January 24, 2019

A Festival Feast of Fowl

The festival of Rosh Hashana celebrates the beginning of the Jewish New Year, and family meals are an important part of this holiday. Traditions include serving a round challah and apples dipped in honey symbolizing a sweet and well-rounded new year.

I recently taught a Rosh Hashana cooking class at the University of Judaism that consisted of cooking chicken three different ways, as well as desserts featuring apples and honey.

When I was growing up roast chicken was traditionally served every Friday night, and on most Jewish holidays. I always enjoy surprising my family with creative dinners, and I’m always on the lookout for new recipes using chicken.

At the class, I began with broiled chicken that is served with a salsa verde (green sauce). This Italian barbecue chicken recipe came from Nadia Santini, chef of Ristorante dal Pescatore, located in a small village between Cremona and Mantova in Italy. We love sharing Sunday lunch with the family and the menu never varies — grilled home-raised chicken with a salsa verde, using lots of garlic. This recipe has been in their family for generations, and the chicken must be marinated for 24 hours before grilling or broiling.

The next recipe I demonstrated was chicken, butterflied and baked until crisp and golden brown, seasoned with fresh herb oil and served on a bed of mixed vegetables.

The third chicken recipe, known as B’stilla or chicken pie, is served in most Moroccan restaurants. The chicken is first cooked in a broth, deboned and layered with scrambled egg, almonds, cinnamon and sugar, the mixture is wrapped in leaves of filo dough and baked.

If you want to be truly authentic, the dish should be eaten with your fingers.

One of the apple desserts was apple strudel, using filo dough as the wrapping.

It is a perfect Rosh Hashana dessert to make in advance, freeze and bake just before serving.

Italian Barbecued Chicken

Santini with Salsa Verde
For the Chicken
2 cups olive oil
Juice of 2 lemons
1 cup white wine vinegar
4 cloves garlic, crushed and thinly sliced
1 cup minced fresh parsley
Pinch sugar, salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 small frying chickens (2 to 3 pounds each), cut into pieces

In a large, shallow glass bowl or pan, combine olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, parsley and sugar. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Arrange chicken pieces in the pan and turn to coat evenly with olive oil mixture. Cover pan with plastic wrap, then aluminum foil, and marinate chicken for 24 hours in the refrigerator, turning pieces occasionally.

For the Salsa Verde

1 large or 2 medium bunches of parsley, finely minced
3 cloves garlic, crushed and thinly sliced
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 to 2 cups olive oil,
salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In a large bowl, using a wire whisk, beat parsley, garlic, lemon juice and vinegar. Continue beating, adding olive oil in a thin stream, until thick. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour into a smaller bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill.
Makes about 3 cups.
When Ready to Cook

Prepare coals for grilling or preheat the broiler. To barbecue, arrange chicken on a two-sided grilling basket and enclose the chicken pieces securely.

Grill until the chickens are cooked through, about 20 minutes. To broil, place chicken pieces under a hot broiler, skin side down. Turn and broil until brown and crisp on both sides.

Serves 4 to 6.

Butterflied Roast Chicken with Fresh Herb Stuffing

For the Chicken

1 4-pound or 2 2-pound whole chickens
Mirepoix (small cubes or slices of vegetables)
1 onion, sliced and diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 parsnip, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons minced parsley
2 cups dry white wine
1 head garlic, unpeeled, cloves separated

For the Fresh Herb Stuffing

2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
olive oil, to moisten stuffing, salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a small bowl, combine garlic, rosemary, thyme, basil, chives and parsley.

Pour in enough olive oil to cover. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cover with plastic wrap until needed. Makes about 2/3 cup.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Split the chicken along the entire length of the back, removing backbone from tail to neck. Open it, skin side up.

With a mallet (for big chickens), or heel of hand, flatten with a firm whack, fracturing the breastbone and ribcage.

Sprinkle the mirepoix mixture and the unpeeled garlic cloves on a foil-lined large roasting pan, and place the chicken on top, skin-side up.

Working with your fingertips, separate the skin from the meat of the chicken, beginning at the neck end, being careful not to tear the skin.

