The month long marathon of Jewish holidays is rapidly approaching and I am back in to the kitchen after weeks of traveling and barely cooking a meal. Rosh Hashana kicks off the holiday season. It is a two day eating and celebrating fest where we bring in the New Year and consume an abundance of symbolic, mostly sweet foods ensuring a good year ahead. (Read more about the symbolic foods eaten here)
Before the days of children, we always hosted the second night of Rosh Hashana. Along the lines of an Autumnal New Year's Eve party, we gathered in our living room with lots of friends and all the traditional food. Once the boys came along, our festive meal moved away from adult party and into more of an all day eating event spanning multiple generations of friends old and new.
Whoever celebrates with us, this New Year's Chicken always features. Before my first Rosh Hashana feast I consulted just about everyone who was willing to speak to me ad nauseum about the menu and their top dishes. And this won. It came from a friend, and stole my heart on the first attempt as it so reminded me of that old Silver Palate classic, Chicken Marbella (a staple at all childhood family celebrations). The recipe has now evolved over the years and now includes apples, red onion, and cider vinegar.
This is the ideal party dish. The chicken pieces (I always use thighs for consistency) needs to be prepared in advance and marinade at least overnight, and up to two days, so the prep is taken care of well ahead of any guests walking through your door. I even sometimes marinate it Nigella style, with all the aromatics (minus fruit, olives and capers) in the freezer for up to two weeks, then just defrost, add the rest of the ingredients and cook. Easy peasy.
So while this is my New Years Chicken, saved only for our large annual Autumn gathering, I urge you to make this for any get together of friends or family. And for anyone like me who is also making a feast next week or any time in the year ahead, here are some ideas of the kind of dishes I will serve for our intimate crowd of 45 (and growing) next Monday:
Fig Challah (My mother's speciality) and Apple Challah (made by my talented friend Jane)
New Year's Chicken (recipe below)
Green salad with Apple Vinaigrette
German Apple Cake (an old family recipe)
Figs, Pomegranates and new fruits of the season
For all of you celebrating next week, I wish you a happy and healthy New Year, and for all of you with any excuse to share a meal with friends and family in the months ahead, happy cooking, and enjoy.
New Year's Chicken
This chicken definitely derives its flavours from Chicken Marbella, with its sweet and salty mix which truly works a treat.
This can easily be scaled up for a crowd, but do not double the liquid amount, as there will be too much juice in the pan for the chicken pieces to brown properly.
16 chicken thighs
3 large red onions, sliced into half moons
1 head of garlic, cloves separated but no need to peel
4 medium apples peeled, cored and cut into quite thick slices (about 8 -12 slices per apple depending on their size)
250g (1cup) pitted prunes
100g (approx 1/2c) pitted green olives, drained
60g ( approx 1/3 cup) capers, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp dried oregano
4 fresh bay leaves
salt and pepper
125ml (1/2 cup) cider or white wine vinegar
250g (3/4 cup) honey
125ml (1/2 cup) olive oil
250g (1 cup) dry white wine (or I sometimes use Vermouth, but Marsala also works)
Sprinking of chopped parsley for garnish (optional)
Combine all ingredients in 2 large ziplock bags and marinade overnight or upto 2 days
When you are ready to cook, Preheat oven to 190C Take out of the fridge an hour before cooking and bring to room temperature (about 1 hour before cooking)
Place all chicken pieces skin side up in a large roasting tin and surround my marinade and liquid
Cover with foil and cook for 30 minutes
Uncover and baste and continue to cook for further 30 minutes until caramelised
Sprinkle with parsley, if using
Can be served warm or at room temperature