The most difficult part about cooking for Passover is, of course, cooking without leavening. But the second biggest challenge is also a biggie: you need to prepare a meal completely in advance that can be held for however long your Seder lasts (ours is 15 minutes, but many take two hours) — and then be ready within nanoseconds to feed your starving family and friends. Of course, the same could be said of a great deal of entertaining: the challenge is to get as much done in advance as possible so that when it is time to eat, you don’t disappear into the kitchen for ages and miss all the time with your guests. (Or worse: cook everything in advance and reheat it until it turns to wood chips and saw dust.)
Slow cooked meat, like brisket and pot roast, is ideally suited to Passover. You cook it forever to begin with, and then forevermore when you heat it back up. And it’s none the worse for wear. Chicken soup can be made entirely in advance and kept warm over a very low flame. Just before serving, the matzo balls, also made in advance, get plunked in and cooked for only as long as it takes to warm them. Vegetables and side dishes can be a little trickier. I like to roast vegetables on a sheet pan in advance, cooking them slightly under. During the seder, leave them out at room temperature; put them in the oven while you eat your first courses (soup and gefilte fish, perhaps). I developed the farfel kugel recipe below to withstand being made in advance and re-heated. I love almost everything with artichokes; I was happy to see when I taught it to my Do-Ahead Passover class at ICE (Institute of Culinary Education)* last week it was a hit.
Stovetop Brisket This incredibly easy brisket may even be made several days ahead– or longer and frozen. It re-heats beautifully…but even more importantly, it is, quite simply, delicious. (I don’t just make it on Passover!)
Roast Spring Vegetables Make these in a baking sheet pan with low sides to ensure they get an intensified, almost caramelized flavor.
Chicken Soup with Matzo Balls This is simmering on my stove as I write. My house smells great; I think my dogs are in food-heat.
Pomegranate Poached Pears After a big Passover meal, these pears (along with a macaroon or two) are just the ticket.
Matzo Kugel with Vegetables
Make the kugel the day before. To re-heat, pour an additional 3/4 cup broth over it and warm in a 350F oven for about 30 minutes. The top should get pleasantly crunchy. If it begins to darken, lay a piece of foil loosely over the top.
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
3 medium onions, chopped (4 cups)
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
7 eggs, divided
1 16-ounce box matzo farfel
2 9-ounce boxes frozen artichoke hearts
5 carrots, cut in 1/4-inch dice (2 cups)
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup parsley, chopped
4 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth (plus additional for re-heating)
1. Coat an 11 x 7 baking dish with cooking spray. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium; add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden, 20 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
3. Add the mushrooms to the skillet; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until browned. Transfer to the bowl.
4. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil to the skillet; add the artichokes and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until carrots are tender, 10 minutes. Transfer to bowl.
5. Beat 5 of the eggs with a fork; toss with the farfel. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet; add the farfel and cook, stirring often, until it is toasty, about 5-6 minutes. Transfer to the bowl; stir in the thyme, salt, pepper and parsley and transfer to the baking dish.
6. Combine the 2 remaining eggs with the broth and pour over the farfel. Bake 45 minutes until the center is no longer wet.
Makes 12-16 servings
*Several of you have asked about my upcoming schedule at ICE. While it is not yet published on the ICE website, my classes will be listed here (under the calendar tab on this website) within the next few days.