‘The chicken soup just before the Yom Kippur fast,’ my mother said, “always
comes out the best.” During the rest of year she made her soup with chicken
pieces for a first course, followed by a roast chicken entree. For the seuda
hamafseket (the meal before the fast) she made the soup from a whole chicken to
serve as a main course. Because she was poaching a whole chicken, she cooked the
soup for a longer time and this produced a more delicious soup.
though these days most people use money instead of a live chicken for the custom
of kapparot, chicken is still the traditional choice for the dinner preceding
the Yom Kippur fast. I sometimes opt for turkey pieces, as poaching is one of my
favorite ways to prepare them.
In contemporary cooking, poaching has been
somewhat ignored. People often roast, grill, fry or saute their poultry. But the
time-honored technique of poaching is valued by countless cooks throughout the
Poaching produces moist, tender meat, as well as a flavorful
cooking broth that is used in a variety of ways: served as a soup, made into a
sauce or used to cook grains. According to Meri Badi, author of 250 Recettes de
Cuisine Juive Espagnole (250 Recipes of Sephardi Cooking), Sephardi cooks might
poach their chicken with grated tomatoes and a little oil added to the water and
then use the liquid to cook rice.
Usually the dinner before the fast is
not elaborate, as many people are rushing to get to the synagogue in time to
hear the chanting of Kol Nidre. Thus, it’s convenient to cook and serve a
one-pot meal that includes vegetables as well as satisfying carbohydrate foods –
matza balls, noodles or rice or other grains. When I poach poultry, I like to
add whole wheat berries, as they benefit from long, slow cooking and gain flavor
from the broth. I add vegetables when the bird is partially cooked so they won’t
fall apart and become a puree.
Legumes are another good addition. For the
pre-fast dinner, Jews from Algeria poach chickpeas along with the chicken, and
later add a variety of vegetables. In the family of Melanie Bacri, author of 100
Recettes de Cuisine Familiale Juive D’Algerie (100 Recipes of Algerian Jewish
Family Cooking), the vegetables selected are carrots, turnips, cabbage and
zucchini. She flavors her soup with sauteed onions, tomatoes, fresh coriander,
paprika and cayenne and uses it to moisten her couscous.
For a more
festive main course, some like to stuff chickens before they poach them. In
Paris I learned to prepare poule au pot, French-style chicken in the pot, this
way it had a stuffing made of meat, bread crumbs, onions and
Gracia Grego, author of Lebanese Cooking (in Hebrew), uses a
similar technique. She stuffs her chicken with ground beef, which she sautees
and moistens with a little hot water and then adds rice, pine nuts, salt, pepper
and cinnamon. When the stuffed chicken is partially poached, she adds sauteed
potato cubes to the broth.
The chicken’s cavity has to be sewn shut to
prevent the stuffing from coming out during poaching. Cooks who want an easier
way to introduce the flavor of beef into the soup poach meatballs alongside the
To avoid provoking thirst during the fast, it is a good idea to
go easy on the spices and use little or no salt.The writer is the author
Healthy Cooking for the Jewish Home.RECIPE:POACHED TURKEY WITH MUSHROOMS, WHEAT BERRIES AND DILL
The taste of this savory
entree, made with both fresh and dried mushrooms, is somewhat reminiscent of
old-fashioned mushroom- barley soup. As the turkey cooks, its tasty broth gives
the wheat berries a good flavor.
For a colorful, nutritious addition, add 1 to 2
cups frozen shelled edamame (green soy beans) for the last 5 minutes of
Makes about 6 servings
1.4 kg. (3 pounds) turkey drumsticks or
11⁄2 cups wheat berries, sorted and rinsed
2 large onions, coarsely
5 cups water, or more if necessary
Salt and freshly ground pepper to
55 gr. (2 ounces) dried mushrooms – any kind you like
2 carrots, diced
6 large garlic cloves, chopped 170 to 225 gr. (6 to 8 ounces)
fresh mushrooms, quartered
2 to 3 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill
Cayenne pepper to
In a large stew pan, combine turkey, wheat berries and onions
and add 5 cups water, or enough to generously cover ingredients.
