One of the biggest challenges of getting through the upcoming holidays will be the fact that, unless we are already holed up with them, most of us won’t be able to celebrate with our extended families, except via Zoom. It also means that our usual feasts have to be modified. Maybe Mom has always made a whole brisket, and Uncle David usually brings his signature Ashkenazic charoset — enough for two dozen or more. This year is different. In many ways, it feels more sacred. Paring things down to their essence feels not only necessary, but appropriate.
I reached out to Ken Horwitz, a Dallas-based CPA and tax attorney with Glast, Phillips & Murray, who recently published his own cookbook. Deep Flavors: A Celebration of Recipes for Foodies in a Kosher Style is not only a compendium of traditional and modern kosher dishes, but also a cultural and family history of sorts. Horwitz writes as though he’s standing behind you at the stove, micromanaging and storytelling in the most charming of ways. By the end, you understand the difference between kreplach and blintzes, and you feel like you’re family, too.
Horwitz generously offered to share a couple of his simpler Passover recipes with me. So put the brisket in the slow cooker, and, if you have some, gather up the kids to make some chicken stock for matzo ball soup and macaroons for dessert. It may be your new family tradition.
Note: start saving your onion and vegetable trimmings and any chicken bones now and keep them in a Ziplock bag in the freezer. They are perfect for making stock.
Kenneth Horwitz’s Chicken Stock
If there is anything more ubiquitous in the Jewish household than Jewish “penicillin,” I am not aware of it. It is chicken soup that has pervaded our entire culture and has extended to non-Jewish households as well. I remember being in the ghetto in Venice on a Friday evening as the few remaining Jews residing in that area of Venice were preparing for the Sabbath; the air was redolent with the smell of chicken soup.
The base of chicken soup is merely chicken stock, but “merely” is an inadequate word if the stock is made properly to be rich and flavorful. This requires more than just the hour allocated by many recipes, although the extra time is unsupervised simmering – not a lot of work. You then add ingredients as desired to take the intensely flavored chicken base into the desired direction.
Filtered or distilled water
Since this stock is easily frozen, I suggest you start with a pot as large as you have. Use either chicken pieces or a whole chicken. If you are using pieces rather than a whole chicken, I suggest that the dark meat provides much more flavor than the white meat. Bones are essential for flavor, and the giblets (other than the liver), including the heart, gizzard, tail, wing tips, and neck, are appropriate ingredients here.
You can produce a much more flavorful chicken stock if you start with the carcass of a roasted chicken or parts that you roast for the purpose, along with roasted vegetables as a part of the base for the stock. Deglaze the roasting pan to use the fond in the stock to add to the richness and flavor. Deglazing is the simple process of adding liquid – in this case, water – to the roasting pan, heating the pan, and scraping up the stuck bits of flavor for use in the stock.
Although many will turn up their noses in disdain, chicken feet add a wonderful gelatinous quality to the chicken stock and should be among the base components of a chicken soup. Certainly, that is what my grandmother used. Unfortunately, it is now difficult to find chicken feet, although you can do so at an Asian grocer (obviously not a kosher source, if that is what you need).
Along with the meat and bones of the chicken, add carrot, celery, onion, leek trimmings, bay leaf, thyme, peppercorns, and, if you desire, dill. It is better if the vegetables are also browned or roasted beforehand. Remember, browning adds flavor. Do not add salt at this stage.
Fill the pot with filtered or distilled water, not tap water (at least not in Dallas) to cover the ingredients. My daughter, Lisa, once called me as she was making soup to inquire how much water to add; it seems that various websites try to specify the quantity. I told her this is not rocket science, and precision is not required here. Just cover the ingredients, and if necessary, as the stock simmers, add more water.
Bring the pot to a boil, cover, and lower to a simmer to gently cook for 1 hour. After simmering, the meat will be cooked. Remove the meat from the pot, and strip the meat from the bones, reserving the skin and the bones to go back into the pot.
The skin and bones are not yet fully cooked; additional cooking will continue to add gelatin and flavor to the stock. Cook (barely simmer) for another 2 hours. Let the pot cool and place it into a refrigerator overnight. Placing the pot in a sink filled with ice and cold water is a good way to rapidly cool the stock.
After the stock is cold and the fat has congealed, remove any congealed fat at the top of the chicken stock. This fat is good schmaltz and should be frozen for future use. You want to avoid serving soup with a layer of fat – it is not “good eats.” Bring the stock back up to a liquid stage, but well before it is really hot and ready to boil, remove the now spent bones and vegetables, draining them carefully. Strain the stock carefully through a very fine strainer, or if your strainer is not very fine, layer cheesecloth in the strainer to remove all particulates. Return the strained liquid back to the pot. Toss the spent cooking materials, but not in the garbage disposal, or you may wind up with a stopped drain.
This stock is now ready for further use or storage. If desired, you can reduce the stock further at this time to concentrate flavor and minimize storage space used. If you use the stock for sauces, do not salt it until you are ready to use in the sauce, because as you reduce the liquid, the salt will also become concentrated, and the final result will become too salty. This stock would make a wonderful consommé, and you can locate a recipe for the process to clarify stock in one of Julia Child’s books or one of many other sources.
