Rosh Hashana Recipes: The Best Thing They Ever Ate (For Rosh Hashana): Local Chefs on Their Favorite Holiday Foods

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[Note from Liz: This story is from 2011, but still has some great suggestions for Rosh Hashana recipes.]

Linda Lombroso had an absolutely terrific story in yesterday’s paper — a riff on the Food Network’s show “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” I’ll just let her tell the story:

The smells and tastes of Jewish holiday meals tend to linger in the mind for years — even if they’re memories of gefilte fish served straight from the jar. We decided to set the bar higher.

Adam Kaye and his mother, Avril Kaye, at Adam’s home in Mamaroneck. (Matthew Brown/TJN)

For this Rosh Hashana, which begins at sundown on Sept. 28, we’ve taken our cue from Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and asked seven local chefs, restaurateurs and food experts to tell us about the best Rosh Hashana dishes they’ve ever had. From Israeli poppy-seed babka to crispy potato kugel from the suburbs of Philadelphia, everyone had a dish that still gets them excited — and reminds them of happy holiday meals with family.

Adam Kaye, chef and kitchen director, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills

Favorite dish: Chicken roasted with fall vegetables, fruits and honey, made by his mother, Avril, owner of Avril Kaye Caterers in Scarsdale

The story: Kaye, who lives in Mamaroneck, has long adored his mother’s roast chicken, a dish he describes as something along the lines of a chicken tzimmes. “I am a big fan of sweet and savory combinations, and this dish is all about the combination of sweet and earthy flavors,” he says. “The veggies add so much to the flavor of the bird, and of course the vegetables get to soak up all those wonderful chicken drippings. It is also a smart move on her part — this is essentially a one ‘pot’ (or in this case, ‘casserole’) dish, which is always helpful at a Rosh Hashana meal, where you seem to inevitably have so many pots and pans in action.”

Tip: Kaye says his mother rubs the chicken with olive oil, garlic and fresh herbs before roasting it on a bed of root vegetables tossed in sweet wine. “She also bastes the bird occasionally with all the wonderful sweet juices in the roasting pan, which gives the chicken this lovely glaze.”

Jamie Geller, author of the “Quick and Kosher” cookbook series and editor of the magazine “Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller”

Favorite dish: Potato kugel made by her father and grandfather

The story: “This is literally one of the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth,” says Geller, who grew up in Abington, Pa., a suburb of Philadelphia, and now lives in New Hempstead. Geller’s father would grate the potatoes by hand and never measured anything. “My mother was always like, ‘Please make that kugel,’ and we would salivate and watch him as he would make it. We always wanted to dig into it right when it came out, and he would always hold us back because it was too hot.” The dish, she says, has its roots in Eastern Europe — and Geller is still trying to duplicate it at home. “I haven’t yet figured out that fluff, that lightness, that height. It’s baked in a loaf pan, which will give you four to five inches of height. We used to fight over the end, the corner piece, because you get all that extra coveted crunch around the edges.”

Tip: Geller likes to make potato kugel in individual cups to make it more festive, and she always warms the oil in the oven before adding the potatoes, eggs and onions, a technique that assures you’ll get that “coveted crunch” on the outside, she says. Never freeze potato kugel, says Geller, because the potatoes get waterlogged. “This is one of those things you want to make fresh, especially on the holidays.”

More, including recipes from Abigail Kirsch, Scott Weiss of Fig & Olive, Ethan Kostbar of Moderne Barn, Dan Glickberg of Fairway and Dorit Kramer of Art Cafe, after the jump.

Abigail Kirsch, founder of Abigail Kirsch Culinary Relationships\

Favorite dish: Tzimmes prepared by her grandmother in Dorchester, Mass.

The story: “The heady richness of the stew, the combination of flavors and the addition of meat combined with the dried fruits, fresh carrots and honey makes this traditional holiday dish unforgettable,” says Kirsch, who grew up in Brooklyn and New Rochelle and now lives in Pound Ridge. “My most favorite memory is seeing the brilliant smile on my father’s face as he watched the casserole of tzimmes placed in front of him on the white tablecloth for the Rosh Hashana repast. It was priceless.”

Tip: Slow cooking — and cooking away all the liquids — is essential to making this dish great, says Kirsch. Drain off excess liquid, she says, and adjust the flavors by balancing the honey and lemon.

Scott Weiss, chef de cuisine, Fig & Olive, Scarsdale

[Update, 2013: Scott is now cooking at 42 in White Plains.]

