Hanukkah Face-Off: Ashkenazi Dish #4


Hanukkah is a time for enjoying Jewish culinary traditions with family and friends, and to that end we present a daily competition between Ashkenazi and Sephardic food, going up around sunset on the first seven days of Hanukkah – and presenting a wrap-up as the sun goes down on the eighth day. Whose food is the most appealing? Help us decide with your comments and social media shares.

Alas, my Sephardic-lobbying challenger makes a good case today. More often then not, matzo is nothing more than a consolation prize for carb lovers. For others, it is largely ignored, or it’s merely picked at in broken pieces in between plague-acknowledging chest pounds.

But — wait just a minute — Passover Sedars occur once or twice a year. And even observant Jews rarely present matzo at the dinner table on a regular basis. Why? Because no sane person would succumb to a sharp-edged, dry cracker when the alternative is the gloriously rich and moist wonder known as challah bread. With its golden exterior and fluffy body, challah closely resembles a classic brioche. However, unlike its French cousin, most challah recipes omit the use of dairy products, allowing the end result to remain parve (kosher).

Sometimes homemade challah can be fussy (especially if you’ve already spent an hour in line at Zabar’s arguing over which brisket cuts look lean). So put away your stand mixer and buy a loaf instead. Even better? Buy the pictured mini challah rolls from Hot Bread Kitchen, a Harlem-based bakery and non-profit organization that helps low-income individuals secure jobs in the food industry. The group’s positive work is bolstered by the fact that their products are stellar.