Passover will be different this year. While we still will be reading about plagues at the seder, this year we are living in the midst of one. We can’t invite the stranger in to share our holiday meal — social distancing!!! That huge brisket that is the star of the seder meal may be too much for this year’s small gathering. And since we are reluctant to make too many trips to the supermarket for fear of contagion, we are left planning dishes made with what we have at home. It could be sad, but it doesn’t have to be.
Tucker Shaw, editor of Cook’s Country Magazine, spoke to The Nosher to share ideas on how to get through this different Passover with joy and delicious food.
Shaw is particularly excited by a simple comfort food that feels right for this year’s seder: cast iron potato kugel. It’s super crispy with a creamy interior. The shredded potatoes are quickly bathed in a saltwater bath to keep them from turning gray. The recipe calls for schmaltz, which, he says, adds a deep, savory flavor to the dish. Since it is made in a skillet, it is modest in size but still very special. Spice-roasted chicken does double duty as a smaller main dish, and can be re-purposed for soup or even chicken salad. These are modest adjustments that still promise big flavor, but on a smaller scale — just like this year’s seder promises to be.
“Cooking,” says Shaw, “is a useful thing to do with my hands and my brain while there is so much else going on in the world. You can get something beautiful to eat, and it feels less indulgent to spend a little bit of extra time in the kitchen right now, because you’re supposed to be home anyway.” And the wonderful aromas coming out of your kitchen, he said, will make you feel a bit more optimistic.
Change your holiday menu.
Since odds are good that there won’t be many gathered at your seder table this year, consider a modest-sized main dish. “A chicken may make sense for a lot of people this year because it is smaller than a brisket,” said Shaw.
Use what you have.
Many of us have lots of spices that we rarely use. “You can make a spiced roasted chicken that takes advantage of dried spices on hand. It’s very adaptable. You can change it up depending on what you have in your pantry,” said Shaw. While it is smaller than a brisket, it is still a very special dish.
Coax more out of your ingredients.
That spiced roasted chicken that you prepared for the seder? Once you carve it, save the bones. You can drop them into a pot of water with half an onion and a bay leaf and simmer it for an hour or two. The resultant stock can be the base of other dishes going forward, and having homemade stock on hand will save you a trip to the store. “It feels economical, efficient and like an achievement,” says Shaw. “It’s nice to have an achievement!”
Look at kitchen staples in a whole new way.
The limp celery and carrots in your vegetable bin? Don’t toss them! See them as ingredients for a future pot of chicken soup. And when you skim the fat off that pot of soup? Save it to use in matzah balls. The cans of pedestrian chickpeas in your cupboard (depending on the rules you follow for Passover foods)? “Chickpeas are a nice canvas to paint on,” says Shaw. “They will take pasta sauce beautifully. They are satisfying, nutty, and good.” And aquafaba, the liquid found in the can of chickpeas, can be whipped and used as an alternative to eggs. Add it to soup, to give flavor and body to your broth.