Holiday Meals: Part II
Happy Hanukkah! As the festival of lights begins, I’m being reminded that you don’t need to follow a particular religion to take part in the holidays, celebrations, and of course, the meals that accompany. I’m Jewish, so Hanukkah has always been a part of my upbringing, with memories of lighting candles, then tearing open the wrapping paper of a gift kept hidden from me until that very moment, and being utterly disappointed to find out that it’s a pair of socks or underwear again…..for the third night in a row. I get it, it’s something I need, but I want toys!
This is the first year a Christmas tree is being put up and decorated in my apartment. My wife insisted it’s not religious, but more of a seasonal celebration, a symbol of the joy, the hope, and the warmth of this season, and if there’s anything we could all use right now, it’s that.
On the Hanukkah menu are the classics, the ones I have warm recollections of from my childhood, providing some comfort and nostalgia. Braised brisket with caramelized onions, potato pancakes with sour cream and homemade apple butter for night number one. The brisket is first seared, then braised in a hearty gravy packed full of caramelized onions, carrots, aromatic herbs, and a rich beef stock. After braising for several hours, it is cooled, sliced against the grain, then braised a little longer for the meat to infuse all of the juices and become so tender that you could cut it with a dull spoon. The accompaniment of crispy, fried potato pancakes with cool sour cream and sweet and spiced apple butter make for a textural contrast to the ultra-tender, unctuous brisket.
A meal as comforting and layered in both flavor and texture needs a wine its equal, and Robert Sinskey’s POV meritage is up to the challenge. Organically farmed utilizing biodynamic methods, Robert Sinskey Vineyards has been crafting wine in Carneros and Stags Leap districts of Napa and Sonoma for more than thirty years. The 2015 vintage was the fourth year of a drought, leaving the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc berries for this wine, as dense, tight clusters. Harvests took place at night and the berries were destemmed and crushed before being fermented separately by native yeast. The wines then spent two years aging in oak, 30% new, before being blended by taste, bottled, and then aged an additional two to three years before its release. Ripe black plums, crushed blackberries, and plenty of clove and allspice emanate seductively from the glass and a somewhat lighter than expected, but welcomed, medium body and bright acidity keep the wine on its toes.
Together with the braised brisket and potato pancakes capped with a dollop of luscious sour cream and autumn apple butter, the Robert Sinskey POV’s acidity cuts through the marbling of the meat and fuses seamlessly with the cinnamon and clove of the apple butter, creating a harmonious, savory, and spice driven supper - a combination surely to go down in Hanukkah history.
So with a Christmas tree decorated in the corner of the room, a Hanukkah dinner, and a diverse, close Covid-circle of friends and family, just being able to gather, regardless of the occasion, is what seems the most important, not the religion nor holiday. Besides, any chance to partake in big meals with plenty of wine is a celebration in and of itself. L’Chaim!