Festival of Lights: Pairings for Chanukah

Festival of Lights: Pairings for Chanukah

“Ahh, Chanukah. It’s all about the latkes,” sighs food writer Miriam Rubin when she reminisces about her family’s holiday gatherings in Detroit. “Listen to passionate cooks talk about latkes, and the controversy never ends: matzoh meal or flour? Grate the potatoes by hand or with a food processor?”

Rubin, a CIA graduate and the first woman to work in the kitchen of New York’s Four Season’s restaurant, adores latkes and even makes entire meals out of them. But growing up, her father prepared his famous brisket to add to the celebratory meal. Rubin’s father was the cook in the family (mom was the baker) so “…Dad would be the one frying up the latkes and slicing his brisket with precision,” she says.

Rubin now divides her time between Manhattan and 88 acres in her log cabin in rural Southwestern Pennsylvania) and  presides over her own celebration of lights with her husband, David. She makes latkes, of course, and often recreates her father’s brisket. And what about the wine? “With my dad’s brisket, I like to serve a robust red,” she says. “Brisket is a rich cut of beef, so it can stand up to a really bold wine.” Rubin is a fan of the deep, intense flavors of Gundlach Bundschu’s 2004 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Another suggestion? Nod to Israel where it all began and open a bottle of the recently released Golan Heights 2003 Yarden Katzrin, an assertive blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc with whispers of cinnamon, dark cherries and cocoa.

With the crunchy, salty latkes, Rubin suggests pouring a very cold, slightly fruity white. Israel’s 2006 Galil Mountain Viognier is a mouth-watering match; it has hints of stone fruits and enough acidity to cut through the richness of the fried potato cakes and sour cream. Galil’s Viognier is also a great apéritif; perfect for sipping while the little ones play dreidel and count their chocolate gelt.



Miriam Rubin suggests leaving a light layer of fat on the brisket to keep it moist, which can be trimmed before carving. Irving’s brisket can be made a day in advance, and like all slow-cooked roasts, it’s actually better the next day.

One 6- to 7-pound whole beef brisket, excess fat trimmed

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

5 large onions, halved and thinly sliced (6 cups)

8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 325°F.  Lightly oil a large roasting pan. Sprinkle the brisket on both sides with salt and pepper.

Mix the onions and garlic in the roasting pan and spread them out evenly. Place the brisket on the onions, cover tightly with foil. Roast 3 to 4 hours, until the meat is very tender when pierced with a fork.

Transfer the brisket to a cutting board; let stand 15 minutes to set the juices. Pour the pan juices (with the onions) into a bowl; let it settle for 5 minutes, then skim off the fat.

To serve: starting at one corner, use a sharp knife to slice the brisket thinly, making sure to cut against the grain. Serve with onions and pan juices. Serves 12.

Alternate pairing suggestions: A spicy and/or fruity red like an Australian Shiraz or California Zinfandel will enhance the hearty, peppery character of brisket.

Sarah Belk King is a food, wine and travel writer based in Bozeman, Montana. She can be reached through her Web site, www.sarahbelkking.com.


Published on December 5, 2007
Topics: Chanukah, Pairings, Recipes

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