For me, above anything, Jewish food is the ultimate comfort food, from crispy latkes to my Aunt Jennifer’s brisket, which over the years I’ve adapted to be my own. But not matter what the occasion—Hanukkah with the family, or Break Fast this Saturday with your family of friends—the menu item that speaks most to me is lox.
When I was growing up, my dad made sure I was raised on lox and bagels—perhaps to balance my deep-seated desire for a Christmas tree with the everyday joys of a good schmear of cream cheese. He always made them with the best possible proportions: toasted medium-well with about a fourth of an inch of cream cheese, and two delicate layers of lox. No tomatoes. No capers or onions. That was it.
My memories of lox and bagels are endlessly comforting, even when not made by my dad at home. They make a special appearance at the Break Fast table because they require no cooking—and no distraction from hunger or atonement. After a day of not eating, nothing is better to dive into. I also remember eating lox after days of mourning, as my family sat in a circle in Aunt Phyllis’ living room at both of my grandparents’ shivas.
Unfortunately, now that bagels are out of my gluten-free life, I’m going to have to find a different way of experiencing lox this high holidays season. And while I don’t expect my relatives to be frying eggs and flipping potatoes on my behalf, that doesn’t mean I can’t get my fill later on.
If your family is anything like mine, they will have overdone it on the fish platter and yet somehow managed to eat almost all of it anyway. As for those last few thin slices of salmon, I suggest using them as part of a special Jewish breakfast hash on Sunday morning, when you will no doubt be starving again from having eaten dinner at 6pm the night before.
Invite over some of your Jewish friends, or non-Jewish friends (just don’t expect them to think lox in any way rivals Christmas), or simply hunker down with your immediate family. It may not be lox and bagels, but this smoked salmon hash hits all the same Jewish comfort notes, and for those of you gluten-free Jewesses like me, it may just be the start of many more family and food memories.
From my kitchen, dreaming of lox, to yours,
Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Smoked Salmon & Dill Hash with Fried Eggs
Makes 4 servings
2 tablespoons olive oil (plus more for frying the eggs)
2 pounds russet potatoes (about 4 medium), peeled and cut into 1-inch uniform cubes
2 tablespoons lemon juice (from ½ a lemon)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
8 ounces smoked salmon
¼ cup crème fraiche (optional)
In a large cast iron skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally until browned and nearly tender, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then turn the heat down to medium-low, and continue to cook until the potatoes are crisp on the outside and tender on the inside, another 10 minutes. (At any point if the potatoes start to burn, turn down the heat slightly). Stir in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 1 tablespoon dill and cook for another 2 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add more salt as necessary. Set aside.
In a medium cast iron skillet, heat enough oil to generously coat the bottom of the pan.When oil is sizzling hot, crack the eggs into the 4 quadrants of the pan. Cook, following instructions for frying an olive oil fried egg, until the sides are set. Spoon some of the hot oil over the tops of the eggs to cook the white parts that haven’t set.
Place the fried eggs on top of the dill potatoes, arrange the folded slices of salmon around the pan, dot with tablespoons of creme fraiche (if using). (If your pan isn’t big enough, you can serve the salmon on a separate plate and have your guests help themselves.) Douse the salmon with the remaining lemon and garnish the whole pan with the remaining dill.
Serve family style in the middle of the table and allow guests to help themselves.
Variation: Substitute 1 large zucchini, cubed, for 1-pound potatoes. Add it to the pan when the potatoes are nearly tender and continue to cook until brown. Add 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin and ½ teaspoon ground turmeric with the lemon juice. Substitute cilantro for dill. Omit the crème fraiche. Now you have Moroccan-inspired, Sephardic Jewish Hash.