To serve as soup, add fresh vegetables, and cook until just done. If desired, add some of the reserved chicken meat, and heat. Add 1 or 2 matzo balls if desired – or add meat kreplach (traditionally served erev Yom Kippur). This is always wonderful for Friday night, a holiday dinner, or any other occasion. You can also use this stock to make a chicken, mushroom, and barley soup with carrots and shredded chicken, noting that dark meat is better for this purpose.
Kenneth Horwitz’s Coconut Macaroons
At Passover, it is not permissible to eat any leavened product. Since that includes products made with flour other than matzo, other sweets came to the fore. Macaroons do not contain flour and are a traditional delicacy served at Passover. However, this is a treat that transcends cultural or holiday boundaries. In addition, the macaroons are an outstanding way to use excess egg whites generated by the many recipes that call for egg yolks separated from egg whites (that are not then used). Although vanilla macaroons unmodified by additional flavors are great, they are even better when modified by adding chocolate flavor or a citrus flavor. Although commercial macaroons are available, they are simply not in the same league with homemade macaroons as far as taste is concerned.
This recipe is a very different “cookie” from French-style almond macarons, and since it has no flour, it is perhaps not even a cookie. As I look at my mother’s recipe, the base recipe called for three egg whites, two tablespoons sugar, and a half pound of fresh, grated coconut, a product I seriously doubt Mom had access to.
1¼– 1½ cups egg whites
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups white cane sugar
At least 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
28 ounces grated sweetened coconut, toasted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Beat the egg whites until they are stiff, adding the salt and cream of tartar as the whites are being whipped (assuming you are not using a copper bowl, in which case cream of tartar is not needed). Slowly add the sugar and vanilla extract as the whipping proceeds. One of my basic philosophies is that vanilla can never hurt a dish, and more is better. A KitchenAid mixer with the whisk attachment is excellent to beat the egg whites. Then thoroughly but gently stir in the coconut by hand.
To avoid the problem of the macaroons spreading while baking, I prefer to use a mini muffin tin that will accommodate 24 macaroons. Spray the muffin-tin holes with a neutral-flavored vegetable oil spray that is kosher for Passover, if that is when these are made. Then simply fill the muffin holes, being careful that the amount of raw macaroon is not so great that is lops over to the next muffin hole.
An even better plan is to eschew the spray; use mini parchment cups to hold the mixture for baking, storage, and service. These cups fit the muffin-tin holes and are a cinch to fill. They easily lift out after cooking. Google “parchment-paper mini-muffin cups” to locate sources. Bake at 350 degrees for 14 to 15 minutes (a couple of minutes longer for chocolate) until toasted light brown. After removal from the oven, let the macaroons cool very slightly (about 5 minutes), and then remove them carefully from the little muffin holes, prying them out gently with a breakfast knife or butter knife (prying not needed if you use the parchment cups). Repeat as necessary to use up the recipe. Cool on a rack.
Chocolate Macaroon Variation:
The basic recipe is substantially the same, modified as follows: for chocolate macaroons, mix 1¾ cups of sugar with ¾ cup of Dutch-process cocoa (sifting the cocoa to eliminate lumps), the salt, and cream of tartar. (Dutch-process cocoa is available from King Arthur Flour at a price significantly less than the brand carried by most retail grocers and is most delicious and intensely chocolaty. I use Dutch-process cocoa because I think it is seriously superior in taste to the brands of regular cocoa generally available).
As the egg whites are almost fully whipped to soft peaks, gradually add the cocoa mixture to the whipped egg whites. The egg whites may deflate and not whip up into the light fluffy texture that one is familiar with; however, this is not a problem for completing the macaroons. The baked macaroons will be somewhat denser than non-chocolate varieties and will have a very intense chocolate flavor.
If you wants to add a citrus flavor (lemon and orange meld wonderfully with chocolate), add grated zest of 1 to 2 oranges or lemons along with the cocoa mixture.
After the egg whites and cocoa mixture are whipped together, add the toasted coconut by hand, stirring thoroughly. Then proceed to shape and bake as indicated (either on a cookie sheet or in the muffin tin). The cooking time for these chocolate macaroons is on the longer end of the indicated cooking period and can extend to perhaps 17 or 18 minutes. If you undercook the macaroons, they will not come out of the tin easily.
Lemon or Orange Macaroon Variation:
For lemon-coconut or other citrus macaroons, the process is identical with the following modifications: Beat the egg whites with 1½ cups of sugar to soft peaks, adding the grated zest and juice of 3 lemons, being careful not to add the piths at the end of this process. Alternatively, you could use a mixture of lemon and orange (also delicious) or just orange, using the zest of whatever citrus you desire. This is really good using navel oranges. I have not made lime or grapefruit macaroons, but if that though floats your boat, go for it. Lemon and lime combined is delicious. The egg-white mixture will beat nicely, and the coconut is then mixed in by hand. The result is lighter in texture than the chocolate macaroons. The whites will deflate – not a problem. Baking time is not more than 15 minutes.
After the macaroons are cooled on a cooling rack, I freeze the macaroons. I usually make 2 batches – 1 chocolate and 1 citrus – which produces more than 100 macaroons. As with most cookies, I prefer to eat frozen macaroons, or you can defrost them.