You know how you always skin your knuckles without fail when grating potatoes and onions for Hanukkah latkes? It got us thinking, about holiday traditions, knuckles, and the best Jewish holiday dishes. Chicken liver always comes to mind, but what about other liver and offal for the festival of lights? This train of thought took off and soon enough we were in staff meetings excitedly brainstorming lists and planning photo shoots of unusual offal-based Hanukkah treats — one to celebrate each of Hanukkah’s eight crazy nights. The following is what we came up with.
So light your candles and give these slightly tweaked holiday party favorites a try. There’s something here for any Hanukkah celebration: dishes for small gatherings, main courses for big dinner parties, family-style meals and buffet potlucks, as well as latke party appetizers. The common theme is that they all combine traditional concepts with various offal: heart, liver, tongue, and oxtail. More importantly, they’re as delicious as they are festive. Happy Hanukkah!
1. Beef, Liver, and Onion Meatballs
Beef liver has a unique iron tang. If you love it, you really, really love it. For liver fans, these meatballs are a fun toothpick appetizer for a party. To make, mix finely chopped liver with ground beef, sauteed onions, spices, and egg. Roll the mixture together into balls, then fry them in a pan. Bring them to a potluck and watch what happens: Even non-liver lovers will enjoy them, as the caramelized onions balances the liver in a lovely way, tying these meatballs together.
2. Triple L: Lamb Liver Latkes
What could possibly make a latke better? Lamb liver, it turns out. Before you get up in arms about messing with tasty tradition, try it! Get some liver, slice it thin, and marinate overnight with salt, pepper, and oil (we used safflower). Fry the liver hot and fast so it gets crispy on the outside but remains tender on the inside. Then serve it on top of a crispy latke with a granny smith slice instead of the usual apple sauce for a little sweetness, plus pickled onions for a little bite.
3. Lamb Heart Sliders
If you’re a newcomer looking to break into the world of offal, consider these tasty sliders your training wheels; you may not even notice the heart. Mix ground lamb with minced lamb heart, then shape sliders little enough to fit the smallest Martin’s potato bun. Top with a half sour pickle, fry sauce (that’s ketchup and mayo), red onion, and lettuce. A home run. If you’re hosting a party, make extras.
4. Beef Heart Sabich
Fried beef heart is incredible. Unfamiliar with it? If you enjoy flat iron steak, the flavor profile is similar. Slice it thin, fry it, and then stuff it in a toasted pita. Oil-based Hanukkah foods can get a little heavy. You can lighten your sabich up by serving with a refreshing Israeli salad with cucumbers and a bright lemon and oil dressing. A welcome addition to a holiday buffet.
5. Beef Tongue Knish
Pile a party platter high with these and watch them disappear. Don’t be put off by the idea of making knishes. It may feel complex, but making the dough is actually pretty easy. Try this dough recipe, and/or watch this 100 year-old bubbe and learn. (Take that, Pasta Grannies.) Then braise beef tongue for your filling. When you’re done, the tongue will be incredibly tender, while the knish is soft but also chewy — like a bagel. Well, some bagels. These were a staff favorite. We guarantee you will lose track of how many you’re eating.
6. Ground Lamb and Liver Stuffed Cabbage (Holishkes)
If you’re hosting a sit down or buffet meal for Hanukkah, holishkes are main course material. And no one needs to know how easy they are to throw together. The basics are: take ground lamb, finely chopped lamb liver, salt, pepper, and whatever spices you like. Brown them all in a pan with rice and diced onions. Next, wrap the cooked mixture in boiled cabbage leaves. Finally, cook the stuffed cabbage leaves in a pan filled with tomato sauce for an hour in the oven. If your baking dish is pretty enough to serve in, go for it. Or transfer to a more festive serving dish and take to a potluck.
7. Fried Beef Heart Sofrito
When it’s just a family night lighting the candles, and you’re all latke-ed out, beef heart sofrito will be a new instant tradition. This is pretty much a thick beef heart stew with root vegetables, including sweet potatoes. You take chunks of beef heart and slow cook in beef stock until most of the liquid is evaporated. You’re left with very tender heart and a savory, condensed flavor. Serve in your favorite bowls and sit by a fire. So good on a cold and cozy winter night spent at home celebrating with loved ones!
8. Spicy Oxtail Shakshuka
Before you start cooking, make sure you have crusty bread, or even pitas to toast. You’re going to want bread to serve with this. The method to the madness is to cook the oxtails in a spicy red sauce until they fall apart, elevating the tomato sauce in just the right way. Then, as if that weren’t tempting enough, there are poached eggs. Shakshuka is best known for brunch, and it makes for a celebratory Hanukkah one, but it can also light up a dinner table with friends and family.
Ordering and Inspiration
To order offal not available on our site, just fill out this form. If you’re seeking further inspiration for planning Jewish holiday meals, or tips on how to cook the basics, we’re big fans of Joan Nathan, the OG Arthur Schwartz, and the always lovely Jewish Food Society.