Rosh Hashana, the sweet way

Peach glaze on chicken, prunes and carrot tzimmes make for delectable dishes.

Honey 390 (photo credit: Wikimedia)
Honey 390
(photo credit: Wikimedia)
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 attractively.
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 soy sauce.
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.
Goldman 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.
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How sweet to make the main course is a matter of taste. My mother added sugar to her tzimmes with a light hand.
Following her style, I add just a touch of honey to my beef and butternut squash tzimmes so the sweet flavor is delicate.
Others boldly 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.

This easy colorful tzimmes, from 1,000 Jewish Recipes by Faye Levy, is flavored lightly with honey.
Brown 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
900 gr. (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
2 cups water
1 cinnamon stick, about 5 cm. (2 inches) long, or a pinch of ground cinnamon
salt and freshly ground pepper
900 gr. to 1.1 kg. (2 to 21⁄2 pounds) butternut squash
2 Tbsp. mild honey 225 gr. (1⁄2 pound) pitted prunes
Heat oil 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 pepper.
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.
Meanwhile, cut squash in large pieces and cut off peel. Discard seeds and any stringy parts around seeds.
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 adjust seasoning.
Serve stew in a deep serving dish.
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 garlic.
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 tomato sauce
3⁄4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sweet red wine
1⁄2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
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.
Bake 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 serving platter.
“A happy 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
A 4-cm. (11⁄2-inch) piece peeled ginger-root, grated (11⁄2 to 2 Tbsp.)
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1⁄2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1⁄8 tsp. ground cloves
2 tsp. ground cumin
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.
With a 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 minutes.
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.