Potatoes perfect for Thanksgivukkah meal

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At Backyard, Kedan and his wife, Marianna Gardenhire, source sustainable ingredients from local orchards, farms, ranchers and fishermen. Their California cuisine recently snagged them a Bib Gourmand award from Michelin, which grants the honor to restaurants that offer two good dishes and a glass of wine for $40 or less.

For the Hanukkah dinner, Kedan will serve three kinds of potato latkes — made from Yukon gold, Purple Majesty and russet potatoes — that he sources from local farms such as First Light of Valley Ford and Armstrong Valley of Guerneville.

Since Hanukkah commemorates the story of an oil-based miracle, the foods most closely connected with the holiday, such as latkes, are typically fried in oil.

The Hanukkah miracle, according to legend, was two-fold. About 2,100 years ago, a small, outnumbered Jewish army expelled the Greek occupiers from the Holy Land. There was only enough oil to light the temple's menorah for one day, but somehow the light lasted for eight days and nights.

During Hanukkah, Jewish families mark this legend by lighting a candle on a nine-branch menorah each night, singing songs and playing dreidel, a spinning top game.

"It's a positive holiday," Kedan said. "Even when you think you're down on your luck, guess what? The oil is going to last, and you're going to be all right."

Both Kedan and Silvers said they have fond memories of the Hanukkah holiday from when they were growing up.

"My mom would come to school and cook latkes for the class," said Kedan, who grew up in Connecticut. "She makes the best kugel I've ever had ... and an unbelievable brisket."

Silvers, who grew up in Berkeley, recalls making latkes with his mom and sister in an electric frying pan.

"We would experiment with zucchini and sweet potatoes," he said. "The whole house smelled delicious."

For latkes, Kedan prefers to use a box grater to grate the onions and potatoes by hand.

"The secret is using good potatoes," he said. "You want them starchy enough to hold together with the flour, eggs and seasoning."

After he grates his potatoes and onions, Silvers runs hot water over them to remove some of the starch.

At Backyard, the latkes will be served family-style, with different toppings, such as applesauce and creme fraiche, gravlax and dill.

For the soup, there will be an army of light matzo balls. Both Kedan and Silvers prefer "floaters," the lighter balls that float on top of the soup rather than sinking to the bottom.

"I use schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) instead of oil," Silvers said. "I also use the boxed mix, only with soda water instead of regular water."

As the main entree, Kedan will serve a hearty braised beef brisket, with sides of roasted root vegetables and kugel, a pudding-like dish made with noodles, eggs and cottage cheese. Vegetarians can choose from a separate menu.

Gardenhire, who is Greek rather than Jewish, enjoys baking Hanukkah cookies for the dinner, including the rustic rugelach, stuffed with nuts, dried fruit and other Mediterranean treats.

"I love the tradition and the food that's associated with it," she said of the holiday. "It's about gratefulness and being blessed to have this oil."

Backyard is grateful to be celebrating its first anniversary this month, another miracle of sorts for the fledgling restaurant.

"When we moved in, the downtown was dead," Kedan said. "People told us, 'Restaurants come here to die.' ... But the community has really supported us."

The following recipes are from Dan Kedan and his wife, pastry chef Marianna Gardenhire, of Backyard in Foretville.

<strong>Potato Latkes</strong>

<em> Makes 18 latkes</em>

5 medium purple potatoes

2 yellow onions

2 eggs

1/3 cup flour

Salt and pepper, to taste

Grate the potatoes and onions together on a box grater. Whisk the eggs and pour over the potatoes. Fold in the flour, and season with salt and pepper. Shape into disks about 1/2-inch thick.

Using a nonstick pan, or a griddle, place a thin layer of oil, enough to just come up the sides of the latkes. Cook on one side until they are golden brown, and then very carefully flip them and finish cooking the other side. Drain on a towel, and season again with a little salt.


<strong>Apple compote</strong>

10 apples

1 cup sugar

2 cinnamon sticks or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Juice of 2 lemons

Peel and dice the apples, and place in a pan with the sugar and cinnamon sticks. Once the sugar has dissolved add the lemon juice, and cook until the liquid has reduced by at least half.



<em> Makes 4 dozen cookies</em>

<em><strong> For the dough:</strong></em>

8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

3 egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 2 whole beans)

Pinch of salt

2 1/3 cups flour

1 egg, for egg wash

Sugar, to finish

<em><strong> For filling:</strong></em>

4 ounces walnuts

1/2 cup sugar

Pinch of cinnamon

Pinch salt

10 ounces Damson plum jam

1 cup chocolate (70 percent cocoa)

1 cup Fuyu persimmon diced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For the dough: In an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, whip the butter and cream cheese together, add the sugar and whip until fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time (do not add the next egg until the previous egg is fully incorporated), add vanilla and salt. At low speed, add flour and blend. Separate into 3 portions and form into disks, wrap in plastic and let rest for one hour in the refrigerator.

For filling: Combine the walnuts, chocolate, sugar cinnamon and salt in a food processor and pulse. Fold in diced persimmon.

Roll one portion of dough into a 12-inch round, as thin as possible, then brush with jam and a third of the walnut mixture.

Cut the circle into 16 wedges, and then start from the wide base and roll to create a crescent shape

Place on a baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper, brush with a beaten egg, and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and cool on a cooling rack.

Repeat with the other two disks.

<em> You can reach Staff Writer Diane Peterson at 521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com</em>

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