pasta in brodo, hanukkah edition
potato & fried onion dumplings in chicken broth
Christmas, meet Hanukkah.
I won’t pretend to compete with the fanfare of Christmas (I too cannot resist mulled wine and a twinkling tree), but there are a few holidays us Jews really get right. Hanukkah—the eight-day Festival of Lights that begins this weekend—is one of them. To keep things brief, the story of Hanukkah echoes a theme you’ll find at the heart of most Jewish celebrations: someone tried to kill us, we prevailed, let’s eat! (This time it’s actually about a victory over a tyrant king trying to force us to worship other gods. But you get the point.) And the food served during Hanukkah is particularly delicious because, well, it’s fried. Sizzling potato pancakes (latkes) topped with apple sauce or sour cream and yeasted jelly-filled donuts (sufganiyot) are, of course, the most popular dishes. There’s also not-fried Hanukkah gelt (chocolate coins), and the familiar brisket and kugels often make an appearance, too.
But the use of oil isn’t just because it makes food taste good—it’s a reminder of a miracle. After a years-long battle, the Jews reclaimed their religious freedom and sought to rededicate their temple in Jerusalem. To do so, they needed oil to light the temple’s menorah (a seven-branched candelabra that was always alight) but they could only find enough to burn the flames for one night. Enter the miracle: The oil lasted for eight days, giving them time to secure more oil and keep the eternal flame lit.
Back to Christmas. I mentioned in my last post that the festive period, more than any other time of year, is when it’s customary to make pasta from scratch. Small, usually meat-filled pastas—Bologna’s tortellini, Romagna’s cappelletti, Parma’s anolini—are the hallmark of many Italian holiday tables, and a symbol of the richness of the season. This abundance is marked both by the high price of these dishes’ ingredients, and the copious amount of time and labor required to make them. For an added bit of luxury, these pastas are served in brodo—a luscious, slow-simmered meat broth.
Today’s recipe takes the blueprint of Christmastime pasta in brodo and infuses it with a touch of Hanukkah flair: a latke-like potato and fried onion filling wrapped in a kreplach (Jewish dumpling)-style shape and finished in a variation of my grandma’s chicken broth. It’s got the same special occasion vibes while also being a little more…casual. Make it for the holidays or save it for January, when the festive chaos subsides and we all need a soul-soothing bowl of soup the most.