For Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, many have the tradition of serving a sweet dish in every course, in order that the coming year should be sweet. Here are three sweet, but not overly-sweet, main courses, two of which contain fruit, which is also de rigueur during the holy days. These are rich, slightly exotic, and of course, are meat-based so they qualify as festive meals. They are also all extremely easy to prepare.
UPDATE: Rosh Hashana Recipes: Soups
Rosh Hashana Menu, below.
HJC’s Meatballs with Sour Cherries
The flavor combinations were inspired by a recipe for roast veal in one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, Anya Von Bremzen’s Please To The Table: The Russian Cookbook. I think the cherries work better with ground lamb or veal. Most kosher veal is not terribly young, which seems much kinder. Lamb is still the healthier option as pasteured veal is an oxymoron. Beef does not work at all with these subtle seasonings.
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon safflower or extra virgin coconut oil
1.5 pounds ground lamb or veal
1/2 to 3/4 cups soft-cooked quinoa (or 1/4 cup raw gluten free oats, or up to 1 cup soft bread crumbs)
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
4 cloves (whole)
12 oz. frozen (if you froze any during the sour-cherry season this summer) or jarred sour cherries in water (no sugar added )
1 teaspoon honey
4 oz. fruity (not sweet) red wine or nutty white wine
Note: If you don’t want to use wine, freshly squeezed apple or apple-cherry juice, while a bit sweet, also works. If using juice, add two teaspoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice to sauce. If you have access to Red Jacket Orchards juices, their fresh, sour-cherry stomp is fantastic in this dish.
Saute onion in wide casserole or saucepan in oil until limp and golden (not dark brown). In a bowl mix veal or lamb, egg, quinoa (or oats or breadcrumbs), cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Mold into bite-sized or medium meat balls.
Add to pan and fry gently on all sides until brown. When brown, you may drain the fat if you like (I like.)
Add cloves, cherries in water (if cherries are frozen, add 1/2 cup of water to pan) and simmer, covered on low heat for 20 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through. Add honey and wine and cook for an additional 5 minutes or so on very low heat, until flavors meld.
This is better the second day, so prepare in advance, and refrigerate.
Serves 4-6 as a main course.
Onions are naturally sweet and if you are able to get pasteured or free-range kosher chicken, you do not need much seasoning. This is an unpretentious, unfussy, dish—a relief to eat after heavily-potchked meals. It’s essentially an old-fashioned smothered chicken without the cream.
Start this recipe in the morning, before shul (synagogue); leave it on a very low flame with a flame difuser (one of my favorite kitchen tools) in a heavy-bottomed skillet. Alternately, start it on top of the stove, and finish it, covered, in the oven (300 degrees) for the 5 or 6 hours you’ll be gone.
2-3 large onions, peeled, quartered and thickly sliced
2 heaping tablespoons chicken fat or xtra virgin olive oil or other oil (I cannot digest chicken fat, but if you like it, use it; fat from healthy, naturally raised chickens is not the poison people say it is, it actually has some health benefits)
1 whole chicken cut into quarters
unrefined sea salt, pepper
dash of poultry seasoning, optional
Saute onions in large skillet over very low heat until light brown and caramelized. This may take as long as 25 minutes. Remove onions with slotted spoon and set aside. Season chicken with salt and pepper. (Kosher chicken doesn’t really need salt). Brown chicken on all sides in remaining fat in pan.
When golden-brown, add onions back to pan with chicken, mix well, and pour 1/2 cup of water over chicken, partially cover, and cook over low heat. If you are going to be gone a long time, add instead 1 cup of water, cover completely, and set on low flame on top of flame diffuser. When you return, uncover, and cook until liquid reduce by half.
Cook until preferred tenderness. If you’r unsophisticated, like me, you like your chicken very well done. It took me a long time to admit this to myself, but so be it.
Serves 8 (or 4 big eaters)
Note: On Rosh Hashana we don’t use vinegar, pickles or other very sour foods (sour cherries notwithstanding). If you make this chicken during the year, it is delicious with a dash of apple cider vinegar added at the end of cooking.
