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How To Cook And Prep For The Once-In-A-Lifetime Thanksgivukkah Holiday

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Photo courtesy of Shiksa in the Kitchen
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This year marks the first Thanksgivukkah ever, which is very exciting for the avid eater, but also potentially very stressful for the ones doing the cooking, considering two food-centric holidays are being crammed into one. We thought we'd ask Tori Avey, perhaps more widely known to the food blogging community as The Shiksa in the Kitchen, for some tips on how to manage doing double-time holiday duty gracefully.

Here's what she had to say:

You're a big history buff. Can you tell us about the historical significance of this confluence of these two holidays coming together?

This is the first time that the Hanukkah and Thanksgiving holidays have overlapped since Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. Many American Jews who will be celebrating both holidays at the same time have dubbed this once-in-a-lifetime occurrence “Thanksgivukah.” It’s a very rare event due to the Jewish calendar slowly going out of sync with the solar calendar. Based on a recent calculation I read, it won’t happen again until the year 79,811. Both holidays involve a variety of traditional symbolic foods. Celebrating them together should be pretty epic.

Why is this combo holiday so exciting as a Jewish cook?

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The convergence of these two holidays has given me an opportunity to experiment with combining traditional flavors from both Hanukkah and Thanksgiving. Jewish holidays are often centered around food, and of course Thanksgiving is the ultimate food holiday, so there are a lot of options to get creative with.

What are some of your favorite recipes that you've whipped up for Thanksgivukkah?

I am really proud of my Deep Fried Sriracha Turkey recipe. Getting it just right wasn’t easy; we went through 6 test turkeys and so, so much sriracha. But the final result was this amazingly moist, flavorful, spicy-in-a-good-way turkey with the yummiest gravy I’ve ever tasted. The best part is that a 14 lb. turkey can be fully cooked in under an hour. I’m a deep fried convert. I may never roast again.

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Photo courtesy of the Shiksa in the Kitchen

For the most part, people will be riffing on latkes for Thanksgivukkah. Do you have a favorite way to do this? Any tips from a pro?
This year I played with the idea of a latke based on brown sugar sweet potato casserole. The result was a sweet potato latke with brown sugar syrup and cayenne candied pecans that can be served either savory or sweet. They’re so addictive. I also developed a curry vegetable latke recipe for a less starchy, more spicy take on latkes. It’s awesome topped with labaneh cheese.

The best advice I can give when it comes to latkes is to get as much liquid out of your potato shreds as possible before mixing in the egg and other stuff. Really wring them out in cheesecloth or a tea towel. The less moisture in the shreds, the better your results will be. You should also make sure to fry them at the right temperature—if the oil is too cold, they’ll soak up too much grease. If the oil is too hot, they’ll brown before they’re fully cooked. Also smaller latkes fry up crispier.

We imagine there's a lot of pressure considering there are two holidays on one day. What is the one mistake that cooks should try to avoid in order to make their lives less stressful?

It’s so important to make some things ahead of time, if you can. Casseroles, crisps, pies, cakes and kugels can be made ahead and reheated if necessary. Latkes can be fried a few hours ahead and crisped up in the oven again just before serving (the convection oven setting makes for a crispier result). Even making something as simple as salad dressing the day before is a good idea. The less little details you need to handle on the day of the meal, the better. I’m also a huge fan of lists and schedules. Make one for the week before, the day before and the day of. It really helps to keep on track and stay focused so you’re not scrambling around at the last minute to finish everything.