cast iron pan or equivalent, heat your oils to medium high temperature.  I find that the addition of a small amount of peanut oil adds a tremendous amount of flavor where canola oil has almost no flavor at all.  I tried sesame oil but it has too much flavor.
  7. Fry each piece for 2-3 minutes.  They should be golden brown, not dark brown.
  8. Salt them upon taking them out from the oil, and set them on brown paper bags (if your grocery provides these) or paper towels to try.

img_1733

Potato Pancakes You’ll Eat Standing Up

Potato Latkes, Potato Pancakes, Hanukkah Food, Chanukah Food, Jewish Party Food. Latke Recipe

Potato Latkes (aka Pancakes) that are crispy on the outside, heavenly on the inside, and delicious all over

If you are like me and spend most of your year avoiding potatoes and fried foods, then you will certainly love this potato latke recipe for Chanukah.

Most Jewish kids I knew regarded Chanukah as a special time, but somewhat less special than Christmas. And for many good reasons.  One, it often didn’t happen when there was no school.    Two, there weren’t any TV special cartoons about it.  And three, nothing that amazing to put in your mouth came out of it.  Sure, there was great food but nothing that made your head explode.   (I was somewhat shocked to realize that donuts are a traditional Chanukah food since they were never ever made or served when I was growing up).   Potato pancakes were served, but after you make these you’ll realize why not often.  They take a lot of work and they cause a lot of suffering (crying from onions; bleeding from the grater; burning from the oil; heartburn from inability to stop eating them).  And, they are by no means health food.   But they do remind us of one of the central ideas of Chanukah—which is that the oil we thought would last for one night actually lasted eight nights.   A great way I’ve found to make one night of oil last is to consume it by frying potatoes and onions in them and then they stay with me for at least eight days (or five if you go to the gym a lot).

Of course, I loved the latkes I ate growing up (with apple sauce), but I could never replicate them.  They would come out too fat, too potato-y, too flavorless.  After years of experimenting, I realized that when they are made right, latkes should resemble a crispy hash brown that you are invited to eat without silverware, ketchup or a side of eggs.   At my house, they never make it to table unless I have the discipline to start a long time before company comes.  Otherwise, we all just eat them as soon as they’re ready, and then no one wants to eat brisket, soup, or anything else (until later, when the donuts are served).

There was a post I found a few years ago called “Possibly the Best Latkes We Have Ever Eaten” by a NY Nosh (whose site was inexplicably replaced by a large picture of a leaf).  That recipe, (reposted here) called for boiling half of your potatoes which is a great concept but one that I believe results in some kind of crazy knish-latke hybrid which is delicious but not a latke.   So if you’re having friends from the Midwest in who’ve never eaten a potato pancake, by all means, go ahead make that one.  If you want a more traditional latke, this is the one for you.

On a tip from a friend, I started using half sweet potatoes.  I know that sounds like a crime, but it’s not.  They have almost the same exact consistency and a little bit of a sweet flavor.  It also makes them look more interesting, with their orange-and-white stripes.  If you can’t bear the violation of tradition, then use all-white potatoes.

Recipe  

  • 2 3/4 pounds potatoes (half sweet)
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 1.5 tablespoons matzoh meal or flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Canola oil, for frying
  • Salt for seasoning afterwards.

Directions:

In large bowl, grate potatoes and onion together.  This will help the potatoes not turn brown.

Once you’re done grating, you’ll need a separate bowl with which to squeeze EVERY BIT OF LIQUID OUT OF THE POTATO ONION MIXTURE.   So, you will have three bowls: one that currently has your wet mixture in it.  One that you will squeeze the liquid in to; and one where you will put the dried mixture.

This is important, because the one thing my mother-in-law taught me was that after you squeeze out the onion/potato mixture (and you wait) you’ll note that a white substance, like wet flour, forms and will remain, after you pour out the liquid.  THAT IS MAGIC STARCH. Scoop that up and mix it in to your now dry potato-onion mixture.

Then, add the egg, matzoh meal, salt and pepper.

Lots of recipes call for patties but I prefer using an ice cream scooper.  You pick the size, it’s your diet.

Drop scoops into hot oil.  It should sizzle when this happens.  Try a sample scoop to make sure.  You want your oil hot but not smoking.  It will take one or two (which you, the cook, will be forced to eat) to get it right.

I like to flip over the latkes and press them flat.  But you don’t have to.   When done, the latkes will have a crispy light brown look.  Remove them with a slotted spatula or tongs and dry on a paper bag (some people call for paper towels but I find them inefficient).    Salt them when they come off.    Hand to people who are standing near by.

