How to Host the Best Hanukkah Feast Ever – 5280 | The Denver Magazine

Posted By on December 4, 2019

AshKara chef Daniel Asher shares his Middle Eastern-inspired recipes for latkes, lamb, doughnuts, and more.

For Daniel Asher, Hanukkah is synonymous with his mothers cooking. My mom is amazing in the kitchen, says Asher, the chef at year-old Middle Easterninspired restaurant AshKara in LoHi. And Hanukkah was always a time when she would embrace her love of feeding us with reckless abandon. But reminiscing about childhood holidays is bittersweet for Asher these days: His brilliant, hard-working father, Maximo, died in August. The only times when my father would pause and be present were when we were at the table, Asher says. Hanukkah has always symbolized a time when we were together and connected. So, despite the increased levels of activity that restaurants (and their chefs) experience at this time of year, Asher makes sure to commune with his familyhis wife, Steph; their children, Fletcher, Judah, Morgan, and Tulsiand friends around the table during the Jewish Festival of Lights (December 22 to 30). Below, he shares a menu of lamb, latkes, carrots, jam-filled doughnuts, and more, based on the meals that his mother, Sheila, prepared when he was growing upenhanced with the contemporary Middle Eastern flavors Asher is known for. Food is my mothers love language, Asher says, and it became mine, too.

Click here for Daniel Ashers first-person story on what Hanukkah means to him now, in the wake of his fathers passing.

(A shopping list and meal prep timeline appear after the recipes.)

For me, the spirit of Judaismand the basic principle of being a thoughtful humanis about taking care of one another, Asher says. Feeding the ones he loves is part of that ethos. No Hanukkah table is complete without latkes, enjoyed here (above, from left) by Levi and Mason Dinar, sons of Ashers restaurant partner Josh Dinar, and Ashers son Judah. Ashers mother always made latkes traditionally, with potatoes and onions, but Ashers root-vegetable pancakes are what he imagines shed have made if she let loose. If there are latke leftovers, use them as the base for a Benedict the next morning, reheating the pancakes in a low oven.

Makes about 20 3-inch-wide latkes

4 medium waxy red potatoes1 medium sweet onion, halved through the root and peeled1 small beet, peeled small zucchini, trimmed and peeled small fennel bulb, cored small sweet potato, peeled2 Tbs. sea salt, plus more to tasteGrapeseed or rice bran oil, for frying2 large eggs, beaten2 tsp. herbes de Provence1 Tbs. all-purpose flourApple butterCrme frache

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Kugel, an Ashkenazi noodle dish (sometimes sweet, sometimes not), is a mainstay on Hanukkah menus; Sheila, Ashers mother, typically made hers sweet. Ashers version is a mix of styles, with sugar, cottage cheese, ricotta, milk, and raisins adding creamy sweetness and spices, including the Moroccan blend ras al hanout, lending a savory note.

Serves 8

6 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the panSea salt12 oz. wide egg noodles2 cups whole milk, at room temperature1 cups full-fat cottage cheese, at room temperature cup whole-milk ricotta, at room temperature4 large eggs, at room temperature cup granulated sugar3 Tbs. ras el hanout spice blend1 Tbs. Madras curry powder1 cup raisins

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My mom would begin cooking for Hanukkah a week ahead of time, Asher says, and Id help her. It was always a feast, combining my dads Eastern European favorites, traditional Ashkenazi Jewish dishes, and a bit of a Sephardic influence, as well. Roasted carrots were a staple at their celebrations, but here, the chef channels a popular AshKara menu item by adding ginger, coriander, pink peppercorns, and a saffron yogurt sauce.

Serves 6 to 8

For the yogurt sauce:1 medium lemon6 saffron threads1 cup full-fat Greek yogurt cup chopped fresh cilantro1 Tbs. chopped fresh parsleySea saltFor the carrots:3 Tbs. olive oil1 Tbs. crushed coriander seeds1 Tbs. sea salt1 tsp. crushed pink peppercorns1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced8 large carrots, trimmed, peeled, and cut into large chunksTo serve:2 Tbs. wildflower honey2 Tbs. pea shoots (optional)

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Ashers mother braised a beef brisket for every Hanukkah meal he can recall, but for this menu, he put a Colorado spin on the dish by marinating a local leg of lamb and then braising it in pomegranate juice, red wine, and tamari. Root vegetables, mushrooms, and dried fruits cook with the lamb, giving the resulting jus a rich, complex flavor. You can repurpose leftover jus as the base for stew or nontraditional French onion soup.

Serves 8 to 10

6 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil cup stone-ground mustard10 medium cloves garlic, minced2 Tbs. fennel seeds2 Tbs. dried mint2 Tbs. light brown sugar2 Tbs. ground cumin2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper2 tsp. zaatar1 large sprig rosemary, leaves picked and choppedSea salt6 lbs. boneless leg of lamb, tied2 Tbs. unsalted butter1 medium sweet onion, peeled and diced12 baby turnips, trimmed and halved6 assorted mushrooms, stemmed and coarsely chopped1 large parsnip, peeled and diced small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced4 cups chicken or vegetable stock1 cup dry red wine1 cup pomegranate juice cup tamari18 dried mission figs14 dried apricots12 pitted prunes cup dried currants2 dried bay leaves

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This colorful dessert salad, drizzled with creamy tahini and flavored with fragrant orange blossom water, is an homage to Ashers father, Maximo, who snacked on fresh fruit every night after dinner while drinking a cup of chamomile tea. Asher recommends buying orange blossom water at Arash International Market in Denver or Mediterranean Market & Deli in Boulder. Leftover fruit salad is delicious for up to two days.