Favorite dish: Kasha varnishkes (buckwheat groats with bowtie pasta) prepared by his mother and grandmother

The story: “Jewish cuisine growing up wasn’t exactly intricate or elaborate, but this was one of those dishes that was a little bit different, certainly for a child,” says Weiss, who was raised in Pomona and Suffern and now lives in White Plains. “The name was a little funky and it was a good dish. I always liked it. It had a nutty almost sweetness, some caramelized onions cooked down in a little chicken stock. There was a little substance to it. It didn’t melt away in your mouth.”

Tip: Don’t cook the noodles all the way through before adding to the kasha, says Weiss. For a modern twist, he suggests using fresh herbs and perhaps some Middle Eastern spices to complement the nuttiness of the grain.

Ethan Kostbar, executive chef, Moderne Barn, Armonk

Favorite dish: Poppy-seed babka from a bakery in Jerusalem

The story: “Having grown up as cultural American Jews in Kansas, my parents wanted a deeper religious meaning in their lives,” says Kostbar, who lives in Fairfield, Conn., but had moved with his family to Kfar Adumim, a small settlement in Israel’s West Bank, in 1982. That year, Kostbar’s father already had a sukkah ready, where the family would gather each evening to blow the shofar in honor of the Jewish New Year. Along with apples, honey, dates, pomegranates, challah and rugelach, there was a special poppy-seed babka. “My father, who in his previous life in the States was a parole officer, was cooking at a Sheraton hotel in downtown Jerusalem. On the way home, he picked it up in the Orthodox old quarters of the city. I don’t remember which bakery, and neither does he. We loved gathering around as a family outside, looking up through the palm trees of our sukkah, listening to the distant sounds of the shofars, eating all those sweets and enjoying the best poppy-seed babka. Now, Rosh Hashana comes and goes without much thought. In Israel, it’s their New Year, and everyone celebrates it. I have no recipes, just fond memories.”

Dan Glickberg, executive vice president, Fairway

Favorite dish: Sweet and sour brisket made by Fairway chef Mitchel London

The story: As the great-grandson of Fairway’s founder, Glickberg grew up eating brisket from the store’s catering department. The holidays were no exception. “I had good food all the time, so in that respect, I was lucky,” says Glickberg, who was raised in Irvington and lives in Manhattan. London’s brisket tastes great, in large part, due to its high-quality ingredients — which are, naturally, from Fairway, he says. “The last holiday, I actually made the sweet and sour brisket in my apartment, which is a little more difficult than if you do it in a house with a big kitchen. I brought it to my mom’s house in Irvington. It came out great. I was pretty proud of myself.”

Tip: If you don’t feel like tackling London’s recipe, Fairway will offer his sweet and sour brisket on its holiday catering menu (at Fairwaymarket.com).

Dorit Kramer, owner of Art Cafe, Nyack

Dorit Kramer and her son Daniel, owners of the Art Cafe. ( Tania Savayan / The Journal News )

Favorite dish: Honey cake made by her grandmother in Israel

The story: “As a child growing up in Jerusalem, I remember waking up on the morning before Rosh Hashana to the smell of my grandmother’s honey cake,” writes Kramer via email from Israel, where she’s visiting with family. “I couldn’t wait to eat it and would always steal a piece before the evening. Walking then around my neighborhood, the smells of cinnamon, cloves and rosewater would fill the air. Now, every holiday, I bring the same feeling to my children and grandchildren and to Art Cafe.”

Tip: To make a version of the honey cake served at Art Cafe, Kramer suggests adding rosewater, pecans and cardamom. Unfortunately, she won’t be serving it at the cafe this year, since she’ll be away for the holidays, but with her recipe, you can make it yourself.

Avril Kaye’s Roast Chicken with Fall Vegetables, Fruits and Honey

Avril Kaye’s Roast Chicken with Fall Vegetables, Fruits and Honey

Arvil Kaye, a caterer and the mother of Adam Kaye, the kitchen director at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, gave us this recipe. Adam says his mother rubs the chicken with olive oil, garlic and fresh herbs before roasting it on a bed of root vegetables tossed in sweet wine. “She also bastes the bird occasionally with all the wonderful sweet juices in the roasting pan, which gives the chicken this lovely glaze.”

