Short Order: Carefree chicken

This is a one-dish meal for seven or eight people; my kids love it.

These days, I find myself paying end-of-the-week visits to my local mall to pass the time with - and sometimes buy lunch for - my daughter, who operates a stall there. Among the myriad retailers of jewelry, novelties and ready-cooked Shabbat food, the professorit, as one fellow vendor calls her, stands out uniquely in selling a multimedia course that teaches English to Israelis. Dropping by on a regular basis, I have come to appreciate these Thursday and Friday stall-holders as a warm and surprisingly close-knit subculture. Throughout the day they bring each other coffee and snacks, watch each other's wares when nature calls, share life wisdom and autobiographical stories in between customers and produce consoling explanations when business is bad. One of the more colorful characters in this human array is Yoni Ya'acov, who sells Kabbala-inspired jewelry and talks equally with his hands and his lips. "My mother is from Bombay, my dad from Karachi," he tells me. "We had the queen up on every wall" - he makes a sweeping motion with his arms - "I thought she was my savta." Hearing that I write a food column for the Post, he casts a quick look at his stall to make sure he isn't missing any sales, grabs a chair and plonks himself down. "OK, listen, this is a one-dish meal for seven or eight people; my kids love it. I make it for Shabbat in a large foil dish - it saves on washing up. Use mushrooms or sliced peppers instead of the corn if you want." YONI'S MEAL-IN-A-DISH 4 onions, chopped a little oil 21⁄2 cups rice, washed 1 550-gr. can sweet corn, drained 7-8 portions chicken, skinned 11⁄2 cups water mixed with 1 Tbsp. bouillon powder (preferably chemical-free) paprika to taste black pepper to taste Saute the onion in the oil until golden, then spread it in one layer on the bottom of a large baking dish. Spread the rice over it in one layer, then the sweet corn. Arrange the chicken pieces on top. Pour the water-bouillon powder mix over everything and sprinkle paprika and some black pepper over the chicken. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 45 minutes in a medium oven. HOW DO you turn a Brandy Yule Cake into a Tu Bishvat cake? The best person to ask is Chani Katz, who brought this heavily laced, utterly delicious confection to the Sam Orbaum Jerusalem Scrabble Club during the week of Tu Bishvat, and handed it round generously. After sampling a piece, I told her, "I never thought you could get drunk on cake." The evening's games passed quite merrily. CHANI'S YU-BISHVAT CAKE 11⁄2 cups chopped nuts 1⁄4 kilo fresh dates 1 cup maraschino cherries 2⁄3 cup candied orange peel or pineapple 1⁄2 cup raisins up to 11⁄2 cup dried apricots, figs, etc. 3⁄4 cup all-purpose flour 3⁄4 cup sugar 1⁄2 tsp. baking powder 1⁄2 tsp. salt 3 eggs brandy Mix the chopped fruits and nuts. Sift the dry ingredients over the fruit and mix well. Mix the eggs with 1 tablespoon of brandy and add to the fruit. Grease a 23 cm. x 13 cm. x 8 cm. loaf pan and line with waxed paper; grease the paper. Press the mixture into the pan. Bake at 150º for about 13⁄4 hours. Place a pan of water under the cake about halfway through to avoid burning. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn the cake out on a rack and peel off the paper. When the cake is thoroughly cooled, wrap it in several layers of cheesecloth moistened with brandy. Wrap this in foil, waxed paper or plastic, then put into in an airtight container. Let the cake ripen in the refrigerator for at least two weeks. Adds Chani: "I always make this cake around Hanukka, just right for Tu Bishvat. It will keep for several months. Use any combination of dried and candied fruit and nuts, as long as the total amount is the same. Prunes are nice. "Any alcoholic beverage works. This year I splurged and used Bacardi rum. [Short Order: It was amazing.] I have also used bourbon in the past. Wine, which I have never tried, is supposed to work too, but I like the higher alcohol content of brandy or whiskey. "I really soaked the cheesecloth in rum. In the past I have not used so much, but I have had to open the cake and add more liquor. I think it worked better this time, as the cake was well-soaked, and I didn't have to patchke." [email protected]