Chef Suzanne Tracht's dinner is its own Festival of Lights
With the onset of the holidays, Suzanne Tracht, chef-owner of Los Angeles 's award-winning Jar, finds herself doing a lot of entertaining, not just at the restaurant but at home, too. "People seem to invite themselves over," she says.
Jar stands for "Just Another Restaurant," but Tracht's ideas about food are anything but commonplace. The elegant interpretation of comfort-food favorites featured at her modern-day chophouse helped renew a trend in Los Angeles of focusing on straightforward preparations of top-quality ingredients. For Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, Tracht uses Jar menu items as the inspiration behind the dishes she serves to friends and family, including her son Max, 13, and daughter Ida, 12.
Since the story of Hanukkah revolves around a small amount of oil miraculously lasting over eight days in a holy temple, Tracht's menu features several dishes prepared with oil. Potato latkes are a traditional Hanukkah staple, but, in a departure from tradition, her crisp potato-parsnip version is fried in luxurious clarified butter. "It's light, but rich," she says, "and it gives the pancakes a nice texture." For a special touch, Tracht serves them with crème fraîche instead of sour cream, as well as a homemade applesauce infused with fresh ginger and savory, an underappreciated herb with an aromatic, spicy edge. To make sure that the herb's unique flavor is imparted to maximum effect, she steeps the sprigs in the applesauce while it is still warm.
Tracht begins the meal with a butter lettuce and radish salad with a piquant lemon-garlic vinaigrette. For the main course, Jar's pot roast is the ultimate centerpiece. Begin with a denuded short-rib (ask your butcher in advance for this cut), then sear the meat to a deep brown before braising for spectacular, succulent results. Plate the pot roast family-style, accompanied by glistening caramelized onions and roasted carrots. Tracht's reverence for vegetables comes through in her addictive long-cooked green beans, braised in olive oil and enhanced with a sweetly tangy balsamic vinegar.
For dessert, Tracht has developed an orange-vanilla sundae featuring luscious dates and chopped nuts soaked in sweet, orange-scented dessert wine; it's a nod to Middle Eastern flavors your guests won't forget. Though simple bowls work fine, use stemmed parfait coupes for a festive touch. "Dates are available year-round, and this recipe is a refreshing way to use ice cream," says Tracht. She loves the Medjool or Deglet varieties; their melt-in-your-mouth, almost fudgy texture makes for a perfectly sweet finish to a masterful chef's holiday repertoire.
Best of all? From the side dishes to the main course and dessert, this is an infinitely doable yet impressive spread. "It's an easy meal to put together, but it looks deceptively hard," says Tracht. In other words, the perfect recipe for a great holiday gathering.
Updated Traditional Hanukkah Dinner For Six
- Butter Lettuce and Radish Salad with Lemon-Garlic Vinaigrette
- Pot Roast with Caramelized Onions and Roasted Carrots
- Potato-Parsnip Latkes with Savory Applesauce
- Long-Cooked Green Beans
- Orange-Vanilla Sundaes with Dates and Orange Muscat
Editor's Note: If you observe kosher laws, it's easy to eliminate the dairy ingredients from this menu. Simply omit the Parmesan from the salad, replace the clarified butter in the latkes with canola oil and leave out the crème fraîche. In the sundaes, additional sorbet or nondairy frozen dessert can replace the ice cream, and the whipped cream can be omitted.
Recipes by Suzanne Tracht, text & recipe adaptations by Adeena Sussman
Photo by Lara Ferroni
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