Follow with a shot of apple sauce, or don’t, the latkes have already made the celebration special.

Chicken soup, Jewish Penicillin, Chicken Soup, Best Chick

My Grandmother’s Chicken Soup— The Cure for Everything Wrong in Life

Chicken soup, Jewish Penicillin, Chicken Soup, Best Chick

The soup begins life as a liquid-less amalgam of ingredients in a big pot.

During times of trouble, stress, sickness, sadness and lack of hope, there is little more soothing or healing than one’s grandmother.  And of all the grandmotherly things, chicken soup (often called Jewish Penicillin) is probably near the top.  (Her baking might be at the top, but it depends on the grandmother).    This recipe was handed down to me by my Grandmother Sylvia (and my Aunt Doreen) and I have successfully made it for holidays and sick people for about two decades.  It is alarmingly simple to make, as most of the work is in the shopping and prep.    It makes approximately 4 quarts of soup and feeds about 10 people as a first course.   It freezes perfectly, but you have to remember to add a little hot water when you reconstitute.  For the purposes of healing the sick, it is great to keep some in the freezer, because the last thing you want to do when you’re sick is wash and chop vegetables.

For about 10 years before I asked my family for the recipe, I tried my hardest to make chicken soup from a wide array of cookbooks, including the  New York Times and Silver Palette cookbooks.  They all contained funky ingredients like butter, white wine, garlic, vinegar, ginger, and never ever tasted like the soothing and simp broth I had at my grandmother’s house.  Don’t get me wrong, I think tweaking recipes is great, and there are endless variations on chicken soup which I celebrate.  But “Grandmother’s Chicken Soup” is a specific variation that needs to remain simple—and dairy free—among other qualities.

When I finally made my soup for my Aunt, she gave me two pieces of feedback— one, that cooking the soup too long (which I did) would make the chicken “fall apart”; and that using and removing whole onions keeps the soup clear.  Keeping the soup clear is very important if you intend to add matzoh balls or egg noodles— but as I am on a constant carb-watch, I don’t do those things. As a result of slicing the onions and leaving them in, my soup is kind of ‘atmospheric.”

Additionally, I found that the whole chicken legs are part of the final delicious, savory flavor, and that using only chicken breasts does not impart the same deep level of yummy soup satisfaction.   I can’t explain why that is, but don’t fault me for that–  even the scientists can’t figure out why eating chicken soup seems to help with the common cold (see NY Times article here).

This soup has been of one the stars of my cooking portfolio for years, and something people always ask me to make. At first I was reluctant because I wasn’t sure my grandmother would want that.  After all what’s the grandmotherly soup without the grandmother?  But I am sharing it now, and I hope that by sharing you too, can help heal the sick, feed the hungry, and give hope to the hopeless.   Or at very least, make a great first course at that pot luck dinner.

Ingredients 
  • 2 Whole Chicken Legs
  • 3 Skin on split bone-in Breasts/Chicken
  • 4-7 carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal
  • 3-6 stalks celery, cut into ribs
  • 2-3 parsnips, peeled
  • 2-3 yellow onions (my grandmother put them in whole and removed them; i slice them thin and leave them in).
  • fresh parsley
  • fresh dill (approx 1/4 cup of both)
  • 1-2 packages of Swanson Chicken Stock (I used to use College Inn but now I’m a convert).
Chicken soup, Grandma's chicken soup, Sylvia's Chicken Soup, Jewish Penicillin

Grandma’s chicken soup becomes savory, delicious, healing and ‘atmospheric.’

Directions

Salt and pepper the chicken pieces; lay without overlapping (as much as possible) in the bottom of a 5-7 qt dutch oven.  Place cut vegetables on top. Wash and chop herbs finely, squeeze out liquid and put on top.  Turn on heat.  When I can smell the chicken sizzling I pour in the chicken stock to about 3/4 full.   I add hot water the rest of the way.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for two hours.
Somewhere around the 90 minute mark I take out the chicken, remove the meat from the bones, and replace it (without shredding) in the soup.  After that, I remove the parsnips and discard. In the final analysis, If the soup is too thick I add hot water and if it’s too bland I add salt.   When done, remove the pot from the heat source.
When the soup cools (about 90 minutes), ladle into storage containers, and refrigerate or freeze.  Keeps in the fridge for about three days and in the freezer until the next person in your house gets sick.   When re-heating don’t overdo it or you might inadvertently dissolve the carrots, etc.   Serve with fresh bread, challah or soup nuts.   And always, always, give a grandmotherly smile of approval when they say they like it.  Sylvia would have wanted it that way.