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 cup olive oil plus additional 1/2 cup for vegetables
  • 3 1/2 to 4 pound chicken
  • 3 medium red skinned potatoes, cut into eighths
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and cut on the bias into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and cut on the bias into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 turnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch piece
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup Port or Madeira
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground clove
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 Gala or Honeycrisp apple, cored, halved and cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 Bosc or Anjou pear, cored, halved and cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 cup pitted prunes
  • 1 cup dried apricots

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the garlic, rosemary, thyme, 1/2 cup of olive oil and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Place chicken on a baking tray or large plate and rub with marinade, making certain to carefully get some of the marinade under the skin and inside the cavity of the bird. Set aside.
  3. In a large ovenproof casserole dish, combine the potatoes, carrots, turnips, parsnips and onion.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the Port, honey, 1/2 cup of olive oil, cinnamon, coriander, allspice, nutmeg and clove. Season generously with salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over the vegetables and stir to coat well.
  5. Place the chicken on top of the vegetables, breast-side down, and cook for 30 minutes, basting occasionally with the liquid in the casserole dish. After 30 minutes, remove the dish from the oven and carefully place the chicken on a plate. Add the apple, pear, prunes and apricots to the vegetables and stir to mix. Return the chicken to the casserole dish, this time breast-side up, and continue to cook for another 40 minutes, or until the temperature in the thigh reaches 165 degrees, basting occasionally.
  6. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before carving the chicken. Serve with the roasted fruits and vegetables.
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Abigail Kirsch’s Holiday Tsimmes

Abigail Kirsch’s Holiday Tsimmes

“The heady richness of the stew, the combination of flavors and the addition of meat combined with the dried fruits, fresh carrots and honey makes this traditional holiday dish unforgettable,” says Kirsch, who grew up in Brooklyn and New Rochelle and now lives in Pound Ridge.

Ingredients

  • Abigail Kirsch’s Holiday Tzimmes
  • Serves 10 to 12 as a side dish.
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 pounds brisket, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and cut into medium chunks
  • 1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut into medium chunks
  • 4 large apples (Granny Smith), peeled, cored, cut into thick slices
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup chicken broth or water
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened orange juice
  • Salt to taste
  • 3/4 cups dried pitted prunes, halved
  • 3/4 cups dried apricots, halved
  • Juice of 1/2 fresh lemon

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Generously grease a 13-inch by 9-inch by 2 1/2-inch deep oven-to-table casserole.
  2. Heat casserole over medium heat over one or two burners and add the olive oil. Add garlic and shallots, sauté for 3 minutes until golden.
  3. Add beef, stirring often, until beef is medium browned on all sidesPlace carrots, squash, apples, honey, cinnamon, chicken broth and orange juice in a large bowl. Mix well. Add salt to taste. Layer mixture over beef, cover, and bake for one hour covered.
  4. Remove cover, add prunes, apricots, and lemon juice, stir well. Bake for 30 minutes, covered. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Uncover and bake 30 minutes more.
  5. Carefully drain excess liquid from the casserole by pouring it into the sink, and using a ladle or the top of the casserole to hold back the ingredients. Allow 1/2 cup of liquid to remain on the bottom. Let rest at least 15 minutes before serving.
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Jamie Geller’s Potato Kugel Cups

Serving Size: Serves 4 to 6.

Jamie Geller’s Potato Kugel Cups

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper
  • 6 large Idaho potatoes
  • 1 large onion, quartered

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Liberally oil six (6-ounce) Pyrex glass dessert dishes or custard cups. Place custard cups on a sturdy sheet pan or cookie sheet.
  3. Place the pan of cups in the oven to heat.
  4. Place eggs in a small bowl and beat. Add salt and pepper, mix well and set aside.
  5. Fill a large bowl with cold water and, as you peel potatoes, place them in the cold water to prevent browning.
  6. Heat remainder of oil in a small saucepan on the stove over medium-low heat.
  7. Cut potatoes lengthwise into halves or quarters so they fit into food processor feed tube. Process potatoes and onions using the blade that creates thin, shoestring-like strips.
  8. Transfer potatoes and onions to a large bowl, add egg mixture and heated oil from stovetop, mix very well. Remove any large pieces of potatoes or onions that weren’t processed properly.
  9. Remove heated cups from the oven and carefully spoon potato mixture evenly into hot, oiled cups.
  10. Bake at 425 degrees for 1 hour, or until the tops look crunchy and sides look golden and browned. Loosen edges with a knife, unmold and serve on a platter.
  11. Note: To make this as a potato kugel pie, bake in a 9-inch round glass baking dish for about 1 hour or longer, depending on desired crunchiness.
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Scott Weiss’ Kasha and Varnishkes

