More cluck for your passover buck

I have always enjoyed researching and developing new dishes to serve during Passover, but have you ever heard of Mock Gefilte Fish? Because everyone loves chicken, I am constantly looking for new and different chicken dishes to prepare, and I find that each recipe has a story all its own.

Mock Gefilte Fish, made with ground chicken, really tastes like gefilte fish. An ancient and popular dish substituting ground chicken or turkey for the fish, it was served during Passover among the Vishnitz Chasidic Jews, and called falsher or “false fish.” The Chasidim, who were very strict, fearing that fish may have contained some undigested bread, abstained from eating it during Passover.

We like the idea of surprising our guests by serving this just-like-the-real-thing “gefilte chicken” — chilled on a bed of lettuce, with horseradish, at the seder. And it solves the problem for those who cannot or prefer not to eat fish.


I can’t imagine a Passover dinner without chicken soup with matzah balls, but the question I am often asked is “How can I make my chicken soup taste like chicken?” My answer is always the same: “The more chicken you put in your soup, the more flavor it will have.” I always make my mother’s matzah ball recipe, which produces the lightest, best matzah balls I have ever tasted.

The secret for flavorful soup is to use whole chickens that have been tied (or trussed) with kitchen string to keep them intact. Add water, lots of vegetables, salt and pepper, bring to a boil, and simmer for 1 hour or until the chicken flavor is intense. When cool, carefully remove the chickens from the soup to be used for other dishes on the seder menu.

The leftover chicken soup that you served for Passover seders can be pureed with the vegetables in it and served during the remaining days of Passover. In addition, you can serve it with a Parsley Pesto Sauce, either drizzled on or mixed in.

We often cut the soup chicken into quarters or pieces and bake them in a rich tomato-mushroom sauce until the chickens have absorbed the flavor of the sauce. Then, just before serving, we transfer them to a large platter to serve as part of our seder dinner. Or, for another meal, spoon the tomato-mushroom sauce onto individual heated serving plates, place the chicken on the plates and top with mushrooms and vegetables.

Another use for leftover chicken is Chicken-Fennel Salad, served on a bed of lettuce for lunch, or as a main course. Bake popular “sliders” using my recipe for Passover Rolls. They can be filled with sliced chicken or chicken salad, and are great for the children to take for lunch.


Mock Gefilte Fish. Photos by Dan Kacvinski

2 1/2 quarts chicken broth
2 onions, sliced
5 stalks celery, sliced
5 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds ground chicken or turkey
2 eggs
1/2 cup matzah meal or potato starch
Lettuce leaves
Red horseradish

In a large pot, combine the chicken broth, 1 onion, 3 stalks celery and 3 carrots. Bring to a boil over high heat, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

In a food grinder or wooden bowl, combine the chicken with the remaining onion, celery and carrots. Grind or chop the mixture until well blended. Transfer to a glass bowl. Add the eggs, matzah meal and 1/2 cup chicken broth from the pot. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Blend well. The mixture should be soft and light to the touch.

Wet your hands with cold water and shape the mixture into 2-inch ovals. Place the balls in the chicken broth in the pot. Bring to a boil, cover partially, and simmer for 30 minutes or until done. Transfer to a large glass bowl with the broth. Cool, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Serve on a bed of lettuce with horseradish.

Makes 16 to 18 portions.


2 (3-pound) chickens, trussed
2 pounds chicken necks and gizzards, tied in cheesecloth
4 large onions, diced
1 medium leek, sliced into 1-inch pieces
2 to 3 cups thinly sliced carrots (16 small carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces)
2 to 3 cups thinly sliced celery with tops (5 stalks celery with tops, cut into 1-inch pieces)
3 medium parsnips, thinly sliced
12 sprigs fresh parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a large, heavy Dutch oven or pot, place trussed chicken, necks and gizzards, onions, leek, carrots, celery, parsnips and enough water to cover. Over high heat, bring to a boil. Using a large spoon, skim off and discard the scum that rises to the top. Cover, leave the lid ajar, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 1 hour. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Uncover and simmer 30 minutes longer, until chickens are tender.

