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Our family “High Holy Day” celebrations always revolve around the traditional meal, good wine, great conversation, Nan playing “Heart and Soul” on the piano with her great-grandchildren and Mom singing Broadway show tunes!
Each family has holiday recipes passed down from generation to generation. The acquired taste of Gefilte fish was a childhood favorite during high holidays and added much joy to our festive meals. Sometimes the meal was formal and sometimes not.
Either way, religious holidays elicit tradition, respect, admiration and lots of family stories. Keep the decorations refined and minimal to allow the holiday’s meaning to shine brightly.
MOM’S CHOPPED LIVER
(The Real Deal from my family’s recipe) Prepared in 30 minutes or less.
Hard boil 8 eggs, peel and set aside. Empty containers of chicken livers into a strainer, rinse with cold water and pick through to remove any bits of stringy membrane, gall bladder or bile ducts (green looking sacks) that may be in package. Pat dry with cloth. In a large non-stick or cast iron fry pan ,over medium heat, melt 3 Tbs of chicken fat, add ¼ cup of grivinahs; add diced onion, garlic cloves and chicken livers. Sprinkle with *Mom’s (aka Bubbie’s) Seasoning. Mix so all ingredients are incorporated. Sauté until chicken livers are cooked through and have lost the pink color inside. (Do not over cook or they will taste bitter and dry.) Cool to room temperature.
Spoon cooked livers into a large wooden chopping bowl. Reserve any liquid left in pan for use if livers are too dry. Break up 7 peeled hard boiled eggs and add to bowl. With a “hock Messer” or mezzaluna, an Italian designed curved mincing knife (mezza meaning half and luna meaning moon) begin to chop livers and eggs to combine. Grate small onion over mixture.
Add room temperature chicken fat Tbs at a time and continue to chop. Adding seasoning to taste and chop until desired taste and consistency is achieved. Sometimes up to a
½ cup or more of chicken fat is added. Results of chopping should be semi-smooth with no large un-chopped pieces of egg or liver.
Spray with Pam or grease with chicken fat a mold or bowl. Spoon in chopped liver and press into place. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours. To un-mold, warm mold or bowl with a hot towel and invert onto plate. Garnish with remaining egg grated over top. Sprinkle with diced scallions. Serve with sturdy crackers or party rye or pumpernickel bread.
**Mom’s (aka Bubbie’s) Seasoning
Latke, a finger-licking-good Yiddish termed fried grated potato pancake, originates from the Ukrainian region and Eastern Europe. They are most oftened served during festive Jewish holidays. What is the secret to a crispy latke? It is the starch content—the starchier the potato, the crispier the latke!
POP’S POTATO LATKES
Prepared in 40 minutes or less.
In a food processor, finely grate potatoes (don’t liquefy, leave some texture). Transfer to a colander to eliminate excess liquid. Transfer to a large bowl.
Finely grate onions, and mix 1½ cups into potatoes. Add eggs, baking powder, ¾ cup corn oil, flour, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Fold in matzo meal, blending well.
Heat remaining ½ cup corn oil in a deep skillet over low heat. With a large kitchen spoon, drop batter into pan, creating pancakes about 3½-inches in diameter; be careful not to crowd them.
Fry until underside is a deep golden brown, 3 -4 minutes. Turn and fry for 1-2 minutes more. Repeat with remaining batter.
Drain latkes on a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Serve with applesauce and sour cream.
NAN’S GEFILTE FISH
Prepared in 90 minutes or less.
Spray bottom of heavy soup pot/cauldron with non-stick spray. On a low-medium heat begin to layer ⅓ onions, ⅓ potatoes and ⅓ carrots. Sprinkle generously with seasoned salt and pepper. Place 6 pieces of fish over veggies; season with seasoned salt and pepper.
Layer more potatoes, onions and carrots. Season again with pepper. Place piece of fish on top with 4 more pieces of gefilte fish and fish bullion cube, crumbled. Re-season with pepper. Place last layer of potatoes, carrots, onions and remaining pieces of gefilte fish on top. Pour reserved broth on top. Re-season with seasoned salt and pepper. Cover and gently boil for about a 1½ hours until fish has plumped and veggies are soft.
To serve. Remove gefilte fish from chowder. Place on platter, lined with decorative lettuce or greens of your choice and garnish with carrots from chowder. Reheat chowder and serve separately to spoon over fish pieces. Present with both white and red horseradish. Serves 8.
JEWISH PENICILLIN “THE BEST EVER” CHICKEN SOUP
Prepared in 60 minutes or less.
Bring 12 cups water, salt and chicken pieces to a boil in a large soup pot.
Reduce heat to a gentle boil and with a large spoon remove the “scum” that accumulates on the side of the pot. Continue to cook until there is almost nothing accumulating on the sides of the pot. (This procedure assures you of a clean, clear broth.)
Add the vegetables, garlic cloves, bay leaves, packets and poultry seasoning, Bubbie’s House Seasoning and white wine. Bring up to a boil and reduce to a simmer; not totally covering pot with the lid.