Add a small
pinch of salt and bring to a boil.
Cover and simmer over low heat, turning
turkey pieces over from time to time, for 2 hours or until turkey is very tender
when pierced in thickest part with a knife and wheat berries are
Remove turkey from liquid. Cool broth and thoroughly skim fat
Meanwhile, soak dried mushrooms for 30 minutes in a bowl of
enough hot water to cover them. Remove mushrooms and rinse them. If stems are
hard, remove them; you can save them for making vegetable broth. Cut mushrooms
into bite-size pieces.
Remove turkey skin with aid of a paring knife.
Discard turkey bones, cartilage and visible fat. Pull or cut meat into wide
Add carrots, dried mushrooms, garlic and turmeric to broth. Bring
to a boil.
Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 7 minutes. Add fresh
mushrooms and cook for 5 more minutes or until carrots and all mushrooms are
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Add a little
cayenne, if desired. Return turkey meat, wheat berries and vegetables to pan and
add dill. Serve hot.
CHICKEN IN THE POT WITH MATZA BALLS
seasoned soup is best when made with fresh herbs – dill, coriander, parsley or a
mixture of all three.
For convenience, make the soup a day or two ahead so that
the fat is easy to skim from the cold soup.
To serve the chicken the way my
mother did, I serve the broth with matza balls as an appetizer, followed by the
carved chicken with the vegetables. If you’d like a meal in a bowl, cut the
chicken in pieces, discarding the bones if you want, and serve the pieces in the
soup in large bowls along with the vegetables and the matza balls.
about 6 servings
1 whole chicken, about 1.5 to 1.8 kg (31⁄4 to 4 pounds)
and freshly ground pepper
1 large onion, whole or sliced 2 bay leaves
Tbsp. vegetable oil
2⁄3 cup matza meal
3⁄4 tsp salt (for matza ball
3⁄4 tsp baking powder
6 medium-sized boiling potatoes
4 large carrots,
cut in chunks
4 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
225 gr. (1⁄2 pound) green
beans, broken in half, or 4 white squash (Hebrew kishuim), cut in chunks
chopped mixed fresh herbs – dill, fresh coriander and parsley
Remove fat from
Put chicken in a large pot.
Add chicken neck and giblets, except liver.
Sprinkle with pepper on both sides, and with just a bit of salt.
Add onion to
pot and cover ingredients generously with water, about 8 cups.
Add bay leaves
and bring to a boil.
Skim excess foam from surface.
Cover and cook over
low heat for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, prepare the matza ball batter: In a
medium bowl lightly beat eggs with oil. Add matza meal, salt and baking powder
and stir until smooth.
Last, stir in 1 or 2 tablespoons of the chicken
soup. Refrigerate mixture for 20 minutes so the matza meal absorbs the
Bring 3 or 4 liters (3 or 4 quarts) salted water to a boil in a
large saucepan; reduce the heat so the water simmers.
Check the matza
ball batter; it should be soft. If it is stiff, gradually stir in a little more
chicken soup by tablespoons.
With wet hands, take about 1 teaspoon of
matza ball mixture and roll it between your palms into a ball; mixture will be
very soft and balls need not be even rounds. Carefully add each ball to the into
simmering water. Cover and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes or until firm.
Cover and keep them warm until ready to serve.
Peel potatoes. After soup
has cooked for 1 hour, add potatoes, carrots and garlic. Cover and cook over low
heat for 45 minutes. Add green beans and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over
low heat for 30 minutes or until chicken and vegetables are tender. Skim off
fat. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Cut chicken in serving pieces. Remove
skin and return chicken to soup. After reheating soup, stir in the fresh
Serve soup with matza balls as a first course, using a slotted
spoon to add a few matza balls to each bowl of soup.
Next, serve the
chicken with vegetables in deep plates and spoon a little broth over them.