Hanukkah, also know as the Festival of Lights, commemorates the victory over the Greek-Syrian army by the Jewish army - the Maccabees; who then reclaimed the Temple in Jerusalem. Hanukkah relates the miracle of one day's worth of oil burning for eight days, keeping the Temple lit. This is why Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days and it is also why foods for the Hanukkah table are primarily fried; to acknowledge the miracle of the oil lighting the Temple.
Beef brisket is one of the more popular Hanukkah entrees. Slow cooked over several hours, the ingredients vary from family to family. When purchasing your brisket, make sure you don't get corned beef, order uncured brisket.
Some recipes call for stewing the meat in fruits such as apples and figs; others prefer using brown sugar and vinegar for seasoning. Some cooks like to marinate their brisket before cooking, but this is personal preference. Brisket needs to be cooked on a low temperature for several hours in order to be falling apart tender. Try slow-cooking in the oven at a low 225 degrees over three to five hours. Using a crock-pot is another option, and may prove the easier method of cooking since you won't have to check on it or baste it regularly.
Other meats used for the Hanukkah table are roast chicken, lamb or duck.
Latkes, Side Dishes and Bread
Probably the most familiar of the traditional Hanukkah dishes is the latke, a potato pancake fried in oil. Your Hanukkah dinner will not be complete without including latkes on the menu. Grated potatoes and onions are mixed with eggs, milk, butter, flour, salt and pepper and then fried in a generous amount of vegetable oil until crisp. These are served pancake-style with either sour cream or applesauce and are best eaten hot out of the pan.
Other side dishes can include gefilte fish, chopped liver, pickled herring, green salad, or noodle kugel, a savory or sweet casserole. A kugel is a baked dish that primarily uses egg noodles. The noodles are mixed with flour and egg and combined with either vegetables or fruit and then baked.
The traditional Challah, a soft, braided bread, should also be served during the holiday meal. This is a white bread, made with a large number of eggs, white flour and sugar, and sometimes topped with sesame seeds.
Jelly donuts, known as Sufganiot are the traditional Hanukkah dessert. Not only are these deep-fried treats tasty; they also continue the theme of using oil to prepare the dinner. Other desserts for Hanukkah include cheese and fruit blintzes or Halvah. Halvah is a dish prepared with Cream of Wheat, sugar, cinnamon, and walnuts and baked.