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Not Your Bubby's Menu: How to Host a Tastier Rosh Hashanah
While planning an elaborate holiday feast, topped off with a heaping dose of religion and family pressure, can seem intimidating, it really just requires some planning (which we've conveniently done for you) and perhaps a bottle of wine to calm your nerves.
This year the Jewish holidays fall early, when the farmers' markets are still bursting with colorful produce, so swap out the brown motif of bubby fare for something a bit more modern, dare we say, "shtetl chic."
Day 1: Wednesday
Getting Started: Design your menu (we've got you covered with tons of recipe options below). Once you've selected your menu, create a shopping list organized by which store sells what.
Day 2: Thursday
Prepping the Table: It's time to figure out where those extra folding tables and chairs are. Get everything for your table out including plates, glasses, cutlery and decorations. Don't worry about setting your table, just gather it all together.
Day 3: Friday
To Market, To Market: Head out to your favorite food shops or markets to pick up all of your ingredients. Two days out is just long enough to allow fruit to ripen and not too long for meat to hang out in your refrigerator.
Day 4: Saturday
Get Cooking: Turn on your stove and oven and start cooking! Use the day before your meal to prepare things that can be reheated like soup and cakes. If you have the time, do the prep work for your other dishes.
It's also time to set your table. Get creative with decoration: pomegranates, apples and honey are all traditional holiday foods and look beautiful when arranged on a table with candles.
Day 5: Sunday
The Big Day: Plan to spend a fair amount of time in your kitchen today. If you're strapped for time, ask your friends to pitch in by bringing side dishes, dessert or appetizers. Start by preparing the items that will take the longest to cook, then start on your side dishes.
Bread: While you can buy excellent Rosh Hashanah challahs in any major city, nothing compares to the scent of freshly baked bread at a holiday meal. Make sure to start making the bread the day before or early the morning you plan to serve it, as the dough will need time to rest and rise.
Soup: A Jewish holiday wouldn't really be a holiday without matzo ball soup. So we tracked down chef Mark Spengenthal of Kutsher's Tribeca and the Bromberg brothers of Blue Ribbon to show us how to make a killer rendition.
Main Courses: Whether you fall into the brisket or chicken camp, we have you covered.
- Garlic Roasted Chicken with Carrots and Parsnips
- Jacques Pépin's Quick-Roasted Chicken
- How to Not Roast a Chicken
- Sweet & Sour Brisket with Pomegranate Molasses and Dried Fruit
- Old Shul Brisket from The Brisket Book
- My Family's Brisket Recipe
Sides: Sweet tzimmes (a roasted carrot and raisin dish) is a staple of holiday tables. The tradition goes back literally hundreds of years. Sliced carrots looked like coins and came to represent prosperity, something that we could all use a bit more of until the economy recovers. But, if you prefer something a little less cloying, try bourbon roasted carrots, sweet potato kugel or a classic potato kugel.
Veggies: Apples are not only traditional, but conveniently are showing up in farmers' markets earlier this year, so try incorporating them into one of your salads or side dishes.
- Fennel, Arugula and Green Apple Salad
- Shredded Beet, Apple, and Currant Salad with Apple Vinaigrette
- Roasted Endives, Apples and Grapes
Dessert: Like matzo ball soup, Rosh Hashanah would be incomplete without an apple cake. Make sure to save yourself a slice to have for breakfast the morning after.
- Classic Challah Bread Pudding
- Joan Nathan's Apple Cake
- Apple Sauce Cake with Pomegranate Glaze
- Plenty more desserts!
Beverages: While wine will do just fine, these festive cocktails add a nice flare to a holiday meal and may just help you make it through an evening of family pressure.
Or, Try an International Menu!
About the author: Devra Ferst is the food editor of the Forward newspaper. She is also a frequent contributor to Grub Street and when she isn't at her computer writing, she can be found in her kitchen cooking up something delicious. You can follow her at @devraferst.