The Chanucah table is laden with culinary delights. The 1914 Jewish Life in Modern Times, by Israel Cohen, lovingly documents the festivities and tasty dishes associated with this winter holiday. “Apart from his own peculiar dishes,” Cohen writes, “the observant Jew also adopts those of his native country so far as they can be allowed by his dietary laws, and he imports them into any land to which he may emigrate. Thus in the Jewish quarter of a Western city, one may see displayed in the shop windows the large dark-brown loaves reminiscent of the Russian Pale, the kegs of olives, cucumbers and gherkins that hail from Holland, and the tureens of sauerkraut and variegated sausages that owe their origin to Germany.” Despite these influences from other lands, during Chanucah traditional dishes are served by Jewish families. The “cuisine in Jewry,” Cohen continues, “is as distinctive an element in its social life as in that of any nation living in a land of its own.”
Below is a recipe from The Second Ave Deli Cookbook for gribenes, a dish popular during Chanucah. It is a dish comprised of fried scraps of fowl (the name literally means “scraps”) and is served with potato pancakes or rye bread. It is a wonderfully thrifty way to use up leftover chicken.
4 cups chicken fat and skin, cut into 1/2-inch pieces or smaller
Pinch of pepper
1 cup onion rings, about 1/8-inch thick
Wash fat and skin well in a colander, and pat dry. Place in a heavy skillet, and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Cook, uncovered, over low heat (you can turn it up a bit once the fat has begun melting). When the fat starts to melt and get slightly brown, add onions (and garlic cloves if you like), and continue cooking until onions and cracklings are golden brown and crunchy. When partially cooled, strain over a bowl to remove onions and cracklings, and refrigerate them in a covered glass jar. Poor schmaltz into another jar, cover, and refrigerate.