We are not Jewish. Yet every year I make Chanukah bread. And every year we remember that Hal Linden is (was? I don’t even know if he is still alive) Jewish and pay homage to him. It’s definitely a little kooky, but let me explain.
Back when we were first married, I was in college. My fall semester ended and I was in our apartment on my first day off decompressing with daytime tv. I was watching some talk show that has been lost to time and Hal Linden (of Barney Miller fame – younger readers probably have no clue who this is!) was a guest and he made a recipe for Chanukah bread. It looked so good, I grabbed a pen and scribbled the recipe down (I still have that piece of paper). I made it for dinner that night and we loved it and so since then I’ve made it every year, with some tweaks over the years. Sometimes we have it during Chanukah, sometimes just during the Christmas season. It’s always a special event though.
Hal Linden’s Chanukah Bread (adapted)
1 loaf sliced bread (I usually use Italian, but you could use plain white bread or even wheat)
1 stick butter, softened
2 tbsp olive oil
2/3 cup minced onion
6 tbsp country style Dijon mustard
2 tbsp poppy seeds
4 tbsp lemon juice
Mix butter, oil, onion, mustard, poppy seeds and lemon juice together. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray an 8 x 12 glass baking pan (first test your loaf to see if it will be held in place and not flop apart – if you have a shorter loaf, use a shorter pan so that the bread is supported by the ends of the pan – it is also possible to just wrap the bread in foil to hold it together). Place the bread in the pan. Using a knife or small spatula, spread the butter mixture on one side of every piece of bread and reserve enough to spread all across the top of the bread.
Hal’s recipe calls for Swiss and American cheese – but I use Swiss and cheddar. You could substitute any type of cheese you like Place half a slice (I’m referring to those presliced pieces of cheese you can buy – if you’re slicing your own, just approximate this size and remember to keep it thin) each of Swiss and cheddar between each slice of bread.
Smear the remaining butter mix across the top. Cover with foil and bake for at least 30 minutes or until all the cheese is melted (it could take up to 15 minutes more if your cheese is thick or your loaf is very large). If it is getting too brown, reduce heat.
This is even better the next day.
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