Potash Twins Provide Tips to Tackle Hanukkah Recipes

Hanukkah is almost here and that usually means menorahs, family gatherings and, of course, fried food. But this is 2020. Because of the coronavirus lockdown, family gatherings are strongly discouraged. Strict stay-at-home guidelines are in place to keep others safe, so bubbe can’t visit 13 grocery stores to find the perfect latke potatoes.

This past year has been marked by calamities and disasters, but that doesn’t mean Hanukkah is ruined. Jazz musicians and amateur Food Network App chefs Ezra and Adeev Potash know that food is an essential part of every Jewish holiday. They continue to find creative ways to make Jewish staples on a budget using whatever is available.

Quarantining in Palm Springs instead of returning to their native Omaha, Neb., for the holidays, the “Takeout Twins” hosts are sharing their skills so young people can learn to cook Jewish staples at home.

Honor Thy Tradition

Ezra and Adeev agree that tackling Jewish recipes for any holiday can seem overwhelming, primarily because young people might have little or no experience preparing food.

“These are dishes the elder cooks that no one has ever tried to make,” said Adeev, who plays the trumpet. “For our entire lives, we never attempted to make these dishes because it was theirs (adults), it was their territory.”

Ezra, who plays trombone, tuba and sousaphone, said this is a time when many people, especially 20-somethings, are realizing the importance of family and l’dor v’dor (from generation to generation) through food. He said each person in his family has a role in each dish at family gatherings. From matzo ball soup and babka to latkes and sufganiyot, all these recipes — regardless of difficulty — look intimidating. Family recipes have history, therefore the pressure is on to make it perfect.

But it shouldn’t be. The 24-year-old twins, who host Bravo’s “Beats + Bites,” said knowing the stories behind the recipes and honoring the traditions foster a more meaningful cooking experience. Now it’s no longer a necessity but a memory.

“This year, for the first time in many, many years, we will have to make our first pie, our first turkey our first whatever,” Ezra said. “That will give us the opportunity to create our own recipe, our own tradition and also appreciate all the traditions that the family brought us that we took for granted.”

Learn the Rules (and Then Break Them)

Although there are specific rules to follow to ensure food is edible and safe to consume, “recipes are guidelines,” Ezra said. According to Adeev, once you understand the basic guidelines of recipes, everything else can be improvised. If you like spice, add more. Don’t like an ingredient? Leave it out. Don’t have a KitchenAid appliance? Whisk by hand with a fork. The brothers recommend making the meal manageable by preparing your favorites for your household, not for 50 people. Just because you aren’t using your parents’ kitchen doesn’t mean you can’t make the recipe skillfully in your apartment kitchenette.

once you understand the basic guidelines of recipes, everything else can be improvised.

“The experience your grandma has or your bubbe has, she could write everything she wants to communicate to you down but it still isn’t going to taste exactly how she does it. Their love and care and focus and experiences translates into your taste buds,” Ezra said. “You can read sheet music but the really good music comes from the soul and that couldn’t be more true when it comes to cooking.”

The goal is to “make it your own” while “making it manageable.”

“Pick the things that are the staples in your mind. You don’t have to make everything. Don’t overreach,” Ezra said. “Just make those things and make them the best that you can.”

The Ultimate Latke and Sufganiyot Hacks

Latkes have few ingredients but to a non-chef, preparing them can feel daunting. “The worst part of making latkes is [not having a] food processor,” the twins said in unison. Skip the Trader Joe’s Frozen Potato Pancakes (Traditional Latkes) this year and make homemade latkes with the ultimate Potash hack.

“Say you’re making your first attempt at latkes,” Ezra said. “You want to go to Costco and buy dehydrated hash browns. They’re already shredded. Then all you have to do is rehydrate them and then dice some onions, add a few eggs and matzo meal and then fry it.”

Ezra said in order to get crispy latkes, remove as much liquid as possible from the potato-onion mixture. “Using dehydrated potatoes, you’re already starting out in a positive direction,” Ezra said. If you’re going to cut corners somewhere, he added, this is the method to use.

If the oil is already hot, you might as well try to make sufganiyot, too. The twins suggest buying Pillsbury biscuit dough, then frying the treats and topping them with sugar. If you don’t have a piping bag, take a plastic Ziploc bag and cut a hole in one of the bottom corners, then squeeze out the filling.

“Doughnut dough is very similar to biscuit dough; even air fryer doughnuts call for biscuit dough,” Adeev said, adding that making doughnuts in an air fryer is easier. “But if we’re gonna do air fryer latkes and sufganiyot, isn’t the whole [theme of] Hanukkah that you want to use the oil?” Ezra asked before Adeev noted that air fryers are 2020 technology and technology is a miracle this year, like the oil was to the Maccabees, making it acceptable.

Adeev said an affordable way to cook is by using all the ingredients already in your refrigerator or pantry. Incorporating leftovers can be bonus ingredients that also save money and produce less waste. Instead of applesauce on latkes, he said to top fried potatoes with leftover cranberry sauce or use it as a sufganiyot filling for a sweet and tart Thanksgivikkah-fusion dish.

Call (or Zoom) Your Mother

If all else fails — or you simply want to say hi — call your mom or other family members for moral support and advice. With Zoom, Skype and FaceTime among many others, it is easy to communicate with loved ones this year, so why not virtually cook together? This year, the Potash family is cooking together virtually so everyone can uncover the secrets to making classic family recipes.

As much as the twins love cooking without a recipe and preparing meals for others, some things are sacred, which is why their mom FedExed them a chocolate babka this year.

The chocolate babka from their mom

Still, whether you’re experienced or not in the kitchen, Adeev said fear shouldn’t prevent you from learning a new skill.

“The first time always is kinda gonna be a s— show, but the second time you make it, you’re gonna feel more confident. It sounds obvious, but it is an experience-based thing,” Adeev said. “Whenever I’m making a recipe on a television show, it’s the thing that I’ve made the most times that I can speak to with confidence.”

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