At first blush, the idea of fusing the familiar foods of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah seems like an unholy and unnecessary pairing, even when it marks a convergence of two holidays that will not occur again for another 79,000 years or so.
Because Hanukkah begins on the night before Thanksgiving and continues for six nights after Turkey Day, many Jews have decided there is plenty of time to enjoy potato latkes, applesauce and rugelach without inviting a big turkey to share the table.
But given the media and commercial hoopla surrounding Thanksgivukkah -- a term coined and trademarked in Boston -- it's hard for Jews to resist celebrating it in some culinary way.
The holidays overlap this year because of the relative lateness of Thanksgiving and the earliness of Hanukkah. The Jewish calendar gets so off balance an entire month has to be added about every three years.
Exactly when it will occur again is not certain, but it is for sure that no one reading this today will experience it again.
So Deanna Burson and her 15 guests will embrace both when they gather around her table on Thanksgiving as they have for at least 40 years.
The first thing they will notice is the menorah -- aptly crafted years ago as a bird that resembles a turkey -- placed atop her collection of handmade fabric pumpkins on the table. Two other traditional Hanukkah items -- chocolate candy "coins" known as gelt, and dreidels, the tops spun during the celebration -- will be present as well.
Burson always provides favors to her guests, and this year it is a small bag of gelt and a toy turkey that raises its hat when exposed to enough light.
Instead of the family's traditional sweet potato casserole, Susan Stein, Burson's niece, will bring latkes made with sweet potatoes.
This version, unlike the traditional type made with white potatoes, contains no onions.
"I was going for sweet flavors," said Stein, who adds some brown and white sugar to the mixture as well as pinches of cumin and red pepper.
Instead of the usual applesauce, the sweet pancakes will be served with applesauce blended with fresh cranberries cooked with sugar.
Along with an array of pies and other desserts, guests will be offered sugar cookies cut to look like dreidels and Stars of David, sprinkled with blue-tinted sugar.
Blue, white and silver -- the traditional colors of Hanukkah -- are stumbling blocks for some Jews who thought about fusing their celebrations before giving up.
"My family is separating the two," said Melissa Faber, who puts as much emphasis on holiday decorations as the food. "I just can't handle orange and brown and blue and silver."
Burson got around that challenge by going for the gold of the gelt and choosing orange and white candles for her menorah, which is made of silver and brass.
Even if they aren't fusing their foods, many Jewish families will light candles on their menorahs before or after they eat, depending on the timing of the dinner.
"We'll be lighting Hanukkah candles, and I think that makes the day more celebratory and brighter than usual," said Jill Buring, who will be hosting a gathering of about 35 family members and friends. "We will not be exchanging gifts. What I love about Thanksgiving is it is a holiday that brings families together for a time that is not about gifts. We're together because we love being together."
Other members of the family will have their traditional Hanukkah parties featuring latkes and gifts on the nights that follow Thanksgiving.
"There's only so many latkes you can eat," Buring said.
She will continue her Thanksgiving tradition of serving her Jewish grandmother's corned beef, cabbage and carrots in addition to turkey and all its usual trimmings.
"Judaism is all about traditions, and I like to carry on hers," said Buring, who also celebrates her birthday Nov. 28.
Carol Franklin doesn't have to make an adjustment to her Thanksgiving menu to mark the occasion. The mixture she always uses to stuff her turkey contains grated white potatoes along with dried breadcrumbs.
"My mother always made it, and it is delicious," said Franklin, who grew up in St. Louis with parents who were New Yorkers.
"Since Thanksgiving is a major secular holiday and Hanukkah is a minor Jewish holiday, I am mostly acquiescing to the national holiday," Carol Franklin said.
Like many other Jews, she is happy for the twofer holiday because it gives her the chance to celebrate Thanksgiving and Hanukkah with her grandchildren who live in St. Louis.
"We've never had Hanukkah with them because we're always together on Thanksgiving," she said.
Recipes for this convergence of holidays abound on the Internet, especially Pinterest, and include challah stuffing, sweet potato tzimmes pie, mashed potatoes with horseradish and chives and pumpkin-flavored challah, latkes and kugel. An easy Thanksgiving recipe for chocolate peanut
butter acorns unexpectedly doubles as dessert dreidels.
When this once-in-many-lifetimes event is over, some of the recipes invented for it might stick around.
It's easy to imagine apple-cranberry sauce on future Thanksgiving buffets and sweet potato latkes frying up with the traditional version for Hanukkahs to come.
And what could be so bad about that?
Sweet Potato Latkes
Makes about 16 3-inch latkes; serves 6-8 as a side dish.
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (or matzo meal)
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
2 large eggs, beaten
Oil for frying
Grate the sweet potatoes coarsely.
In a separate bowl, mix the flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking, powder, cayenne pepper, cumin and salt and pepper. Add the dry ingredients to make a stiff batter. Add the sweet potatoes and the eggs and mix. The batter should be moist but not runny.
Heat 1/4 inch of oil in a frying pan until it is barely smoking. Drop the batter by tablespoonsful and flatten. Fry over medium-high heat several minutes on each side until golden. Drain on paper towels and serve.
-- Courtesy of Susan Stein
1 bag (12 ounces) fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
Cornstarch for thickening
1 jar (18 ounces) natural applesauce, chunky or smooth
Cook the cranberries with sugar in a cup of water according to the directions on the package until the berries burst. Thicken with cornstarch and continue to boil until the cranberries are similar in consistency to the applesauce. Mix the two. Chill and serve.
Note: You can add cinnamon and a little Concord grape wine, if desired.
-- Courtesy of Susan Stein
Roasted Garlic & Rosemary Pumpkin Hummus
1-2 cloves roasted garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons water
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
1/2 teaspoon finely minced fresh rosemary (more to taste)
Salt to taste
To get the taste of roasted garlic, simmer the peeled cloves in a small saucepan with olive oil for 15-20 minutes over low-medium heat. The garlic gets the roasted flavor, and you get some bonus garlic-infused olive oil.
Puree all ingredients except rosemary in a blender or food processor until smooth. Add more oil or water as needed. Stir in the rosemary (I found the blender didn't like the tough rosemary pieces in there, so I just stirred it in at the end).
Serve with warm naan, apple slices, crackers, carrots, wheat toast, roasted vegetables, pita bread, etc.
-- From pinchofyum.com
Peanut Butter Fudge Dreidels (Acorns)
Makes 48 acorns.
24 dark chocolate Kisses
24 milk chocolate Kisses
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
24 semisweet chocolate chips
24 peanut butter chips
48 Nutter Butter Bites
Unwrap the Kisses and arrange all the ingredients on a piece of parchment paper or directly on the countertop.
Melt 1/4 cup peanut butter chips in the microwave oven for about 20-30 seconds. Stir the chips and microwave them for 10-30 more seconds -- don't overcook.
Set the bowl of melted peanut butter chips in a larger bowl of very hot to boiling water so the chips stay melted.
Assemble the acorns: Put a small dab of melted peanut butter chips on one side of a Nutter Butter Bite (these are mini-cookies about the size of quarter). Immediately "glue" a Kiss to the Nutter Butter Bite. Set aside, and continue gluing the rest of the Kisses. After a minute or two, they will harden enough to add the acorn tops.
Add the acorn tops: Put a tiny dab of melted peanut butter on the other side of the cookie, and top with a chocolate or peanut butter chip. Set aside to harden.
-- From Food.com