Gently simmer for 1 hour. (Check often, if it reduces too much, add more warm water.) Then add Herbs de Provence and dill. Stir and taste for seasoning. There are options for serving: You can break up chicken and include pieces when you serve soup or remove the chicken and serve soup with cooked thin egg noodles or matzoh balls.
*Mom’s (aka Bubbie) Seasoning
Prepared in 30 minutes or less plus 4 hours to bake.
Preheat oven to 275°F. Season brisket heavily on both sides with **Mom’s (aka Bubbie’s) seasoning and paprika. Heat a cast iron fry pan so water sizzles on it. Sear brisket on both sides. Remove to a platter.
Lower heat and pour beef broth in pan and stir to get all the bits of seasoning and meat from pan. Place brisket in a large roasting pan with a lid.
Sprinkle onions, ginger and whole garlic cloves.
Pour heated broth over meat.
Cover and roast for 3-4 hours, basting every half hour or so until meat is very soft. Remove from the oven and let meat cool.
Remove meat from juices and slice.
Return meat slices to roasting pan and reheat for serving.
Serve with juice on the side or together. Serves 6.
*Mom’s (aka Bubbie’s) Seasoning
Prepared in 30 minutes or less.
Preheat oven to 425°F.
In a large saucepan on high heat, melt butter.
Add garlic and cook for one minute then remove from butter and discard. Add remaining ingredients and sauté for 3 minutes. This seals in their flavor and keeps them firm.
Transfer vegetables into an 8-inch round cake pan and season with salt and pepper. Bake until golden, about 25 minutes.
Garnish with chopped parsley. Serve immediately. Serves 4.
SWEET RAISIN KUGEL
Prepared in 15 minutes or less plus 1 hour to bake.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Prepare noodles according to package directions only to al dente, drain and return to the pot.
Add the two sticks of butter to the hot noodles. Stir with large cooking spatula until butter is melted. Stir in sugar and cinnamon. Taste for sweetness. Stir in raisins. Stir in cottage cheese. In a blender, beat eggs and baking powder until frothy.
Pour over noodle mixture and stir until incorporated. Pour into generously greased 13 x 9 inch pan. (Glass preferred). Pour can of evaporated milk over mixture. Bake in middle of the oven for about 1 hour or until top is browned and center is almost firm to touch. Cool on rack.
Cut into serving pieces or serve whole and let guests serve themselves. Can be served room temperature or reheated (cover with foil) in warm even.
ISRAELI SUFGANIYOT (FRIED DOUGHNUTS)
Prepared in 20 minutes plus 2 hours to rise then fry.
Each year Jewish families celebrate Chanukah by serving Sufganiyot (fried doughnuts), a traditional holiday treat. These Israeli doughnuts, which are deep-fried in oil, commemorate the miracle of the burning oil lamps in the ancient Holy Temple in Jerusalem (their name is derived from the Greek word “sufgan,” meaning “puffed and fried”). Plump up the doughnuts with your favorite fruit jams, and serve them hot, if possible. For a wintry effect, sprinkle their tops with granulated sugar.
In a small bowl, combine yeast, warm water, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Set aside until foamy, about 10 minutes. Place flour in a large bowl. Make a well in the center; add eggs, yeast mixture, ¼ cup sugar, butter, nutmeg, and salt. Using a wooden spoon, stir until a sticky dough forms.
On a well-floured work surface, knead until dough is smooth, soft, and bounces back when poked with a finger, about 8 minutes (add more flour if necessary).
Place in an oiled bowl; cover with plastic wrap. Set in a warm place to rise until doubled, 1 to 1½ hours.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll dough to ¼-inch thickness. Using a 2½-inch round cutter or drinking glass, cut 20 rounds. Cover with plastic wrap; let rise 15 minutes.
In medium saucepan over medium heat, heat oil until a deep-frying thermometer registers 370° F. Using a slotted spoon, carefully slip 4 rounds into oil.
Fry until golden, about 40 seconds. Turn doughnuts over; fry until golden on other side, another 40 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet.
Roll in sugar while warm. Fry all dough, and roll in sugar then sprinkle with finely chopped almond slivers.
STRAWBERRY SHORTCUT CAKE
Prepared in 20 minutes or less plus 40 minutes to bake.
Preheat oven to 350° F.
In a large bowl, prepare cake batter according to box instructions. Line three 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper. Pour the batter evenly into the pans, smooth the tops with spatula and bake for 35–40 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean.
Place bowl and beaters in freezer for 15 minutes.
Remove bowl and beaters from freezer then whip the cream, sugar and vanilla until firm peaks form. Remove cake from baking pans unto serving platter.
Spread half the cream mixture on first layer of cake then arrange sliced strawberries radiating from center toward edge.
Cover with next layer of cake and repeat process.
Cover with the top slice of the cake and spread with the remaining cream.
Decorate top of cake with remaining fresh strawberries.