Using two large slotted spoons, carefully remove the chickens from the soup and transfer to a large platter. Let soup cool to room temperature, then chill. Skim off fat that hardens on the surface and discard.

Makes 12 servings.


3 eggs, separated
About 1/2 cup water or chicken stock
1 to 1 1/2 cups matzah meal
1/8 teaspoon salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper

Place egg yolks in a measuring cup and add enough water or chicken stock to make 1 cup. Beat with a fork until well blended. Set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks; do not overbeat. In a small bowl, combine matzah meal with salt and pepper. With a rubber spatula, gently fold the yolk mixture alternately with the matzah mixture into beaten egg whites. Use only enough matzah meal to make a light, soft dough. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and let firm up for 5 minutes. Form into balls.

Bring soup to a slow boil. Using a large spoon, gently drop in matzah balls. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 10 minutes (do not uncover during this cooking time).

Makes 8 to 10 matzah balls.


1 cup finely packed fresh parsley leaves, without stems
1/2 cup tightly packed fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons pine nuts or walnut pieces
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup olive oil
Pinch sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Put the parsley, basil, pine nuts and garlic in a processor or blender. Pulse until finely chopped. With the machine running, slowly pour in the olive oil in a thin stream. Add sugar, salt and pepper.  Pour into a glass bowl, cover and refrigerate.

Makes about 2 cups.


1/2 cup olive oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 can (15 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes, with juice
12 medium mushrooms, quartered
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Chickens from soup, cut into pieces
Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a large roasting pot, heat olive oil and add the onions, minced garlic, carrots and celery; sauté until soft. Add tomatoes and mushrooms, mix well, bring to a boil over medium heat, and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the wine and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, adding additional wine or liquid if needed.

Transfer the chicken to the roasting pot and baste with the onion-tomato mixture to coat the chicken. Add the parsley, rosemary and salt and pepper. Bake, covered, 30 to 40 minutes, basting occasionally, until the chickens are heated through.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.


Chicken-Fennel Salad

4 cups diced poached chicken
1 cup diced fennel
4 green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1 to 2 cups mayonnaise
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Romaine or iceberg lettuce, for garnish

In a large mixing bowl, toss together the chicken, fennel, green onions and parsley. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add to the chicken mixture and mix gently until combined. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve on a bed of lettuce or tucked into a Passover Roll, resembling a slider.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.


Chicken sliders with Passover Rolls

1 cup water
2 cups safflower or vegetable oil
2 cups matzah meal
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a heavy saucepan, bring the water and oil to a rolling boil.

In large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the matzah meal and salt. Pour the boiling water mixture into the matzah mixture and blend well. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, until completely blended. Let mixture rest for 10 minutes, covered.

With well-oiled hands, tear off pieces of dough and shape into rolls. Place 2 inches apart on a well-oiled foil- or Silpat-lined baking sheet. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to cooling racks.

Makes about 12 large or 24 small rolls.


Judy Zeidler is the author of “The Gourmet Jewish Cook” (Morrow, 1988) and “The International Deli Cookbook” (Chronicle, 1994). She teaches cooking classes through American Jewish University’s Whizin Center for Continuing Education. Her soon-to-be-published cookbook, “Italy Cooks,” is based on 35 years of travel to Italy. Her Web site is

