I have been running behind on my post of what I have been cooking this week. Fear not, I will get caught up. I have some fun dishes to write about. What’s been keeping me too busy to post is finalizing my Passover menu. This meal of all the ones I do throughout the year is the one I put the most work into. I do amuse bouche’s, mains, sides, desserts, and coordinate other meals that week around that theme as well. After much thought and reflection I have my menu finalized and my grocery list put together. Now let the prep begin!
So when I set out to put together this years menu I thought about to the dinner I did two years ago. I really loved the concepts I did but it needed a lot of finessing.
For those who don’t know growing up we always did a big seder. My parents would invite people over. We would read from the haggadah and my mom made a dinner of roasted leg of lamb, farfel kugel, and a mixed green salad with a basic vinaigrette. When my grandfather lived near us and came he would always bring a tin of Manischewitz macaroons. During the seder my dad would offer up small bites from the seder plate as one does during the seder. These bites were romaine dipped in salt water, green onion with a dollop of charoset, and horseradish sauce sandwiched between to small pieces of matzo.
All of these flavors have been burned into my mind with great fondness. Although I do not perform my own seder or keep kosher I do my take on a Passover dinner inspired but my upbringing and heritage. Two years ago was the first time I was able to explore my ideas on how I would observe Passover.
The first thought was about the seder plate. This consists of horseradish, a lamb shank bone, hardboiled egg, green onions, charoset, and romaine. Not having a seder plate of my own I wanted to somehow still capture this. That’s when the idea of an “Amuse Bouche” seder plate came to me. The first time I did this I did three bites. Each bite had two components to the seder plate. There was a bite that was lamb gravy with horseradish and matzo, one that was romaine and piped egg yolk (from hardboiled eggs), and one that was the green onion and charoset.
Last year I didn’t do my take on Passover. Instead my husband and I went to my parents house where we got to enjoy the wonderful seder my parents always put on. It reminded me of the tastes and smells of my childhood and got me even more excited to celebrate Passover going forward.
This year when I began thinking about the meal I again thought about my amuse bouche seder pate. One of the things that stand out from my families seders is the horseradish sandwich. I wanted to bring that back but with a little more elegance (if that’s possible). This lead me to The Gefilte Manifesto‘s Make-at-home-Matzo! Right off the bat I was hooked. Then I turned my attention to the horseradish. Usually my mom would buy a jar of horseradish but when I did my version I made my own from the root and then used Heston Blumenthal‘s recipe for Horseradish Cream. One of the fun things about this recipe, that wasn’t part of the recipe, was that it can be whipped to a light and fluffy texture. As I was thinking about this I wondered if there was anything I could do to give this a little more depth of flavor. So I turned to The Spice Companion and looked up horseradish. Sure enough he offered a blend of spices that I am planning on adding to my horseradish cream.
I then was thinking about my lamb gravy. This originally was to represent the shank bone on the seder plate. This year I am making a Lamb Shank amuse bouche which will consist of a little lamb gravy with small pieces of the slow roasted lamb shank (another of Heston’s recipes).
The romain with the piped egg is actually almost straight out of Tyler Florence’s Inside the Test Kitchen. It’s his recipe for Caesar Salad Deviled Eggs. For this amuse bouche I do a small pice of romaine and then make a smooth mixture of hard boiled egg yolks with Caesar dressing, mayonnaise, dijon, and lemon juice. I then sprinkle on a little finishing salt. This one was an absolute winner so I don’t have any plans to change it up. Same thing for my charoset with green onion bites. The recipe I used for my charoset was from The New Persian Kitchen. I found it to be to thick and nutty for my taste. The charoset I grew up with was more fruity and moist. To address that I used virtually all the same ingredients but instead changed up the proportions. What I ended up with was a delicious charoset that is moist and sweet.
With my amuse bouche seder plate all worked out it was time to address the main course. Last year I did a soup course but it ended up just being too much so it got cut completely. Instead I will make my matzo ball soup for dinner for the week after passover. My main course is lamb. I know it’s not traditional for most but this is the key component to the smell, taste, and flavor of Passover. For all of my lamb this year I turned to the St. Paul Meat Shop. Their superior quality and service allowed me to get all the shank and leg I needed to execute my ideas. Although my leg of lamb last year was good it just didn’t wow me. None of the main course did so this year it’s where I am focusing most of my “new ideas” and flavors.
