One of the things we enjoy about entertaining (and, after all, what is hosting a couple of Seder meals but entertainment... albeit with a Religious Purpose?) is the opportunity to offer our guests interesting dishes, be they old or new. While we always rely heavily an traditional menu items, every so often we will put out something a bit different. Sometimes that means an old dish we haven’t had in a while; sometimes it means a variation on a familiar theme. And sometimes it even means a recipe we are trying out for the first time.
Is it risky, this business of essaying new dishes on an unsuspecting audience? Sure it is. But there are all kinds of risks in life, and this one has a pretty healthy risk/reward ratio. We have rarely, if ever, been disappointed when we try something new, and sometimes those new items get incorporated into our holiday traditions.
Take beef brisket, f’rinstance. It’s one of those things that was probably carved into one of those stone tablets that Moses schlepped down from Sinai... the eleventh or twelfth commandment: Thou shalt serve a braised beef brisket at the Seder meal. Also on Rosh Hashanah.
Well, this year, just to change things up a bit, we served braised beef short ribs instead. Meaty and tender, braised slowly in beef stock and kosher dry red wine (yes, there is such a thing), they were just fine... and even better when accompanied by one of our New Discoveries.
Wuddat? Glad you asked. Carrot horseradish! Bright orange, intensely horseradishy, and with a hint of sweetness and citrus, it was the surprise hit of our Seder. The recipe that follows is from the Gefilteria in Brooklyn, provided courtesy of my friends at the FJMC.
1 lb carrots
½ lb horseradish root
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup white vinegar
1 cup water
3½ Tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 Tbsp lemon zest
½ tsp salt
Peel carrots and cut into one-inch chunks. Boil for 5 minutes; set aside to cool.
Combine water, sugar, and vinegar. Bring to a boil until sugar is dissolved; set aside to cool.
Wash and peel the horseradish and cut into one-inch chunks. Combine in food processor: carrots, horseradish, lemon zest, lemon juice, most of vinegar solution, and the salt. Process until well combined. Wear a gas mask when opening the food processor. (Just kidding... but please note, those horseradish fumes can be seriously pungent!)
Put in a nonreactive glass jar and add remaining vinegar as needed to adjust the consistency. Refrigerate for a few hours before serving to allow the flavor to develop.
Carrot chrain (horseradish) - carrots with a serious kick, and a happy New Discovery to boot.
For the sake of tradition, I made good old-fashioned chopped chicken liver, enhanced with hard-boiled eggs and plenty of onions that I had caramelized in a mixture of duck and goose schmaltz. Cholesterol City, for sure... but it hit all the right Old-School flavor notes, a perfect accompaniment to an ice-cold shot of slivovitz.
So, to recap...
Traditional: SWMBO’s wonderful chicken soup (gussied up with Gary’s matzoh balls and Debby’s caramelized onion matzoh balls). Gold’s white and red horseradish. Eggs in salt water. Matzoh farfel kugel.
New twist on a traditional theme: Braised short ribs. Look out, Mister Brisket - you have competition!
Something new and different: Chicken tagine (a recipe we had never tried); roasted steelhead with Israeli spices; carrot horseradish.
Thank Gawd this holiday only comes around once a year. Much as we love it, we would all weigh 350 pounds...