For more Passover recipes visit

Atoning for the sin of rushing dinner to get to Kol Nidre

I consider Yom Kippur eve the sandwich holiday. Not because I would ever serve my family and friends sandwiches before going to synagogue on the eve of a solemn fast. I see the start of Yom Kippur this way, because it’s sandwiched between two days of Rosh Hashanah celebrations and the Day of Atonement. Not to mention the eight-day festival of Sukkot, which rushes in four days later.
With the emphasis that night, as it should be, on getting to Kol Nidre services on time, sometimes little thought is given to this very important meal whose menu should be in perfect balance to ready people for the fast ahead. Ideally dinner on Yom Kippur eve should be hearty but light, nourishing but satisfying, tasty but not too luxurious. The challenge is daunting at a time when school and fall activities have just begun, and the Jewish calendar is so full.
I recall one year when I was still peeling potatoes an hour before eight people were expected for dinner on erev Yom Kippur. I panicked, fearing that we’d never get to Kol Nidre services on time.
Fortunately my husband always comes to the rescue whenever I’m in a jam. He microwaved the potatoes, threw together a salad and broke into a sweat basting the chicken. I set the table, barking orders, as our 9-year-old daughter scampered to her room to avoid my tension. I swore I’d never do that again. Since then, I’ve given much thought to organizing this special dinner to save time, lower stress and serve foods that will facilitate a meaningful fast.

With Yom Kippur beginning this year on a Sunday night, people who observe the Sabbath have additional considerations. If possible, they should complete the bulk of their organizing and food preparation by Thursday, leaving Friday free to focus on Shabbat cooking. After Friday evening, their next opportunity to address the Yom Kippur eve meal is Sunday morning, when the countdown begins. Although I’m embarrassed to admit it, I’ve solved this dilemma by imitating a staple of women’s magazines — the make-ahead menu. The day after Rosh Hashanah, while I’m sipping coffee and drizzling honey over a piece of challah, I start planning for Yom Kippur eve. I fine-tune my menu and compose a shopping list.

On each of the following days, I prepare a dish and freeze it, or I make most of the steps in the directions, refrigerating foods until I’m ready to proceed. On the day of Yom Kippur eve, I have only a few last-minute touches to handle. I glide into the holiday with a sense of serenity, a far cry from the frenzied person I used to be. For peace of mind, I now serve the same menu every Yom Kippur eve. It meets my most important criteria: healthy, appealing and easy to execute. This menu can be expanded to include additional dishes, but it’s filling enough to stand alone.
Inspired by Greek Jews, who often partake in stewed chicken and tomatoes before the Yom Kippur fast, I created my own version of this traditional dish. The chicken is sautéed and then poached in plum tomatoes, which simmer into a sauce that moistens the chicken. However, this dish is fairly bland and doesn’t cause undue thirst the next day. The ample tomato sauce calls for a bed of rice. Throughout the world, chicken and rice are served on Yom Kippur eve, because they are filling and easy to digest. However, many people, particularly when pressed for time, have difficulty finessing rice, which needs some tender loving care. They end up with a sticky ball of starch, rather than a pot of fluffy rice. My recipe, relying on a bit of olive oil, comes out perfectly every time.
Roasted Autumn Root Vegetables are a medley of seasonal produce flash-cooked at a high temperature. You can prepare this dish three days in advance, finishing it quickly just minutes before serving dinner.
Filled with dried fruits, flakes of oatmeal and a dollop of honey, Baked Stuffed Apples is not an indulgent dessert. For that reason, it’s a nutritious and appropriate way to end the pre-fast meal.
When it comes to Yom Kippur eve, my motto is to do as much as possible as soon as it’s feasible. On the morning after Rosh Hashanah, finalize your Yom Kippur eve guest list. Decide what you want to serve. Select which linens you will place on the table. White is traditional on Yom Kippur. If you’re using the tablecloth and napkins from Rosh Hashanah meals, make sure they’re washed and ironed or back from the dry cleaner on time.
If you’re expecting a crowd, you may have to expand your dining table. Know in advance how many leaves you’ll require. If you need a folding table, make sure it’s clean and in good condition. If you have to borrow a table and chairs from a family member or friend, organize this well in advance.
I suggest setting the table after breakfast that morning. Eat lunch in your kitchen or on the living room coffee table. To make life easy, order a pizza. Although it goes against my creative nature to be repetitive, under certain circumstances, it makes sense.
On Yom Kippur eve, I’m a big proponent of the preset menu, one you can follow year after year. Select a combination of recipes you can manage. Of course you can make reasonable substitutions, such as casseroles or other make-ahead dishes. But with so much going on, Yom Kippur eve is not the time to strike a new course or leave things to chance. It’s the time to be methodical and calm, to guide yourself and your family into a peaceful fast.