HJC’s Tender Shoulder of Lamb with Spicy-Sweet Pomegranate Glaze
I don’t have a photo of this because I haven’t started cooking it yet. Lamb isn’t only a spring dish. There is excellent quality kosher lamb in the shops right now. This is very easy to do, another recipe that cooks on its own while you’re in shul. Slow-roasting is as good as braising, and a lot less work.
2.5 (2 1/2) pound shoulder of lamb
4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced in half
spicy oil mixture
1 teaspoon each: ground coriander, allspice, cardamom, cinnamon
a few sprinkles finely ground unrefined sea salt, black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil or preferred oil
1 1/2 cups pomegranate juice
1 cup best quality apple or cherry juice, for sweetness
seeds from one medium pomegranate
Make 8 slashes in lamb shoulder (distribute evenly) and insert garlic cloves. Mix all ingredients of spice mixture in small bowl, and with your hands, massage into the lamb. Set aside (overnight, covered in refrigerator is good, but you can do it at the last minute, too.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place lamb in deep roasting pan and place in oven. Cook for 15 minutes, turn over, turn oven down to 325, and cover pan either with it’s own cover or aluminum foil. I like to cover with parchment paper first so the foil doesn’t actually touch the food.
Let lamb slow-cook while you are in shul or 4 hours or until very tender.
When you come home, uncover lamb and spoon excess fat out of the pan but be sure to leave the pan juices. If it is difficult to skim off the fat, remove lamb to plate, and pour the liquid in the pan into a grease separator or other container and skim off the fat once it cools. Pour pan juices back into pan.
Place roasting pan over over one or two burners over medium heat (keep lamb on plate.) Scrape pan while stirring. After you’ve got all the crispy bits off the bottom, add the juices. Simmer until slightly reduced, about 7 minutes. Place lamb back in pan, and roll in glaze. Let rest for at least ten minutes.
Slice lamb and spoon some of the glaze on top. Sprinkle each serving with pomegranate seeds.
Keep it simple. After dipping challah and apples in honey, tasting pomegranates, and all the other simanim, no one seems terribly hungry. Because we can cook on Rosh Hashana as opposed to Shabbos, I like to prepare the meat courses in advance and heat them up, but also like to cook and serve a hot fish dish.
Here is an easy Rosh Hashana menu suggestion:
Challah, Apples, Honey, Simanim
Cod or scrod baked in parchment with diced tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers, sea salt, lemon juice, dill, a touch of olive oil
Arugula or romaine salad lightly dressed with with fresh lemon juice, salt
Orange, fennel, and salt-cured black olive salad very lightly dressed with extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper
End of summer tomatoes, thinly sliced, with fresh basil
Shoulder of Lamb, Meatballs or Chicken
Steamed quinoa, GABA rice, roasted pumpkin or butternut squash, or steamed heirloom potatoes (choose one and serve without sauces or heavy seasoning so the dish doesn’t compete with the rich meat sauces; an elaborate, multi-flavored, spiced or herby side dish is, in my opinion, best with a simple grilled or baked meat; of course this is a personal taste issue and generally I don’t serve myself a side dish, even one which acts as a foil, with festive meat main courses because I get too full )
Tzimmes (carrots traditionally cooked with honey, but if you get sweet organic carrots, you do not need the honey)
Italian plum compote, light apple pie (nice to start and end with apples), or raw tropical fruit pie
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Rosh Hashana carrots, or tzimmes, is the one vegetable we dont have to beg, bribe or try to hide in order to get our eldest son to eat. It’s not a complicated recipe, peeled and bias-cut carrots cooked til tender in apple juice with dark raisins, craisns, cinnamon and a touch of honey. The honey and apple juice make a type of syrup that makes this the perfect side dish to a hearty Yom Tov brisket or roast. It is not a super-sweet recipe either, but apparently it is sweet enough that our son enjoys it alone or with a bit of roasted chicken.