EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - The Passover Seder is one of my favorite meals to make. Okay, sometimes the ceremony is a bit long. It's not really appetizing to talk about "murrain" or boils or even frogs during dinner. That jelly around the gefilte fish in the jar isn't really a turn-on, either. But the fact that people stay at the table together for four hours sometimes is unheard of at any other family celebration. I think that the whole purpose of reading the story of the Exodus is to make us happy and grateful about being where we are. No football, no big gifts (except for that illusive Afikomen,) and lots of good stuff to eat. So? What's not to love, really?
The Seder comes with lots of rules, though, and, as with most things Jewish, the rules are based on tradition. Don't mess around with tradition, even in your otherwise-not-very-observant home. In our house at TAP Central here in East Brunswick, obeying the rules is part of the fun and honor of Passover, where we also enjoy the fun and honor of Christmas, St. Patrick's Day, and Rosh Hashanah. Go figure. It's 2016.
Here's a chicken recipe that never fails to please guests for this or any holiday. I use Empire Kosher chicken (two whole ones, cut into pieces) which are good quality, if a bit salty. Extra-virgin olive oil is Kosher enough even for Passover, and the rest of the ingredients are fresh and contain no grains. The key to this dish is that it is, as we say in my family, prepared "Florentine."
Among the members of my family, "Florentine" does not refer to anything prepared in the style of Florence, Italy or made with spinach. It refers to my grandmother-in-law's practice of putting meat or even fish into the oven at a low temperature for several years until it is so moist and tender, even schnurrers give it praise. Her name was Florence Pressman, and i honor her every time I cook "Florentine." Here goes:
- Remove chicken from packages, wash, and trim. Take off any obvious fat and about 1/2 of the skin, leaving some on for flavor. I use a pair of kitchen scissors.
- Place chicken skin-side up in your baking pan(s) and drizzle with a generous amount of extra-virgin olive oil, which is Kosher for Passover by its very nature!
- Add generous amounts of snipped fresh herbs. I used basil, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, and thyme. Sprnkle generously also with salt and pepper.
- Peel and smash at least 6 cloves of garlic with the back of your knife. Toss into the chicken.
- Add 2-3 fresh or dry bay leaves.
- Make sure that the chicken is coated with herbs and oil.
- Roast skin-up at 300 degrees for three hours in a roasting pan covered with foil.
- Before serving, take off the foil and place under the broiler for a few minutes so that the skin can crisp a bit.
- Keep warm until serving.
- I serve this with roasted red peppers, roasted asparagus with lemon, oilve oil, and dill, and some roasted tiny white potatoes with olive oil and garlic.
Of course, there's all that chopped liver, haroset, matzoh ball soup, and macaroons to round out this meal. Exact measurements of ingredients? Never heard of 'em. Eat. Enjoy. Be glad that people are at your table today and any day. Good Pesach, Bears.