Poached Chicken Breasts and Tomatoes

3 tablespoons olive oil, or more if needed

Comfort Food for Rosh Hashana

For Rosh Hashana this year, I am sharing three chicken dishes that you can prepare for your family holiday meal. Every family has their own recipe for roast chicken, but if you’re looking for something new and different to serve on Rosh Hashana, try one of these.

Two of the recipes I have selected came from unexpected sources — one via chef Jonathan Waxman, who recently opened Washington Park Restaurant in New York, and the second from Neela Paniz, who owns The Bombay Cafe in Los Angeles.

But, let’s start with one of my favorites. I remember when I was growing up, I looked forward to my mother’s Shabbat dinner. It always consisted of chicken, roasted in a tomato sauce with potatoes and lots of vegetables. The potatoes are cooked in the sauce with the chicken — a very old technique in Eastern European kitchens, and it gives them a wonderful flavor. On special occasions, she would stuff the whole chicken with her famous vegetable stuffing, and fill the neck of the chicken with the same mixture, to be served separately.

So when we started our family, on Friday night and special Jewish holidays, the highlight was roasted chicken. I began experimenting with ways to update my mother’s recipe, and one of our family favorite dishes became roast chicken breasts flattened, then stuffed in the center with finely chopped sautéed vegetables, rolled up like a sausage and tied with string. Any leftover stuffing (that didn’t fit in the chicken breasts) is baked in an oiled loaf pan. This is an easy dish to serve, since no carving is necessary, and the cooking technique allows the breasts to stay very juicy.

When Waxman worked in Los Angeles, he demonstrated his version of Chicken in the Pot as a guest chef on my television program, "Judy’s Kitchen." I had never tasted chicken prepared like this before; it practically bursts with flavor.

His recipe combines chicken and vegetables; it is a spinoff of his grilled chicken and vegetable dish that became one of Waxman’s signature dishes. The chicken and vegetables are served in a shallow bowl with a mustard sauce.

If your family enjoys curry, you will love Paniz’s Authentic Chicken Curry recipe. Don’t let the number of ingredients in this dish frighten you. It’s really easy to prepare and well worth the effort. If you like it spicy, just add more cayenne. Since Rosh Hashana begins at sundown on Friday, this dish could be your answer to the traditional Shabbat cholent, which is prepared before the Sabbath and kept warm for the Saturday meal.

These three dishes are perfect for Rosh Hashana; the only decision you must make is which of them to serve. Whatever recipe you choose, make enough so your family can have a cold chicken lunch on Saturday when they come home from the synagogue, or serve the leftovers in the evening as an interesting chicken salad.

Dessert should be simple and refreshing. Serve a fruit salad topped with a scoop of fruit sorbet and your favorite honey cake.

Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Molly’s Vegetable Stuffing

Chicken Breasts

  • 8 chicken breasts (4 whole, boned and
  • cut in half)
  • 1¼4 cup oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1¼4 cup dry white wine

Place a chicken breast, skin side down, on a sheet of wax paper. Cover with another sheet of wax paper and using a mallet or tenderizer, gently pound the breast until desired thickness.

Spoon prepared stuffing in the center and roll up the chicken breast, encasing the stuffing and tie with string. Repeat with remaining chicken breasts.

Line a baking pan with foil, brush with oil and arrange onions and carrots on top. Place stuffed chicken breasts on top, brush with oil and season with salt and pepper. Add stock and wine and bake at 375 F for 20 minutes, then increase the heat to 425 F and bake about five minutes more, or until chicken breasts are tender and crisp. Transfer to a cutting board and slice on the bias. To serve, arrange sliced chicken breasts on plates and spoon any juices from pan that remain. Serves 8.