For the lamb this year I turned to Dandelion & Quince. In it she has a recipe for 12 hour Lamb Shoulder with Ras El Hanout. When I looked at the spice blend I got very excited. One of the key flavor comments to this blend is rose petals. Since I had just bought way more than I needed for another recipe this gave me more ways to use it as well as many other spices.
Along side the lamb is the kugel. Now, I’ll be honest. Kugel has always been a tough sell with me. I always think it’s too dense and just kinda uninteresting. It wasn’t until I made Cauliflower Kugel from The Gefilte Manifesto that I began to see beyond conventional kugel. This got me thinking. How could I take my mom’s farfel kugel and make it something unique and interesting? Well, since I am making my own matzo I can make an extra batch, bread it up, and presto, FARFEL! But how could I life the flavor? It’s fairly straight forward. Carrot, celery, onion mixed with farfel and eggs and then baked.
Then it hit me. Spice. I went to The Spice Companion and looked up carrots. What I found was a spice blend that used things like orange peel powder, pepper flakes, marjoram, caraway, and anise. I immediately thought I have to try this, but how? This got me thinking about when I roasted some potatoes using his recommendation of ginger and paprika and how good it was. I then was thinking about maybe I could roast the carrots in this spice blend and then add it to my kugel. I started looking up other veggies like celery. Under it in the index was the root roasted. After discovering celeriac during the holidays I got excited. I flipped to the page and it turned out that it was for Omani Limes! I had just purchased some for a Tart Lamb Stew I had done and had a ton left over! Then I saw the spice blend was things like Tarragon, dill, and fennel seeds. I was torn I loved both ideas!
Epiphany! I had it. I am going to make one kugel per vegetable. So one will be carrot, one will be celeriac, and then as I kept digging in the Spice Companion I came across a blend for parsnips which will use things like chives, tarragon, dill, mint, and nigella seeds. Now that I had my tree types of kugel picked I turned my attention to the actual structure of the kugel. I wanted to know if there were any good ideas or different ideas on how to make the kugel lighter. I then turned to The Art of Jewish Cooking. I looked up kugels and went through their various recipes. Then I stumbled across Tzibbele Kugel. This essentially is a farfel kugel with the only veggie in it being onion. What caught my eye was that they have you separate the eggs. Everything gets mixed in with beaten egg yolks and then you fold in the whites! This is exactly what I was hoping to find!
So my idea is to serve a 4 ounce pieces of lamb along with 1 ounce slices of each of the kugels. Kinda of like fallen dominos.
The final part of the main course is the salad. Two years ago I tried a salad that used a truffle oil in the vinaigrette. Can I just say, I am NOT a fan. This year I looked for anything that might spark interest and that when I say a salad in The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen for a Apple, Fennel, and Watermelon Radish Salad. Since this echoed many flavors I was already using I am hoping this will be a better fit.
The final piece to this puzzle is dessert. Since leavening agents are not allowed in the Passover menu things like strawberries and angle food cake have made their way to the family table over the years but again I just didn’t feel it captured the WOW that I was looking for. That’s when I discovered The Holiday Kosher Baker. Though I have had trouble getting the consistency, flavor, or texture that I have been looking for with this cookbook I have found TONS of inspiration in this book. I did attempt her Strawberry Monaco two years ago. It was OK but I had issues with the pastry cream recipe. (I also have to say I get a little frustrated when someone calls their recipe by a completely different name than what it actually is. When I was trying to trouble shoot my Monaco I was having no luck. It wasn’t till much later that I discovered it is actually a Charlotte Royale. Once I found this I was able to see where I went wrong and what other versions do.
This year I am steering clear of the pastry cream from that recipe but instead I am doing a pastry cream from Miette which I happen to have recently made and my husband and I were both WOW’ed by. We did like the version of the Swiss Roll that was in the original recipe so I will stock with that but I am also thinking of punching up with strawberry jam with the use of some spices which I will surely post about once I get to play around with this recipe.
All in all I am very excited about what I have a head of me. Hopefully I won’t hit too many issues!