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southern hanukkah dishes

All Photos: Ramona King

A Southern-style Hanukkah spread


Here's how we're putting Southern style into Hanukkah this year

Is it just me or did Hanukkah come super quick this year? It seems we were just digging in to Thanksgiving dinner, and it's already almost time to start frying latkes and braising brisket. And while I am not Jewish myself, I do enjoy all of the traditional Hanukkah dishes — between fried foods, braised meats and chocolate candies, who wouldn't?

Instead of staying super traditional this year, though, we're going to encourage you to step outside the box — just a little bit — with a little Southern inspiration. This Hanukkah meal combines classic technique with Southern flavors for a delicious dinner that you'll surely want to return to again next year.

Try these five dishes all at once or spread them out — you've got seven days of festivities ahead after all. (Or, hey, if none of 'em float your boat, you can certainly stick closer to tradition with any of these Hanukkah recipes from our collection.)

Red Pepper Jelly Rugelach
Traditionally a sweet Jewish holiday cookie, rugelach can also be transformed into savory appetizer bites with a little bit of smart shopping. We like to take a classic cream cheese dough and roll it up with Southern hot pepper jelly, which you can also make yourself if you're super ambitious. Add in a dip made from whipped cream cheese and you'll get an appetizer that evokes both the traditional cookie and the Southern cracker spread. 
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Coca-Cola Brisket
For your main dish, combine traditional braised brisket with Southern Coca-Cola. The soda brings both sweetness and acidity to the low-and-slow braise, adding depth and zing to the rich meat. We amp up the savory-salty-sweet flavors further with sweet onions, vinegar and Dijon mustard, and make it ultra-easy by cooking the whole thing hands-off in a low oven. Trust us — this is one brisket recipe you'll want to make on repeat. 
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Pimento Cheese Noodle Kugel
Since we know that kugel is often personalized from household to household, we decided to go hog-wild and make a savory version using pimento cheese. We've got the actual cheese spread in there, as well as additional cheddar and diced pimentos, so you'll certainly get the full effect. Our only advice? Make sure to let the top get ultra crispy. 
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Sweet Potato Latkes
OK, this one is a total gimme. There's no real reason not to transform traditional russet latkes to crisp cakes made with sweet potatoes. They'll add color, sweetness and plenty of Southern flair. But after tinkering with the recipe for a bit, we learned that it's best to make these latkes with a blend of both potatoes; when we made them with 100 percent sweet potatoes, we found they got way too dark. You can serve these with applesauce or sour cream, but the richness and tang of crème fraiche is an even more fantastic pairing.
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Quick Beignets
Instead of laboring over sufganiyot this year, make it (a little) easier on yourself with what we call quick beignets. Essentially unfilled fritters, these doughnuts can be made relatively quickly and still deserve a celebratory amount of powdered sugar. It's also super easy to scale this recipe up two or three times if you're looking to serve a crowd. And if your guests must have jelly with their doughnuts? You can add it on the side as a dipping sauce.
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Looking for something a little different? Try these 9 other Hanukkah-appropriate recipes:
Beef Tongue Pot Roast with Onion Gravy
Salmon in Foil Packets with Asparagus, Fennel and Tarragon
Lemon-Rosemary Roast Chicken
Roasted Cauliflower with Raisins and Dill
Wild Rice, Butternut and Pecan Pilaf
Sweet Potato Cakes
Homemade Fig and Apple Chutney
Old-Fashioned Applesauce

Nama's Apple Cake

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Kate Williams is the former editor-in-chief of Southern Kitchen. She was also the on-air personality on our podcast, Sunday Supper. She's worked in food since 2009, including a two-year stint at America’s Test Kitchen. Kate has been a personal chef, recipe developer, the food editor at a hyperlocal news site in Berkeley and a freelance writer for publications such as Serious Eats, Anova Culinary, The Cook’s Cook and Berkeleyside. Kate is also an avid rock climber and occasionally dabbles in long-distance running. She makes a mean peach pie and likes her bourbon neat.