Molly’s Vegetable Stuffing

  • 1/2 cup raisins, plumped in 1 cup
  • Concord grape wine
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 6 medium carrots, peeled and grated
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and grated
  • 2 medium zucchini, unpeeled and grated
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 2-3 tablespoons flour
  • 2-3 tablespoons bread crumbs
  • 2-3 tablespoons oatmeal
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil and sauté the onions and garlic until soft, about three minutes. Add the celery, carrots, parsnip and zucchini, and toss well. Cook for five minutes until the vegetables begin to soften. Drain the raisins and add them to the vegetables with the parsley. Stir in 1 tablespoon each of the matzah meal, matzah cake meal and potato starch. Add the red wine and mix well. Stir in the remaining dry ingredients, a little at a time, until the stuffing is moist and soft but firm in texture. Season with salt and pepper. Cool. Makes about 12 cups.

Authentic Chicken Curry

  • 1 piece (1 1¼2 inches) of ginger, peeled
  • 5-6 garlic cloves
  • 2 serranos
  • 1¼3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 small Spanish yellow onions,
  • finely chopped
  • Hot water
  • 2 black cardamom pods (see note)
  • or 2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2-3 pieces cassia or cinnamon sticks
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 4-5 cloves
  • 5-6 whole black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1¼4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1¼4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 small chicken, skin removed and
  • cut into 8 pieces (1 1¼2 pounds)
  • 1 1¼2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves, for garnish

Mince the ginger, garlic and serranos in a food processor and set aside. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and brown until they turn a deep red-brown color, about five minutes. Add the ginger mixture and sauté for one minute. Add 1-2 tablespoons hot water to stop the browning of the onions and mix into a paste. Add the cardamom, cassia, bay leaves, cloves, peppercorns, coriander, cumin, turmeric and cayenne. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons hot water. Brown for two to three minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook over high heat until the oil is separated from the paste, about two minutes. (May be prepared one or two days in advance.)

Add the chicken and cook over medium heat until golden brown. Add the salt and 1¼2 cup hot water.

Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and almost falls off the bone when pierced with a fork. To serve, garnish with chopped cilantro. Serves 4.

Chicken in the Pot

  • 1 jalapeño chili, roasted and seeded
  • 1 Anaheim chili, roasted and seeded
  • 1 roasting chicken (4-5 pounds),
  • trussed with string
  • 2 medium onions
  • 3 shallots
  • 1 head garlic, cloves separated, unpeeled
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 6 small red or white new potatoes, unpeeled
  • 4 fresh shiitake mushrooms
  • 4 small turnips, peeled
  • 2 parsnips, peeled
  • 4 small carrots, peeled
  • 2 stalks fennel or celery, cut into chunks
  • 8 radishes, stems removed
  • 1 large leek (white and green parts),
  • cut in half and soaked in warm water
  • 1 small bunch fresh parsley,
  • tied with a string
  • 1 small bunch fresh tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 medium roasted red bell pepper
  • 1¼2 cup whole-grain mustard
  • 1 French baguette, thinly sliced and toasted

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Peel onions, place them in a baking pan lined with aluminum foil, and roast until golden brown, about 30 minutes.

In a large pot or Dutch oven, place chicken, roasted onions, shallots, garlic cloves, peppercorns, bay leaves and roasted chilies. Add enough water to cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes, partially covered. Add potatoes and continue cooking 15 minutes. Add mushrooms, turnips, parsnips, carrots, fennel, radishes, leek, parsley, tarragon and 1¼2 teaspoon of the salt. Continue cooking until chicken is tender when pierced with fork, about 30 minutes.

Remove cooked chicken to a platter and keep hot. Transfer vegetables to a large bowl and keep warm in 2 cups of the broth. Strain the remaining broth into a saucepan, reserving garlic cloves. Bring both to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes, partially covered.

In a blender or food processor, blend the roasted red pepper, mustard, eight of the garlic cloves from the soup, 1¼2 cup of the broth, and the remaining 1¼2 teaspoon salt. Pour into a bowl.

Cut chicken into serving pieces; arrange in large individual heated soup bowls, surrounded by broth and vegetables. Serve with the toasted baguette slices and the mustard sauce. Serves 8.