Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Hanukkah Gelt for Dinner!

Oh? Were you expecting chocolate?
It’s every child’s dream, right? No, I’m not suggesting that anyone fill their plate with chocolate coins. Sorry. But there is another way. Think: if you wanted to have golden coins on your plate for Hanukkah dinner, what would you use? Carrots!

It’s traditional. The traditional Hanukkah dish for Ashkenazi Jews is latkes. I love latkes, all crunchy and wonderful. I have heard that Israeli tradition is jelly doughnuts, sufganiyot, which are deep fried and then filled. It’s not the same. You can fry carrots. Seriously. Then you have the traditional dish of Italian Jews, carote alla giudia, which I make year round. I only have latkes at Hanukkah: they’re a lot of work and they’re oily. But braised carrots are easy and not that bad for you. You use oil and it looks like coins! What could be more appropriate?

I’ve made this for years, and honestly it works better as a series of ideas, instead of hard-and-fast measurement. It scales pretty well, if you pan is big enough. I use a big skillet and cook about six carrots at the same time, that’s probably about a pound or a pound-and-a-half.

Sliced carrots! (You've seen these.)
Peel and slice the carrots into thin discs. I’m pretty good with a knife, or it can be done with a mandolin (as long as you indemnify and hold me harmless). I like to salt them as I go, so the salt starts to pull moisture from the carrots.

Soak about quarter cup of raisins in about a half cup of white wine. (The source from which I am adapting this, Cuicina Ebraica, by Joyce Goldstein, recommends sweet white wine, but a light, dry, non-oaky one works fine).

Heat up a large saucepan, and add some olive oil. Cook the carrots in the olive oil. They should not only cook, but dry and brown a little. Give them a little color. (The last time I did this recipe, I was in a bit of a hurry, and didn’t color them as much as I would like to; they were still good.) Add additional salt if needed, and add pepper.

Sauté then braise
When the carrots have started cooking, add some pine nuts (I forgot those last night, so don’t look for them in the pictures) and cook a little further. Add the raisins and wine, cover the pan, reduce to a simmer, and cook for about 20 minutes. When done, if there is a lot of liquid in the pan, increase the heat to reduce the liquid to the consistency of a thin syrup.

I find that I can use far less oil that Goldstein recommends, and by using olive oil (this is made traditionally with rendered goose fat, which my market never seems to have), it's not an unhealthy dish. It's even vegan!

That’s how you get wonderful golden coins—Hanukkah gelt— on your dinner plate.
To review:
1 to 1½ pounds carrots, peeled and thinly sliced.
¼ cup raisins (golden is preferred)
½ cup white wine
3 tablespoon pine nuts
Olive oil for the pan
Salt and pepper to taste.

Sauté the carrots. Add the pine nuts. Add the raisins and wine. Cover and simmer. Reduce the liquid if necessary.

Happy Hanukkah!
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