By Linda Lombroso Last Thanksgiving, Ivy Eisenberg constructed a decorative bird out of thinly sliced vegetables to serve alongside her traditional roast turkey.
But this year’s convergence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah has pushed Eisenberg to be even more creative: On the dinner table at her White Plains home, she’ll display a “Thanksgivukkah” turkey whose feathers are made from sweet potato latkes, zucchini latkes and potato latkes, and whose face is a Bosc pear.
“I’ve done zanier things,’’ says Eisenberg, a comedian and storyteller who works in market research, and whose Passover seders often involve a skit.
While most hosts won’t resort to theatrics, the combined celebration of Thanksgiving and the second nightfirst day of Hanukkah — a phenomenon that won’t recur for more than 77,000 years — is turning many area kitchens into culinary think tanks, as home cooks strive to create dishes that reflect both holidays.
When Susan Andrade heard that Thanksgiving and Hanukkah were in sync this year, her first inclination was to deep-fry a turkey. Dishes that are fried in oil are customary during the holiday, commemorating the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days when the Jews fought for religious freedom. But Andrade doesn’t yet have any turkey-frying equipment and worries that the whole endeavor might require more attention than she can spare. Instead, the holiday dinner at her South Salem home will likely include oven-roasted turkey, potato latkes, homemade apple sauce and apple pie for dessert.
In New Rochelle, Lynn Green and her sister-in-law, Robin Gaines, sat down weeks ago to plan their joint “Thankgivukkah” menu, making sure to include dishes that added a Jewish touch to the traditionally American meal. Instead of a shrimp appetizer, they’ll serve rye crisps with smoked salmon. Potato latkes will be topped with cranberry-apple sauce.
For dessert, the choices will include rugelach with a pecan-pie filling and pinwheel cookies, to symbolize a spinning dreidel. And the cornucopia that decorates the table will be filled with the foil-covered chocolate coins known as Hanukkah gelt.
Amy Wertheim, who lives in Pearl River, plans to incorporate blue and white — traditional Hanukkah colors — into her table setting for Thanksgiving. She’ll roast a turkey and serve potato latkes as well as sweet potato latkes made with cinnamon, coriander and perhaps some raisins. The flavors will be both sweet and savory. “I want it to be more representative of the sweet potatoes we normally have at Thanksgiving, but I want it to be a latke too,’’ she says.
For Steve Gold, latkes will do double duty at his blended Thanksgiving-Hanukkah celebration in New City. In a reprisal of a recipe he created in 2002 — when the first night of Hanukkah started the day after Thanksgiving — he’ll fill his turkey with a potato-latke stuffing, fortified this time with pieces of challah prepared by his friend Hal Roth. He also plans to use that stuffing mixture for pan-fried latkes he’ll serve on the side.
“Every once in a while, it’s good to have fun things to talk about, and this is one of them,’’ says Gold of “Thanksgivukkah.”
Although Michelle Lynn won’t have latkes or turkey at her Thanksgiving dinner in Piermont, she’s decided to add a holiday touch with roast leg of lamb, served with stuffing, fresh cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes. “I thought lamb was more symbolic of my Jewish faith, and being that it was also going to be Hanukkah, this was my slant on it,’’ she says. “I don’t think it’s a customary Hanukkah dish as it would be more so for Passover. It just felt right, plus it tastes so good.” For dessert, Lynn will serve homemade profiteroles dipped in raspberry sauce, like a “mock jelly doughnutdonut.”
Eisenberg, who will host close to 20 guests at her White Plains home, is looking forward to the Thanksgiving-Hanukkah celebration. “Hanukkah all you do is fry everything and your whole house smells like oil. Thanksgiving you pull out all the stops and your house is turned upside down,’’ she says. “This is combining them, and it’s going to be so much fun.”
Her three varieties of latkes, topped with homemade apple sauce, will take the place of the mashed potatoes she usually serves with her turkey. Eisenberg’s niece will bring freshly made sufganiyot — the doughnut that’s traditionally served on Hanukkah — most likely filled with pumpkin. Other desserts will include Eisenberg’s turkey-shaped cookies (made with Oreos, malted milk balls, candy corn and red M&Ms) and little pilgrimpilgram hats created from fudge striped cookies.
And as the meal winds down, everyone will light the candles on the menorah.
Both Thanksgiving and Hanukkah are holidays of freedom and togetherness, says Eisenberg, and they’re all about food and family. Combining them this year makes the celebration all the more special.
“And from the viewpoint of diet, you get all the overeating done at once,” she says.