Serious Entertaining: Hanukkah Dinner Party

Serious Entertaining

Seasonal menu planning for the perfect dinner party.


[Photographs: Carrie Vasios]

Hanukkah is a fun holiday. There are games (dreidel) with better-than-cash prizes (chocolate coins), and a free pass for indulging in fried foods.

Though a really good, freshly fried doughnut is undoubtedly a treat, my favorite Hanukkah food is and will always be the humble latke. So on this menu I serve them as the main course, with a few delicious bookends.

Cauliflower Soup with Crispy Shallots


This smooth cauliflower soup is an elegant way to start off the meal. Because it doesn't contain any cream, it's actually extremely light and a perfect primer for the next course, latkes, which is where people really want to gorge themselves. The crispy shallots add a nice textural contrast and an homage to the traditional fried foods.

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Latkes With Apple Ginger Chutney

I've tried all kinds of newfangled latkes (sweet potato, potato mixed with parsnip), but the traditional recipe is still my favorite. Where I will switch things up is the condiments. This Apple Ginger Chutney is a nice twist on the traditional latke accompaniment of apple sauce, using ginger and raisins to round out the fruit flavor. The chutney gets a slowly creeping heat from red pepper flakes, and the vinegar base helps cut against the heaviness of the fried food. The latkes themselves are just how I like them: crispy on the edges with a discernible sweet, oniony flavor.

Note: I always make 1.5 times the latkes I think I'll need. If (and that's a big if) there are any leftovers, I can freeze them and reheat them in the oven. Latkes for breakfast, anyone?

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Orange Olive Oil Cake with Candied Walnuts


This cake is dairy-free, but still supremely moist. The dough gets a nuttiness from ground walnuts and a brightness from a combination of fresh orange juice and zest. I make sure to use a fruity olive oil that will compliment the citrus flavor. To make this cake extra special for the holidays, I top it with crunchy, addictive, salty-sweet candied walnuts.

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