You aren't going to make huge, festive dinners for all eight nights of Hanukkah. It's just not going to happen. Potlucks keep it casual, and you sane.
For your Feast of Dedication, ease up on yourself. No need to feel eaten up with guilt if you can't cook every night, plus do it all from scratch. Even us Chowhounds understand. That's part of the beauty of the Jewish community: sharing the load. And nothing makes people feel more invested in an event than when they're responsible for a portion of making it happen.
Make it easier on your guests, too, by being clear about your expectations.
"Sharing a dish at a kosher potluck does not have to be a stressful undertaking," says Marilyn Wacks, project manager of InterfaithFamily in the Bay Area, in her how-to on kosher potlucks. Marrying into an Orthodox Jewish family, Wacks learned through experience how to participate in kosher potlucks of different kinds. "I recommend following the strictly kosher guidelines to ensure that all guests will be able to partake in your prepared food."
Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind:
1. If you keep kosher in your home, make sure everyone knows that. There will likely be people with varying levels of kashrut observance, so decide whether it's a dairy or a meat event and tell people that when you invite them. Then your guests can bring dishes that include kosher versions of one or the other, or kosher parve (neither meat nor dairy).
2. Decide on a theme. Give some fun guidelines. You could do a latke party, although those hashbrown-type cakes don't travel well and aren't good cold, and when you reheat them, they don't get the same crunch they had when freshly made. So you could try a Hanukkah Around the World potluck. Or Healthy Hanukkah. Fried Hanukkah. Or Modern Hanukkah. Or … you get the idea.
3. Divvy up responsibilities. Once you have a somewhat set number of confirmed guests, tell each person what they should bring according to category: Appetizer, bread, meat, starchy side, vegetable side, dessert, and alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks.
4. The lame parts might fall to you, as the host. You're stuck with the cleaning though. And you should probably take care of the plates, cups, bowls, cutlery, and ice. Gather all the plate warmers and slow cookers you can to keep everyone's dishes warm.
5. Use these guidelines for your Shabbat potlucks. Might as well keep the party going every Friday night, if you have your guests helping anyway.
Hanukkah Recipes that Travel Well:
The popular yeasty, braided bread is a beauty when done right, especially with the shiny egg wash and topping of either poppy or sesame seeds. Get our Challah recipe.
2. Spice and Herb Oven-Braised Brisket
If you're doing a meat-friendly potluck, brisket is a must. The flavor is even better if you make it a day before serving and store it in the fridge. Then just reheat it for the party. Get our Spice and Herb Oven-Braised Brisket recipe.
3. Bubbe's Luchen Kugel
For this basic egg noodle kugel, you can keep it low-fat as the recipe suggests, but if that sounds unappealing, just use the full-fat dairy versions of cottage cheese, milk, and sour cream. Get our Bubbe's Luchen Kugel recipe.
4. Spiced Pecan and Apple Salad with Honey Vinaigrette
This is a pretty relaxed way to do a salad. Use whatever greens and apples you have or can find easily. No biggie. And it's a great recipe for a potluck with Jewish guests of different levels of adherence to kashrut because there's no dairy or meat. Get our Spiced Pecan and Apple Salad recipe.
5. Caramel Rugelach
You gotta have sweets at Hanukkah, and rugelach is as traditional as they come. Well, besides the golden-wrapped chocolate coins. Rugelach can be filled the classic way with brown sugar and nuts, or you can add something, like caramel. Who's going to say no to that? Get our Caramel Rugelach recipe.
6. Chai Sufganiyot (Hanukkah Donuts)
If you're going the dairy route, then you've got to make some delicious donuts, or ask one (or two) of your guests to bring some. Fill the donuts with your favorite jelly or make this recipe's buttercream flavored with pumpkin and orange. Get our Chai Sufganiyot recipe.
For more Hanukkah dish ideas, check out our Hanukkah recipe page.
Amy Sowder is a NYC-based food and fitness writer as well as the assistant editor for Chowhound. She loves cheesy things, especially toasties and puns. She's trying to like mushrooms. Her running habit is the excuse for her never-ending ice cream pursuits. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and her blog, What Do I Eat Now. Learn more at AmySowder.com.