Recently, my middle daughter (and Sephardic Spice Girls photographer) Alexandra Gomperts said to me “I’m so glad that you never fed us chicken nuggets, schnitzel and pasta when we were little. I feel that I like a lot of different foods. Foods that my friends would never try.”
I just smiled at her.
I have never revealed my guilty secret: I was simply too lazy to cook separate meals for the kids.
My cooking is inspired by a wide variety of cuisines—Iraqi, Israeli, Indian, Moroccan, Chinese, Thai, Japanese. I learned to love the clean simplicity of Australian recipes during my antipodean childhood.
Our children just ate what we ate. Spicy food. Salads. Soups. Sushi. Stews. And my specialty, roast chicken and veggies. So they acquired eclectic taste buds.
But there is one recipe that is tailored for children (and loved by adults).
When I was in 8th Grade at Sydney Girls High School, I had a choice between Home Science and Textiles and Design (fancy terms for cooking and sewing). My mother worked in the fashion business, so she really wanted me to take sewing. I was like, heck, I can buy a skirt for $19.99. But I have to eat every single day. I chose Home Science as my elective and so began my cooking career.
The first recipe I ever “made up” as a teenager was a chicken in sauce. I would make it every Friday night for my younger cousins. When I went away to college, they missed it so much that I had to teach their housekeeper to make it. The sauce has gone through many versions and many names. Sometimes it included ketchup and duck sauce, so it was called Sweet and Sour Chicken. Sometimes it included that so yummy, so unhealthy, bright red La Choy sweet and sour sauce and was called red chicken.
When my daughters were little, they ate it at least once a week. I must have blackened the skin once because they started calling it “burnt chicken”.
It was just my standard go to, make everyone happy chicken recipe.
When Alexandra was in second grade, she and her bestie Talia became friends with Roni, who had recently come from Israel. Roni went home from every play date telling her mother that I made the best Israeli salad and the best chicken.
Her mother insisted that I demonstrate exactly how I made the chicken.
Michal and our friends Melanie and Rosie stood in my kitchen and we made a vegetarian curry, a Chinese salad dressing and several jars of my sweet and sour sauce.
The next day Michal called and said your chicken is magic! It just disappears!
The notoriously picky eaters in her home loved it. And from then on, it was magic chicken.
Whenever I don’t know what to make for dinner or when I’m entertaining my young nieces and nephews or friends with children, I make magic chicken.
I always have a big jar of this sauce in my refrigerator. Whenever I don’t know what to make for dinner or when I’m entertaining my young nieces and nephews or friends with children, I make magic chicken.
There’s no marinating, nothing to sauté. I just sprinkle chicken pieces with paprika, ginger and garlic powder, drizzle some “magic chicken” sauce and bake in the oven.
Make it for the big and little kids in your life.
Magic Chicken Sauce
1 cup ketchup
1 cup apricot jam
1 cup strawberry jam
1 cup honey
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sesame oil
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
Place all the ingredients in a large jar and shake well.
1 3 lb chicken, cut into 8 pieces and
patted dry or chicken wings and
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Fresh ground black pepper
1 orange, cut into wedges
1 1/2 cups magic chicken sauce
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Lightly coat a baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
Arrange chicken in the dish and sprinkle with all the spices.
Gently squeeze orange wedges over chicken to release juice and place wedges between the chicken.
Spoon sauce over the chicken and bake uncovered for 75 minutes.
Store remaining sauce in the refrigerator.
Rachel Sheff and Sharon Gomperts have been friends since high school. They love cooking and sharing recipes. They have collaborated on Sephardic Educational Center projects and community cooking classes. Find recipe video clips and recipes on Instagram SEPHARDIC SPICE GIRLS and Facebook SEPHARDIC SPICE SEC FOOD.