Serves 8 to 10; yields about 14 cups

4 small oranges (navel, blood, or a combination)1 small pineapple1 medium, ripe melon (honeydew, cantaloupe, Harper, or muskmelon)1 lb. red grapes2 cups blackberries1 Tbs. orange blossom water cup fresh mint leaves, sliced into thin ribbons cup tahini

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Jam-filled fried doughnuts, or sufganiyot, are a Festival of Lights classic that represent the miracle of the oil. When Asher was young, he helped his mother fry doughnuts; today, six-year-old Judah is in the kitchen with his father. Cooking with my mom for Hanukkah was all about the joy of the family being together, Asher says. Now, its a time for me to be present and to cook forand withmy family. For me, cooking is the greatest expression of care for others. Take note that the doughnut dough needs to be prepared a day ahead of frying. Feel free to use any jam or jelly flavor you like, but Asher recommends Denver-based RedCampers whiskey-peach or blueberry-gin.

Makes 8 to 10 doughnuts

cup whole milk, at room temperature3 Tbs. granulated sugar2 tsp. active dry yeast1 large egg, plus 1 yolk3 Tbs. sour cream tsp. ground cinnamon tsp. sea salt tsp. vanilla bean paste or tsp. pure vanilla extractZest from medium blood orange plus 3 Tbs. juice12 oz. (2 cups) all-purpose flour, plus more for rollingGrapeseed or rice bran oil1 to 1 cups jam or jellyPowdered sugar

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A savvy host like Asher knows that a make-ahead punch recipe (courtesy of AshKara) and drink-mixing assistance free him up to complete last-minute kitchen tasks such as frying latkes and carving lamb. This citrus-and-spice-scented Miracle Punch is named for the Jewish story in which a small quantity of oil, used to light a menorah in Jerusalems holy temple, lasted for eight days instead of one. The fragrant base for this festive punch is oleo saccharum, a syrup of citrus peels and sugar that bartenders use to unlock the essential oils in the fruit. You can make the oleo saccharum up to 1 week ahead, but the punch base is best made within a day of serving.

Serves 12

For the oleo saccharum:2 medium lemons2 large oranges1 cup granulated sugarFor the punch base:2 black tea bags1 cup (8 oz.) boiling water3 oz. Greek Mastiha liqueurTo serve:Pebble ice1 cups (12 oz.) brandyChampagne or sparkling wine12 star anise pods

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(Note: Daniel Asher recommends buying organic produce, dairy, and proteins whenever possible.)

Fresh Produce2 large, 1 medium, and 4 small oranges (navel, blood, or a combination)3 medium lemons1 small pineapple1 medium, ripe melon (honeydew, cantaloupe, Harper, or muskmelon)1 lb. red grapes2 cups blackberries8 large carrots, preferably multicolored4 medium waxy red potatoes12 baby turnips6 mushrooms (button, cremini, shiitake, or a combination)1 large parsnip2 medium sweet onions1 small zucchini1 small butternut squash1 small fennel bulb1 small sweet potato1 small beet10 medium cloves garlic1 sprig rosemary1 small bunch fresh cilantro1 small bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley1 small bunch fresh mint1-inch piece fresh ginger2 Tbs. pea shoots (optional)

Meat & Dairy6 lbs. boneless leg of lamb, tied1 qt. whole milk1 cup full-fat Greek yogurt (8 oz.)3 Tbs. sour cream1 cups full-fat cottage cheese (12 oz.) cup whole-milk ricotta (6 oz.)Crme frache2 sticks unsalted butter

Other Groceries4 black tea bags cup tahini1 Tbs. orange blossom water1 qt. chicken or vegetable stock1 cup dry red wine1 cup pomegranate juice cup tamari18 dried mission figs14 dried apricots12 pitted whole prunes cup dried currants2 dried bay leaves cup stone-ground mustard2 Tbs. wildflower honey12 oz. wide egg noodles2 Tbs. light brown sugar6 saffron threads2 Tbs. ground cumin2 tsp. zaatar (available at Marczyk Fine Foods and Middle Eastern markets)2 Tbs. fennel seeds2 Tbs. dried mint (available at Marczyk Fine Foods and Middle Eastern markets)1 Tbs. coriander seeds1 tsp. pink peppercorns2 tsp. herbes de Provence3 Tbs. ras el hanout spice blend (available at Marczyk Fine Foods and Middle Eastern markets)1 Tbs. Madras curry powder10 whole star anise1 cup raisins (5 oz.)1 jar apple butter (preferably Ela Family Farms brand, available at Marczyk Fine Foods or elafamilyfarms.com)1 package active dry yeast8 large eggs, preferably cage-free1 to 1 cups jam or jelly (preferably RedCamper whiskey-peach or blueberry-gin, available at Marczyk Fine Foods or redcamper.com)Vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract5 oz. Greek mastiha liqueur10 oz. brandy1 bottle ChampagneOlive oil (preferably extra-virgin)All-purpose flourGranulated sugarPowdered sugarGround cinnamonGrapeseed or rice bran oilSea salt (preferably Jacobsen kosher sea salt, available at Whole Foods Market and Marczyk Fine Foods)Black peppercorns

Specialty Equipment/ToolsRolling pinCheesecloth or thin kitchen towel9-by-13-inch baking dish3-inch ring mold or cookie cutterCandy thermometerPastry bagLarge, round piping tip

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Up to 1 week ahead:

1 day ahead:

5 hours ahead:

4 hours ahead:

3 hours ahead:

2 hours ahead:

1 hour ahead:

As guests arrive:

Just before dinner:

30 minutes before dessert:

Just before dessert:

Denise Mickelsen oversees all of 5280s food-related coverage, and feels damn lucky to do so. Follow her on Instagram @DeniseMickelsen.

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How to Host the Best Hanukkah Feast Ever - 5280 | The Denver Magazine

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