Chosen Bites: The kosher wedding whisperer

Chef Laura Frankel gives her tips on how to plan the perfect event, as well as recipe that weds two delicious cuisines.

Tagine with honey 311 (photo credit: Danya Weiner)
Tagine with honey 311
(photo credit: Danya Weiner)
It is full blown wedding season and nervous brides and grooms all over the world are tying the knot. Many more are planning nuptials and are making themselves, as well as their families and friends absolutely crazy.
The details for planning the perfect event are mind boggling and the options these days are abundant. Planning your fantasy event needs some TLC and since you only get to do this dream day once, you really want to do it right.
I have the pleasure and sometimes pain of sitting down with families and listening to their ideas and visions. Sometimes parents and engaged couples agree and more often than not, they are in polar opposition to each other.
I have had parents request a traditional Ashkenazi Jewish menu and have the kids begging for modern, more global food selections. I had a European Ashkenazi bride marrying an American Southern Sephardi groom. The parents ended up not speaking to each other during the menu planning because one family wanted  traditional Ashkenazi fare while the other family wanted bold flavored Sephardi cuisine. We compromised and had stations brimming with both styles of food instead of a seated dinner.
I have many brides not interested in the traditional wedding cake only to have their mothers secretly emailing me for cake flavors and design options. Last summer, I had a father waving frantically at me from across the room wondering why there wasn’t any lettuce on his salad course which was not a salad at all, but a gazpacho trio!
Basic boot camp for planning the perfect wedding
1.Have a conversation, or two, with all the parents before meeting with the planner, caterer, florist, photographer or any of the vendors. Even if the engaged couple are paying for the event, it is nice for everyone to be “heard” and for some compromises in the vision.
2.Attention all brides and grooms! You two need to be in agreement before you start the planning process. I had a tasting with a couple who fought the entire time about the menu. It was like 2 different wedding concepts were being tossed around. I ended up giving them a time out before we finished the tasting. I was afraid we were never going to get to the wedding.
3.Often, in order for everyone to be happy, you need to alter the style of the event. Instead of a sit down dinner, you can do stations. You can switch from a traditional wedding cake to a dessert buffet. You can add a small symbolic cake instead of a full blown cake. There are so many ways to do a wedding; there is room for everyone to feel comfortable and happy.
4.That being said, it is the couple’s wedding and they get the final decision. Sometimes, not everyone can be happy!
5.Have fun with it. Personalize the event with your own touches. You do not have to do the same wedding as all your friends. Create your own theme and do something that is as unique as your relationship.
6.Chef’s note: I like it when the couple asks me to write a menu for them based on their vision. Trust me, chefs like to create menus and will add some TLC to their own creations.
7.Enjoy the process. There are many details and minutia, but the end result will be spectacular.
A perfect marriage of flavors
Chick Pea Tagine with Crispy Chicken SchnitzelServes 4
Crispy chicken schnitzel marries seamlessly with fragrant chick pea tagine. A casual summertime supper that weds two delicious cuisines. Serve the duo with a crispy salad and bread.
For the tagine1 small red onion, sliced3 cloves garlic, minced2 medium carrots, diced1 medium fennel bulb, julienne2 cups cooked chick peas¼ cup chopped pitted dates¼ cup chopped dried apricots¼ cup sliced dried figs2 teaspoons ground coriander1 teaspoon ground cumin2 teaspoons ground cinnamon½ teaspoon ground cardamomPinch of crushed red chilies3 tablespoons tomato paste2 cups chicken stock or waterKosher salt and pepperGarnishes: cilantro leaves, mint leaves, preserved lemons, crushed cumin seeds
Preheat oven to 3251.Sauté the onion, carrots and fennel, in batches in a large sauté pan, lightly coated with olive oil, over medium high heat until the vegetables are browned (about 5-7 minutes). Transfer the vegetables to a Dutch oven.
2.Add the remaining ingredients to the Dutch oven and stir to combine. Cover and cook for 1 hour until the liquid is mostly absorbed the vegetables are soft.
For the schnitzel4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to ¼ inch thickness1 cup flour, placed in a shallow pan2 cups panko bread crumbs, placed in a shallow pan2 egg whites, whisked with 2 tablespoons water, placed in a shallow panZest of 2 lemons¼ cup chopped parsleyKosher and freshly cracked pepper
1.Heat a large sauté pan with ½ inch of oil over medium high heat.  Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper.
2.Dredge the chicken breasts in the flour, then the whisked egg whites and finally into the panko bread crumbs.
3.Gently put the chicken breasts in the oil and cook on one side until they are golden brown and crispy (about 3-5 minutes per side). Turn the breasts and cook the other side until brown.
4.Transfer the browned chicken breasts to a parchment lined pan. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and lemon zest.
5.About 7 minutes before serving, cook the chicken breasts in the preheated oven until cooked through.
6.Serve the schnitzels on a platter with the Chick Pea tagine and garnish with lemon slices.