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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell; Prop Styling: Stephanie Yeh

A Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Hanukkah Menu

updated Dec 19, 2019
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Whenever Hanukkah rolls around, my mind immediately turns to dinner parties. After all, Hanukkah (also known as the Festival of Lights) arrives smack in the middle of “festive holiday season” — a beacon of brightness in the cold, dark nights of winter. Unlike other Jewish holidays, which are largely observed in the synagogue, Hanukkah is almost exclusively celebrated at home with lots of food and merriment. Heck, the holiday even comes with its own low-tech disco ball in the shape of a glinting menorah. 

This year, with the return of my favorite Jewish comedian — season three of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel dropped earlier this month — my Hanukkah dinner party will feature all the glitz and glamour of Midge’s late 1950s and early 1960s world. Say what you will about Midge Maisel, but one thing is for sure: She knows how to entertain. And she would undoubtedly throw a heck of a Hanukkah dinner party.  

From retro appetizers and cocktails to glistening brisket and perfect latkes, here is our Mrs. Maisel-inspired Hanukkah dinner party menu, featuring some of our favorite Kitchn recipes as well as a few from my cookbooks, The Jewish Cookbook and The Little Book of Jewish Feasts. There’s no stand-up routine required at this Hanukkah party — unless that’s your thing.

Credit: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell; Prop Styling: Stephanie Yeh

The Menu

There is something undeniably enchanting about 1960s-style entertaining. There was an air of elegance and sophistication, from the monogrammed cocktail napkins and jazz on the record player, to the strand of pearls the hostess picked out especially for the occasion. Today’s dinner parties are typically more casual affairs, but it’s possible to maintain a relaxed vibe while incorporating a little retro glam at the table. 

Jewish American cooking during Midge’s era was defined by a mash-up of Eastern European nostalgia and mid-century convenience and kitsch — all with a killer bar cart. A meal at the Maisel’s would have included classics like brisket, kugel, and plenty of Manischewitz. But you would be just as likely to find sky-high jello molds and crystal bowls filled with whiskey punch. The entire menu is also kosher — meaning no dishes with dairy in them, since there are meaty ones. 

Appetizers & Drinks

Start your Hanukkah party with a delightfully retro hors d’oeuvre like Smoked Trout Deviled Eggs — an iconic app dressed up to honor American Jews’ love of all things smoked fish. Pair them on the appetizer table with Chicken Waldorf Salad Cups. The mix of chicken, grapes, and walnuts bound with creamy mayo is not traditionally Jewish, but it tastes just like a shopping spree at Neiman Marcus. Both dishes are easy to eat one-handed, so guests can use the other to hold their Cucumber Gin & Tonics. L’chaim! 

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell; Prop Styling: Stephanie Yeh


As the party warms up, invite guests to the table for some time-tested favorites. The star of the meal should of course be a platter of golden, crackly latkes served with homemade applesauce on the side (and sour cream, if keeping kosher is not a consideration in your home). 

Nothing flatters fresh latkes like saucy slow-cooked meat — and on Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Midge is known for her brisket. (In the first season, she uses the dish as a bargaining chip to get her husband Joel a better performance time slot at The Gaslight.) In the 1950s, American Jews put all sorts of wacky ingredients into their brisket, from onion soup mix and bottled chili sauce to glugs of Coca-Cola. This Balsamic and Brown Sugar Brisket has the sweet-tangy-savory flavor the folks at The Gaslight would appreciate, without the hyper-processed ingredients. 

Round out the table with a super-simple green salad (think: arugula and cucumbers dressed up with a splash of lemon juice and olive oil), and an extravagant Jam and Poppy Seed Noodle Kugel. The custardy pudding is a Hungarian variation of classic noodle kugel. Threaded through with dusky poppy seeds and glamorous dollops of sweet-tart jam, it’s sweet enough for dessert but traditionally served as a decadent side. 

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell; Prop Styling: Stephanie Yeh


Speaking of dessert, sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts widely enjoyed in Israel during Hanukkah) have gained popularity amongst American Jews over the last two decades. But Midge and her family most likely would not have associated sufganiyot with the holiday. Instead, they would likely end their meal with coffee poured from a retro percolator (you can use a French press if you prefer) and a couple of showstopping desserts. 

Anchor the sweets table with a chocolate marble cake, which were once a staple of the Jewish American bakery. The cake, which has a tender crumb and comes swirled through with decadent ribbons of chocolate, is brimming with old-school panache. Then, leave your holiday guests with something to talk about — specifically a show-stopping sparkling fruit jello mold. This elegant take on mid-century Jell-O creations shines as brightly as the Hanukkah menorah, and will end your holiday meal with a twinkle. 

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell; Prop Styling: Stephanie Yeh

The Recipes

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell; Prop Styling: Stephanie Yeh

A Few Make-Ahead Notes

Many dishes from this menu can be made ahead — including latkes! Latkes fresh from the frying pan have an undeniable appeal, but when you’re cooking for a party, the last thing you want is to be standing over an oil-sputtering stovetop flipping fritters while your guests clink glasses. So fry them up in advance, let them cool, then wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and store in the fridge for up to two days or in the freezer for up to two weeks. 

To reheat, arrange the latkes in a single layer on large, rimmed baking sheets and pop in a 400°F oven until warmed through, 10 to 15 minutes. (Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn.) They will emerge crispy and glistening — every bit as delightful as if you just made them. 

Meanwhile, both the brisket and the marble cake benefit tremendously from a little rest. The marble cake’s flavor blossoms and sweetens overnight. For the brisket, let it chill in the fridge for up to two days. When ready to serve, scrape off and discard any congealed fat. Slice the meat thinly against the grain (it’s easier to slice cold), then reheat with the pan juices in a 300°F oven until bubbling, 20 to 30 minutes. 

Even the gin and tonics, which have been reimagined as a pitcher cocktail to serve a crowd, can be muddled ahead. Splash in a little chilled tonic water right before serving and pour over ice-filled glasses.

Whether you add in one or two elements of this menu to your celebration, or go full-on over-achiever as Midge would and recreate the whole tablescape, here’s wishing you a happy, hilarious, and decidedly delicious Hanukkah. 

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell; Prop Styling: Stephanie Yeh

Get the Looks

Dinner at the Maisel House

Apps at the Club

Dessert in Miami