Did Jew Eat?December 21, 2011
“You know, I was having lunch with some guys from NBC, so I said, ‘Did you eat yet or what?’ And Tom Christie said, ‘No, JEW?’ Not ‘Did you?’…JEW eat? JEW? You get it? JEW eat? Not ‘did you eat…’” –Woody Allen in Annie Hall
First off, sorry for the ultra-sporadic posting of late. I’d offer some creative excuse, but the truth is we haven’t tried any new recipes or visited new restaurants lately, and we didn’t want the integrity of this blog to suffer from posting for the sake of posting. The MHK does have an upcoming vacation, so there will be plenty of things to post about during and after that. Thanks for you patience.
But with last night being the first night of Hannukah/Chanukah/Chanukkah, we thought a post about Jewish food was in order. With most of my relatives being Jewish, I have experienced traditional Jewish cuisine on several occasions, but have never attempted to make any of it at home. I think the main reason for that is many dishes are deep fried (which we rarely do at the MHK), and the others are, well…just not that appetizing. But there are several foods that are quite good.
Let’s take a look at a few dishes, starting with gefilte fish. It’s a poached mixture of ground fish, sold in cans and glass jars, and packed in jelly made from fish broth. Sounds delicious, no? No. The truth is that I have not tried this in about 25 years, but the memory I do have of it doesn’t motivate my taste buds to try it again.
Next, matzo ball soup. Served in an extremely salty chicken broth, matzo balls are dumplings made from matzah meal, the dough used for making the unleavened bread matzah. The dumplings themselves are pretty tasty, but I have never had a version of the soup that didn’t contain a metric ton of salt, which makes eating it a little difficult (even for someone like me who loves salt).
Matzah itself, on the other hand, is one of my favorite snacks of all time. The crunchy texture, topped with a little butter, is a real treat. It’s light and tasty.
Challah bread has gotten popular in the last decade or so with non-Jews due to its use in French toast preparations at many restaurants. It’s truly delicious bread, slightly sweet and similar to egg bread, and as mentioned, it’s perfect for French toast.
Last night an MHK neighbor made latkes, the potato pancake dish somewhat similar to hash browns, shaped into patties and usually served with applesauce or sour cream. Latkes, when made well, are really tasty. The last time I had homemade latkes before last night was probably 21 years ago at a friend’s house, but they added bacon to the batch (a very non-kosher thing to do), and they were amazing. Last night’s were made with just shredded potatoes, onions, salt and pepper, and then fried to golden brown. The outside was crispy, and the inside was tender and delicious. We didn’t even need applesauce or any topping.
Kugel is a sweet baked noodle pudding, often with raisins and spices. I actually find this to be delicious, especially when the raisins are omitted. It’s almost like pasta for dessert – strange, but very tasty.
Blintzes and knishes are more snacks than meal-type foods, but both can be quite good. Blintzes are like crepes, rolled up and stuffed with either fruit or cheese.
Knishes consist of a filling covered in dough that is grilled, baked or fried. Filling usually consist of mashed potato, ground meat, sauerkraut, onions, or cheese. I have only had the potato variety, and they are yummy.
So that’s a small list of many traditional Jewish foods. Perhaps we will attempt a few of these in the near future – if so, you’ll be the first to know. Have a merry ChrismaHannuKwaanzakah from all of us at the Mouse House Kitchen!