Fish n’ Grits for a Southern-Style Chanukah

Chanukah starts at sundown on December 12th.

#NoFilter

To commemorate the miracle of the oil, we eat fried foods. Latkes, those crispy potato pancakes we know and love, are usually highlight of the holiday. Family traditions and customs vary, of course.

Have ever seen anything so beautiful?

At home, I make my latkes the traditional way, with a side of homemade applesauce (no sour cream in my house, I know). For Chanukah events that I’ve catered, I’ve gone with more unconventional recipes, serving fried, shredded potatoes Korean or Filipino style, or as taco fillings (yes, with sour cream). Most cuisines do have a fried starchy dish that has become the ultimate comfort food.

I sometimes overthink things when designing menus. This can lead to disaster or something delicious. This was an overthinking session that went well.

Well, I think.

Fried comfort foods are a specialty of Southern cuisine and Scottish cuisine. Jewish and Scottish cuisine both use smoked salmon. Southern and Scottish food both use kale greens. Jewish, Scottish, and Southern cuisine all appreciate the inclusion of brown liquor in a recipe. You see why this felt only natural?

This could totally pass as Southern.

After playing around with a few methods and ingredients, I came up with the final recipe, fed it to a group of visiting yeshiva (a Jewish religious high school) guys on a school break, and the results were, roughly translated, “wow, we’re so glad we came to Birmingham and not Chicago!”

NOTE: This recipe is not healthy. G-d didn’t make a miracle with oil happen for us to eat raw spinach for 8 nights! So please, enjoy this recipe responsibly. I do cook to accommodate special diets and allergies because I believe everyone should enjoy good food, and I try to keep vegan, gluten-free, and reduced calorie modifications to recipes in my notes. Go ahead and ask me in the comments if you need to make any adjustments and I’ll try to help!

Lox Cakes over Colcannon Grits with Clyde May’s Cream Sauce

For the Lox Cakes:
(about 8-10)

½ cup scallion whites, leek whites, or onion, roughly chopped (I used leeks)
1 cup diced turnip
10-16 oz of chopped lox
1 14 oz  salmon (you can use fresh or canned)
1-1 ½  cup of your favorite mashed potato recipe, either leftover or chilled for at least 1 hour
2 large eggs, well beaten
Kosher salt and pepper
¾ cup flour (plus more for coating if omitting breadcrumbs)
½ – ¾ cups bread crumbs
Olive oil for sauteing and/or neutral vegetable oil for frying

 

  1. Thinly slice leeks or onions and dice turnips. Sprinkle with salt. In a skillet, heat enough oil to coat the bottom and keep the vegetables from sticking on medium-high (each skillet is different, so use your best judgement on this one). Saute the onions and turnips until they are starting to brown, adding another pinch of salt, about 3 minutes. Lower to medium heat, let the onions brown a bit more, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat, either taking the pan off the stove or putting the vegetables in a bowl and setting them aside to cool to room temperature. If you want to use rutabaga or golden beets, go for it. I’m using turnips to incorporate more Scottish ingredients, but you do you.
  2. Combine salmon with mashed potatoes, salt and pepper, and room temperature vegetables. Stir in the eggs into the mixture. Adding flour in by the tablespoon, mix in the flour until all of the ingredients are well incorporated. Cover and place in the fridge for 45 minutes to an hour.
  3. In a deep, heavy bottomed skillet, heat about 2-3 inches of oil on medium-low heat. Remove the salmon and potato from the fridge, and with wet hand, form it into 8-10 patties, resting them on a plate or parchment paper. Place bread crumbs, seasoned with salt and pepper, in a shallow baking dish and coat each patty in crumbs.
  4. Raise the heat to medium-high until the oil is at least 360 degrees, or when you flick some water at it and it causes bubbles, whichever you prefer. Working in small batches (about 3 cakes at a time), fry each side until golden brown, about 4 -5 minutes. When they’re done, let the cakes rest on a paper towel lined plate. These can be set aside and reheated in an oven or toaster before serving if desired, but they are best served within 1-2 hours of preparation.

 

For the Colcannon Grits:
Colcannon is Irish in origin and is typically made with potatoes, onion or leek, curly kale, and cabbage. It’s found under lots of fun names, like bubble and squeak, in the rest of the UK, and is often made with turnips in traditional Scottish cooking. I’ve used corn grits instead of mashed root vegetable here to give it an Alabama spin. Check out McEwen & Sons. 

 

6 cups of prepared grits, using the (salted!!!!) liquid measurements on the package*
1 stick unsalted butter,
1 ½ – 2 cups heavy cream or half-and-half
1 leek, well cleaned,  whites and greens thinly sliced
1 bunch curly kale, stems removed and leaves torn into pieces
2-3 cloves garlic, either minced or grated
Salt and pepper (white or black)

*liquid ratios will vary by brand and grind type

 

  1. On low heat, stir ⅓ of the butter and heavy cream into the grits. Cover, lowering heat completely.
  2. In a pan or skillet, melt ⅓ of the butter on medium-high heat. Add in the sliced leek with a pinch of salt until the greens are almost tender. Add in the kale with another pinch of salt. When the kale is wilted and a deep, dark green, turn off the heat and let it sit for about 2 minutes. Add garlic and give the leek and kale another stir.
  3. Cut the heat from the grits, stir in the leek and kale with the rest of the butter, adding salt and pepper to taste. When fully combined, cover the grits to keep them from losing too much heat before serving.

 

For the Bourbon Cream Sauce:
You can use your favorite bourbon or whiskey, but keep it local and treat yourself to a bottle of Clyde May’s.

1 stick unsalted butter
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
1 cup Bourbon
1 cup of your favorite, rich broth (I use mushroom broth with either a splash of soy or Worcestershire sauce)
Salt and black pepper
⅔ cup heavy cream
¼ cup finely chopped parsley

  1. On medium heat, cook shallots with half stick of butter and a pinch of salt until they start to get a bit of color. Turn off the burner and add in the bourbon. In about 1 minute, turn the burner back on to medium and add the broth, giving a few stirs with a whisk. Add a pinch of salt and a few dashes of pepper. Lower the heat a notch and let the liquid reduce by about half.
  2. Reduce the heat to low, and whisking in a steady motion, add in the rest of the butter and heavy cream. It will thicken up after a few minutes.
  3. Cut the heat, stir in the parsley.

Final Assembly:

Serve the lox cakes over a heap of grits, drizzle the bourbon sauce on top, and give it all a squeeze of lemon, if desired.

 

Enjoy, and Chag Chanukah Sameach!

 

(P.S., If you don’t eat fish, this is my favorite faux-lox recipe.)

 

Author: Liz Brody

ASFA grad, BSC senior; I write about Jewish stuff, food, and Jewish food.