Place the Herb Stuffing under the skin, filling the drumsticks and thighs first. Force the mixture into place; molding the skin with your hands to resemble the natural contours of the chicken.

Pour the white wine over the mirepoix and garlic cloves. Bake the chicken for l0 minutes and reduce the oven temperature to 375F and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour longer, depending on the size of the chicken.

Baste every 20 minutes. If chicken browns too quickly, cover it loosely with foil.

If the wine cooks away too quickly, add more. Remove the foil during the last 10 minutes, allowing the chicken to brown.

B’stilla (Chicken Pie)

For the Chickens

2 chickens, 3 pounds each, with giblets
1/4 cup olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted margarine or oil
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup chopped onion
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup chopped cilantro, salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the Fillings

1 pound unsalted margarine
1/2 cup minced onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
9 eggs, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

For the Assembly

1 package (1 pound) filo sheets
1 1/2 cups sliced almonds, toasted
Powdered sugar

Place the whole chickens, breastbone down, in the oven. Add the giblets, oil, margarine, ginger, onion, garlic, parsley, cilantro, salt, pepper and 2 cups water, or enough to reach one third up the sides of the chicken.

Preheat the oven to 450F.

Bring to a boil, turn chickens breast-side up, and stir to mix spices.

Place in the oven for 1 hour. Baste the chickens with the sauce. If chickens are a little pink, they will cook again inside the B’stilla. When chickens are cooked, cool, reserving the broth.

Bone, separating meat into bite-size pieces, and set aside.

For the fillings, melt 3 tablespoons of the margarine and sauté the onion and garlic until soft. Add eggs, parsley, cilantro, salt and pepper, and beat with a fork until well blended; cook until eggs are firm. Set aside.

In a medium-size bowl, combine the sugar, 2 teaspoons of the cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg and set aside.

Melt the remaining margarine and use it to brush a large ovenproof pie pan. Place one sheet of filo on the bottom. Brush with margarine and continue in this manner using eight sheets of filo. Spread the chicken in an even layer over the pastry and top with the egg mixture, spreading evenly. Combine almonds and sugar mixture and sprinkle over the eggs.

Place a sheet of filo over the filling and brush with margarine. Continue in this manner using 8 sheets of filo.

Fold top layers of filo under the bottom ones. Brush under seam and top with margarine. It can hold at this point for at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp. Just before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar. For an attractive pattern, cover the top of the B’stilla with a paper stencil for crisscross, so the cinnamon can be sprinkled on in a heavy crisscross. Transfer to a large serving platter.

Serves about 8.

Apple Strudel

(Adapted from Cabbage Strudel from “The Gourmet Jewish Cook” by Judy Zeidler)
For the Dough
1 package filo dough
1 pound unsalted margarine, melted
2 cups finely ground almonds or walnuts

For the Filling

6 golden delicious apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons honey
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup raisins
1 cup walnuts or almonds coarsely chopped

Place the sliced apple in a large bowl and toss with the honey, sugar, cinnamon, raisins and walnuts. Cover and set aside for 10 minutes.

Place a damp towel on a work area and cover with waxed paper. Remove 4 sheets of filo from the package. Keep the remaining sheets covered with waxed paper and a damp towel to prevent drying out.

Fold the filo leaves in half like a closed book and unfold one page.

Brush with melted margarine and sprinkle lightly with ground nuts. Continue turning the pages of the filo, brushing with the butter and crumbs until you come to the center. Do not brush the margarine in the center yet. Close the second half of the book over the first and work backwards: open the last leaf and continue spreading the margarine and nuts until you come back to the center. Now brush the center with the margarine and sprinkle with nuts.

Depending on how thick a strudel you want, spread 2 to 3 cups of the apple filling lengthwise on the open filo book, 2 inches from the edge closest to you and 2 inches from the sides. Cover the filling with the closest edge and fold the sides over. Brush the sides with margarine and continue rolling up the filo, jellyroll fashion.

Cover a baking sheet with foil. Brush the foil with margarine. Place the strudel on the foil, seam side down, and brush it with margarine. Refrigerate uncovered until the margarine hardens, 15 to 20 minutes. (The strudel can be frozen at this point.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown. Slice immediately and serve hot .