I have a complicated relationship with Thanksgiving, mainly because I resent the fact it’s only one day and my stomach isn’t built like a TARDIS.
This year, Jews around the world who observe American Thanksgiving are dealing with a complication that’s actually worth kvetching over – the first day of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving fall on the same day: November 28th. It’s almost never happened before (since Lincoln made Thanksgiving an official holiday in 1863, we’ve seen it once – in 1888) and, according to some calculations, won’t happen again for roughly 70,000 years. And a few Jews are happy about that, unhappy about the day doing double-duty – either savoring Thanksgiving’s secular, unifying Americanness – or sad about sharing the Festival of Lights with Turkhanalia.
However, many, many other Jews – and friends and relations of Jews – are buying extra-special eating pants in anticipation of this most glorious and special of holidays: Thanksgivukkah.
For those of you looking to make a hearty side dish for your non-kosher, superdelicious, chimeric holiday feast: I hope you like lamb and cheese and Brussels sprouts and cumin and fennel and noodles and deliciousness. And adjustable waistband pants.
Note: part of this post was adapted from Heather Cristo’s brilliant pesto recipe. Tasty stuff, no matter what time of year it is.
- 1 1/2 pounds ground lamb (you can use just about any ground protein, but lamb is definitely the way to go here)
- 2 tblsp olive oil, plus 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 1/2 tsp fennel seed
- 2 cups panko-style breadcrumbs
- 2 cups Brussels sprouts, halved
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds
- juice of 1 large lemon
- 3 Tbs finely grated Parmesan plus more for garnish
- 1 lb egg noodles
- 4 eggs
- 1 lb(ish) ricotta
- 6 oz dried cranberries (optional)
- 4 oz toasted pepitas (optional)
- 1/4 shallot, minced (optional)
- 8 tblsp (4 ounces) unsalted butter, separated
- 1 pomegranate
- mint leaves
- Preheat your oven to 400°. Open a window and a bottle of malbec. Things are about to get cumin-y and red-wine worthy.
- Set a large skillet over medium-high heat. Take your cumin and fennel seed and toast your spices briefly, stirring often, until fragrant.
- Add olive oil to pan and stir, quickly, until spices are mixed in. Add ground lamb, salt and pepper, and, while breaking up meat with wooden spoon, brown lamb 5-8 minutes, stirring often.
- Remove ground lamb with slotted spoon, and set lamb aside.
- Add 2 tablespoons butter to hot pan and fat. Stir until melted and combined. Pour in breadcrumbs and toast until golden brown. Set breadcrumbs aside.
- Set a pot of water to boil, salt it, and while that’s heating up, halve your sprouts. Take any excessively woody ends off, too.
- Carefully drop your sprouts into the boiling water. Cook for about 2-3 minutes.
- Pull ’em out with a strainer and rinse them under cold water for a bit. Leave water on a low simmer.
- Put sprouts into food processor and pulse together with garlic and 1/4 cup of olive oil until a paste is formed.
- Add in almonds, juice from the lemon and salt until everything is well-combined. Season to taste.
- Move mixture to a very large bowl and add the Parmesan. Congrats! You’ve made pesto!
- Bring the water back up to a boil and cook egg noodles in same pot, 1-to-1.5 minutes shy of lowest suggested cooking time. Drain, and place hot noodles into large bowl with pesto mixture. Toss to combine.
- Whisk eggs in separate bowl and combine with ricotta. (Extremely optional step here – reserve half your ricotta and top each serving with a small dollop of fresh cheese to stir in later on.) Pour egg and cheese mixture over noodles, along with lamb (and cranberries, pepitas and shallot, if using.) Fold everything together using a large spoon or spatula.
- Butter a large casserole dish (one with high walls would be great), and put everything from the big bowl in there. Smush it down a little with a spatula.
- Cover with foil and bake. After 40 minutes, remove foil and add panko topping, and continue to bake, uncovered, for another 20 minutes, or until topping is golden brown.
- While kugel is baking, break down your pomegranate and mince your mint.
- Serve kugel with mint and pomegranate arils.
I’ll admit, it’s a bit of a mess. But damn if it doesn’t taste amazing. A worthy dish to accompany your once-in-seventy-millenia Thanksgivukkah turkey, friends. Hope you dig it!