Inga's Indulgence

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Seder Success

I tackled my first seder dinner yesterday, and I'm happy to report that I'm still alive.

Yes, I did kind of stray from the original menu that I posted last week, but the food was great and most importantly, the fam was fed. Though my family was ravenous, and would have probably been content eating cardboard by the time we got through all the rituals and explanations of Passover, they did seem to enjoy the food very much.

So, with no further adeau, I'm really proud to present to you Mama Chef's final Passover Seder Menu...

- Matzo Ball Soup
- Baby Spinach Salad with Roasted Beets, Oranges, Walnuts,  
   & Red Wine Vinaigrette
- Garlic & Walnut Eggplant
- Crispy Flounder Cakes with Avocado Horseradish Cream
- Braised Chicken with Dried Apricots & Moroccan Spices               - Apple Matzo Upside-down Cakes

Matzo Ball Soup
(yield: approximately 10 servings) 

carcass of a medium (6 lb) chicken, insides & meat removed
 3 ¾ quarts (15 cups) cold water
1 large yellow onion, peeled & cut in half (keeping root end intact)
3 medium carrots, each peeled & cut into 2-inch pieces
2 medium stalks celery, each cut into 2-inch pieces
3 ounces celery root, peeled and halved
1 ½ oz parsley stems
2 bay leaves
5 black peppercorns
salt, to taste
1 pkg matzah ball mix
3 tbsp dill (optional)

Prepare the chicken: Remove the innards and skin from the entire chicken, and rinse it inside and out under cold running water. Remove the meat (thighs, drumsticks, breast, and wings) from the chicken, and reserve for Braised Chicken with Dried Apricots & Moroccan Spices (or any other chicken dish you may want to make). 
Place the chicken carcass into a large stockpot. Cover with cold water. Place the onion, carrots, celery, and celery root into the pot.

Wrap the parsley stems, bay leaves and peppercorns in a piece of cheesecloth. Secure the cheesecloth tightly with kitchen twine, and add to the pot. Bring to a boil, and skim off any foam that floats to the top. Season with salt. Reduce heat to low and simmer covered for 45 minutes, skimming every 15 minutes. Strain the bouillon, reserving the carrots and celery. Discard the onion pieces, celery root and cheese cloth. Adjust seasoning with more salt if necessary.

While the soup simmers, you can make the matzo balls. Just follow the package instructions, carefully.

Okay, you want to hear my opinion on using packaged matzo ball mixes? I say, why the heck not. Granted, you choose the right brand of course. I've tried my fair share of mixes, and they are not all created equal. Streits is currently my favorite brand, because their matzo balls come out light and fluffy, and don't take away from the flavor of your delicious broth, which you must prepare from scratch. 

Assemble the soup: Ladle the broth into bowls, along with carrots, celery, and matzo balls (about 3 balls per serving is appropriate in my opinion). Garnish with dill.

Spinach Salad with Roasted Beets, Oranges, & Walnuts
(yield: 4-5 servings)

2 tsp red wine (or grape juice)
1 tsp orange juice
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 1/2 oz olive oil
salt & pepper,
to taste
3-4 small red beets
4 cups Baby Spinach
1 medium orange,
cut into segments (reserve the unused portions for the vinaigrette)
1/2 cup walnuts,

 Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Rinse and dry the beets (making sure to cut off the beet greens). Place onto a large piece of aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil or vegetable oil, and fold the foil over the beets, sealing to form a pouch. Roast for up to an hour, checking for doneness with a knife after 45 minutes. The knife should ease right through the beets when they are done. Once done, let the beets cool slightly. Using a paper towl or kitchen towel, rub the skins off (they should come off easily). Dice into 1/2-inch rounds or half moons (depending on the size of the beets), and set aside.

Make the vinaigrette: Whisk together the red wine, orange juice, and red wine vinegar in a small bowl. Continue to whisk as you drizzle in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Toss the baby spinach with prepared vinaigrette (reserving 2 tbsp of the vinaigrette) and place onto a large serving platter. Arrange the roasted beets, orange segments, and walnuts over the greens, and drizzle with remaining 2 tbsp of vinaigrette.

Garlic & Walnut Eggplant
(yield: 4 servings)

1 medium eggplant, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
kosher salt, as needed
olive oil, as needed
1/3 cup walnut oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted & finely chopped
salt & pepper, as needed

Arrange the eggplant slices on a large plate or baking pan, and sprinkle generously with kosher salt. Let sit 20 minutes. Rinse eggplant, and pat dry.
Coat the bottom of a large saute pan with olive oil and heat over a medium flame. Once the oil is hot, add the eggplant slices, and fry until tender and golden, about 4-5 minutes per side. You may have to work in batches, so as not to overcrowd the pan. Remove eggplant from the pan, and arrange in overlapping layers on a plate.