Scott Weiss’ Kasha and Varnishkes

Ingredients

  • About 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 pound buckwheat groats (kasha)
  • 1 large Spanish onion, diced small
  • 2 cups bowtie pasta, prepared according to package directions
  • 1 stick butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon chopped parsley or 1 teaspoon cumin seed (or both) or 1 teaspoon nutmeg

Instructions

  1. Saute the Spanish onion in butter until onion is caramelized to a golden brown color, sweet aroma, about 15 minutes. At the same time, in a medium saucepan over high heat, bring chicken stock to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile, warm a saute pan over medium heat, then add kasha with 1/2 tablespoon of salt and brown until you get a nutty aroma, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the optional cumin seed at this time.
  3. When kasha is browned, pour boiling chicken stock over it, enough to cover. Cover the pot, and cook on low flame without stirring until all the stock is absorbed (about 5 minutes). Turn the heat off, and do not touch until the kasha is cooled.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare the bowtie pasta.
  5. When kasha is cool, separate it with your hands until flaky, stir in caramelized onions, then add to the noodles. Mix together, add more melted butter, if necessary. If you are using the parsley or nutmeg, add that now. Then add salt and pepper to taste.
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Fairway’s Sweet and Sour Brisket

Serving Size: 8

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons corn oil
  • 6 to 8 pounds brisket
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 6 Spanish onions, julienned
  • 1 pound carrots, roughly chopped
  • 2 to 3 quarts chicken stock or water
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Heat corn oil in a large, heavy pan until it is medium hot. Place brisket in pan and brown well for 15-20 minutes on each side. Press garlic powder, paprika and onion powder into the brisket on the first side you browned. Remove brisket from pan and add onions. Caramelize onions for a minimum of 20 minutes. Place the brisket and carrots in pan and fill with chicken stock or water so that the brisket is half submerged. Bring the stock to a boil, and cover the pan so it is sealed. Place in a 375 degree oven for 1 3/4 to 2 hours.
  2. Take the pan out of the oven and place the brisket on a cutting board. Place the pan with the stock, carrots and onions over high heat for approximately 20 minutes or until the liquid is reduced to half the amount. Skim the fat off the surface of the stock while it is reducing. Add the red wine vinegar and brown sugar, and simmer for another 10 minutes. Taste to make sure there is a good balance between sweet and sour.
  3. Slice your brisket against the grain, pour the sauce over the sliced brisket and serve.
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Dorit Kramer’s Honey Cake

Dorit Kramer’s Honey Cake

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, unsalted
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons honey, divided
  • 1 large banana, cut into chunks
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
  • To add an Art Cafe twist use these optional ingredients:
  • 1/2 teaspoon of rose water
  • 1/2 crushed pecans
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cardamom

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch by 5-inch loaf pan.
  2. Combine butter and sugar in a food processor for one minute. Add beaten eggs and process it until combined.
  3. Add in the optional ingredients at this time.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon of honey in a saucepan over low heat for one minute.
  5. Add the honey to the food processor along with the banana, and blend until smooth texture.
  6. Add the flour and cinnamon and process until well combined. Pour evenly into the loaf pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Let the pan sit for 5 minutes before removing it from the pan.
  7. Warm the remaining honey and brush it over the warm cake. Also, serve with powdered sugar on top and enjoy for the holiday.
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About Author

Liz Johnson is the food editor of The Journal News and LoHud.com, for which she's won awards from the New York News Publishers Association, the Association of Food Journalists and the Associated Press. She lives in Nyack with her husband and daughter on a tiny suburban lot they call their farm — with fruit trees, an herb garden, and a yardful of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, shallots, cucumbers, zucchini, radishes, cabbage, peppers, Brussels sprouts and carrots and four big blueberry bushes.

12 Comments

  1. My friends and I have been to (cumulatively) more than a dozen Abigail Kirsch weddings at Bklyn & Bronx Botanical Gardens and Chelsea Pier. How does this woman get away with such lousy cooking?
    Anybody ever eat green tinted mashed potatoes that almost have to be cut with a knife?
    Anybody ever hear of cutting a cocktail frank in 1/2 and putting it on a stick? How about tacos the size of a child’s pinky nail? Chopped liver that tastes like spoiled food?
    Anybody ever go to an affair and people pushed away the salad and appetizer? main course?
    She’s just what the yuppies love – high prices and snob appeal. How can you ask someone like this to participate in this article?

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