Starting the Rosh Hashana celebration with a taste of honey is universal, but
many Jews also add a sweet touch to their holiday entrees. This was the case in
my childhood home in Washington.
My mother’s tzimmes was usually made of
beef cubes stewed with potatoes and several sweet ingredients, usually prunes,
carrots and sweet potatoes.
Americans in general tend to like sweet
foods. Joan Nathan, author of Jewish Cooking in America, wrote that because of
the American-Jewish preference for sweetness as opposed to garlic and onions,
some make their cholent with Boston baked beans, adding brown sugar and molasses
to sweeten it.
To introduce sweetness to their main courses,
American-Jewish cooks use several techniques. One of the bestloved holiday
entrees is chicken roasted with a sweet glaze or sauce, often flavored with jam,
honey or sugar. The sweet sauce complements the taste of kosher chicken, which
tends to be slightly salty. This kind of chicken is easy to prepare and browns
A glaze of peach preserves sweetens the roast chicken made
by June Hersh, author of The Kosher Carnivore. Hersh spoons the glaze, which
also has grated fresh ginger, soy sauce and pepper, over chicken breasts before
baking them; she serves the chicken with peaches poached with honey, ginger and
Some cooks combine several sweet elements to flavor the sauce
for their entrees. Hersh makes chicken tzimmes with prunes, brown sugar and
honey and adds dry wine as well, which balances the sweetness. Sweet red wine
and brown sugar flavor a tomato-glazed baked chicken in the Bais Yaakov
Cookbook, edited by Batsheva Weinstein.
Fruit-flavored sauces are another
Rosh Hashana favorite. Katja Goldman and Arthur Boehm, authors of The Empire
Kosher Chicken Cookbook, make a fresh plum sauce with sweet spices and sauteed
onions for their roast chicken in cinnamon-scented plum sauce.
and Boehm use dried fruit in another Rosh Hashana chicken entree that kids
particularly like. First they marinate the chicken overnight with prunes and
dried apricots plumped in orange juice and mixed with garlic, ginger, herbs and
other seasonings. The following day they roast the chicken with white wine,
brown sugar and the fruity marinade.
How sweet to make the main course is
a matter of taste. My mother added sugar to her tzimmes with a light
Following her style, I add just a touch of honey to my beef and
butternut squash tzimmes so the sweet flavor is delicate.
sweeten their entrees.
In a Bais Yaakov roasted chicken recipe, the glaze
calls for a full jar of apricot jam, more than one-third the weight of the
chicken; no wonder the dish is called sticky chicken. In the Lubavitch Women’s
Organization cookbook, The Spice and Spirit of Kosher-Jewish Cooking, an entire
cup of honey and half a cup of sugar sweeten a three- or four-portion entree of
beef tzimmes with carrots and sweet potatoes.
Perhaps cooks who serve
such liberally sweetened dishes on Rosh Hashana aim to increase the odds of
having a sweet year.
Faye Levy is the author of 1,000 Jewish Recipes.
BEEF AND BUTTERNUT SQUASH STEW WITH PRUNES
This easy colorful tzimmes, from
1,000 Jewish Recipes by Faye Levy, is flavored lightly with honey.
or white rice or noodles, preferably flavored with sauteed onions, are good
accompaniments, as are cooked seasonal vegetables such as green beans, sweet
peppers and zucchini.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
(2 pounds) boneless lean beef chuck, cut in 3.2- to 3.8-cm. (11⁄4- to
11⁄2-inch) pieces, trimmed of fat and patted dry
1 large onion, chopped
1 cinnamon stick, about 5 cm. (2 inches) long, or a pinch of ground
salt and freshly ground pepper
900 gr. to 1.1 kg. (2 to 21⁄2 pounds)
2 Tbsp. mild honey 225 gr. (1⁄2 pound) pitted prunes
in a non-stick Dutch oven or large stew pan. Add meat in batches and brown
lightly on all sides over medium heat, removing each batch of meat as it browns.
Add onion to pan and saute until brown, about 10 minutes; cover if pan becomes
dry. Return meat to pan and add water, cinnamon stick, salt and
Bring to a boil, stirring often. Cover and simmer over low heat,
stirring occasionally, for 2 1⁄2 hours or until beef is tender, adding water by
quarter cups from time to time if the pan looks dry.
squash in large pieces and cut off peel. Discard seeds and any stringy parts
Cut squash in 2.5-cm. (1-inch) cubes.
When meat is
tender, stir in honey. Add squash and prunes and push squash down into liquid.
Cover and simmer 10 minutes. Turn squash pieces over, cover and simmer about 15
minutes or until squash and prunes are tender. Discard cinnamon stick. Taste and
Serve stew in a deep serving dish.
WITH TOMATO BROWN SUGAR GLAZE
This easy-to-prepare entree is from the Bais
Yaakov Cookbook. The chicken pieces bake in a sauce made by simply mixing the
ingredients – sweet wine, canned tomato sauce, brown sugar and
Makes 8 small servings
A 1.4- to 1.8-kg. (3- to 4-pound) chicken,
cut into eighths
Ground black pepper
A 225-gr. (8-ounce) can or 1 cup
3⁄4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sweet red wine
1⁄2 cup firmly packed brown
4 cloves garlic, minced
Preheat oven to 175ºC (350ºF). Pat chicken dry.
Place chicken skin-side down in a 33x23x5-cm. (13x9x2-inch) baking dish. Season
with salt and ground black pepper. Whisk tomato sauce, wine, brown sugar and
garlic in a small bowl.
Pour wine mixture over chicken.
covered 1 hour. Uncover, and continue baking until tender and no longer pink,
about 30 minutes more.
Remove chicken from the oven and transfer to a
ROAST CHICKEN IN CINNAMON-SCENTED PLUM SAUCE
marriage of chicken, purple plums, cinnamon and other sweet spices” is what
Katja Goldman and Arthur Boehm, authors of The Empire Kosher Chicken Cookbook,
call this entree.
For Rosh Hashana they recommend serving it with basmati
rice, “a perfect accompaniment to the fragrant bird.”
They serve the
chicken, plums and sauce on a platter lined with watercress.
You can use
parsley sprigs instead.
Makes 4 or 5 servings
7 large juicy purple plums
or 12 prune plums, pitted
1⁄2 cup chicken stock
2 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. olive oil
1.6- to 1.8-kg. (31⁄2- to 4-pound) roasting chicken, all visible fat removed,
cut into eighths, wing tips and skin removed
9 garlic cloves, minced
(11⁄2-inch) piece peeled ginger-root, grated (11⁄2 to 2 Tbsp.)
2 medium onions,
1⁄2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1⁄8 tsp. ground cloves
2 tsp. ground
1⁄8 tsp. cayenne pepper
Combine 4 of the large or 6 of the small plums
with the stock in a food processor and puree. Preheat the oven to 220ºC (425ºF).
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon of the oil.
Add the chicken pieces and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes.
slotted spoon, remove them to a baking dish large enough to hold all the pieces
snugly in a single layer.
In the same skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil
over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic, ginger and onions.
Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are lightly colored, about 4
Add the cinnamon, cloves, cumin and cayenne and cook to blend
well, about 3 minutes. Stir in plum puree.
Thinly slice remaining plums
and arrange over chicken. Pour plum sauce over chicken pieces. Cover the dish
loosely with foil and place it in the oven. Reduce the heat to 190ºC (375ºF) and
bake for 30 minutes. Uncover, baste with the pan juices, and bake uncovered
until done, about 20 minutes. The juices will run clear when a joint is pierced
with a fork.
Serve the chicken pieces with the plums and cooking juices
spooned over them.