Drain away excess oil in the pan, and wipe the surface with a paper towel. Pour walnut oil into the pan and warm over low heat. Add garlic and parsley. Cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes. Pour warm oil over eggplant, and sprinkle with walnuts. You can definitely eat this dish immediately, but it is best to let it sit for at least an hour.

Crispy Flounder Cakes with Avocado Horseradish Cream
(yield: 8-10 cakes)

water, as needed
1 lemon, sliced
2 bay leafs
1 tsp whole peppercorns
2 lbs filet of flounder
2 eggs
1 1/2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 scallion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp oregano
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup matzo meal
vegetable oil, as needed

Avocado Horseradish Cream
1 avocado
1 1/2 tbsp prepared horseradish
juice of 1 lemon                           1 1/2 tsp salt

Poach the fish: Fill a saute pan 1/4 of the way up with water. Add lemon slices, bay leaf, and peppercorns and bring to a simmer. Add flounder filets to the pan in a single layer (if it gets too crowded, use a second pan). Simmer gently until fish is cooked through and opaque, about 20 minutes. Remove from poaching liquid and let cool.

Flake the cooled fish into a large bowl. Add 1 egg, dijon mustard, scallion, garlic, parley, oregano, salt, pepper, and 1/2 cup of the matzah meal. Gently mix until all ingredients are thoroughly combined. Form mixture into 8-10 patties (depending on how big you want them).

In a wide, shallow bowl, beat the remaining egg with 1 tbsp of water (this is the egg wash). Pour the remaining 1/2 cup of matzah meal into another wide, shallow bowl.

Fill a large non-stick pan with vegetable oil to reach 1/4 of the way up the sides, and place over medium-high heat. Coat the patties in the egg wash, dredge in matzah meal, and fry until golden brown and crisp on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Serve right away with Avocado Horseradish Cream.

Make the Avocado Horseradish cream: Combine all ingredients for the cream in a food processor, and puree until smooth and creamy.

Braised Chicken with Dried Apricots & Moroccan Spices
(yield: 4-5 servings)

1, 6 lb chicken, insides removed & cut into 10 parts (reserve carcass for matzo ball soup)
vegetable oil, as needed
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
3 medium carrots
2 stalks celery
4 medium potatoes, large dice
5 sprigs fesh thyme
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1 cup chicken stock (you can use broth from the matzo ball soup)
1/2 cup dried apricots
salt & pepper, to taste

Fabricate the chicken: remove 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs, 2 wings, and two breasts from the body of the chicken. Cut each breast in half. Reserve the carcass of the chicken for the matzo ball soup*.

Heat a large pot over medium-high heat, and coat bottom with vegetable oil. Season chicken with salt and pepper, and brown on both sides.

Lower heat, and add the onions, garlic, cumin, coriander, turmeric and cinnamon stick. Cook, stirring, until onions have softened slightly, about 5 minutes. Add carrots, celery, potatoes, and thyme. Cook 2-3 minutes. Add wine, and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Stir in tomato sauce and chicken stock. Once everything reaches a boil reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 1 1/2 hours.

Apple Matzo Upside-down Cakes
(yield: 12 mini cakes)

4 sheets matzo
boiling water,
as needed
4 tbsp butter, plus more for greasing
2 grannysmith apples, peeled and diced
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup amaretto or frangelico
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 12-portion muffin pan with butter.

Place the matzo into a deep bowl, crumbling it up slightly. Pour enough water over the matzo, to just cover. Set aside for 15 minutes. Once the matzo has absorbed the water and softened, place into a strainer and drain, squeezing some of the water out with your hands.

Meanwhile, melt 2 tbsp of butter in a large pan over medium-low heat. Add the apples and 1/2 cup of sugar, and cook (stirring occasionally), about 10 minutes. Add the amaretto, and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until apples have absorbed most of the liquor. Remove from heat, and set aside to cool.

Combine eggs, vanilla, 1/3 cup sugar, and drained matzah in a large bowl. Mix thoroughly.

Distribute the cooled apples among the muffin pan. Top with matzo batter, filling about 3/4 of the way full. Bake 22-25 minutes, until tops have set and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let cool. Run a knife around the edges of each cake, and invert the pan onto a large plate. Some of the apples may get left behind (no biggie!) just help them along with a spoon.

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