The Beginning of a Sweet New Year

Tonight I share with you the beginnings of a sweet new year. Why just the beginning? Because by the time everything is ready to be served, the crowds are swarming, the chef is near sweating, and the camera has inevitably been displaced.

Above, is the makings of a chicken stock. I absolutely love my All-Clad 12 quart multicooker – the insert makes cooking and straining chicken stock an absolutely breeze. Inside the insert, I’ve got a whole chicken, half of a large turnip, a couple onions halved, a few carrots peeled, the leafy parts of a bunch of celery, several cloves of garlic, parsley stalks and thyme sprigs, and lots of salt and pepper. The vegetables are left in large chunks because they are just included for flavor; they will be discarded and replaced with fresh ones when the stock transforms into matzoh ball soup. The contents are covered with water, brought to a boil, and simmered for a few hours; when it’s done, simply lift out the insert to reveal the beautiful chicken stock!

And here is my brisket, about to go into the oven. Actually, this is just one – with 18 guests on the list this year, we required two. I have been making Spiced Brisket with Leeks and Apricots for several holidays now – I think starting with last Rosh Hashanah, and again for Hanukkah and Passover. It’s become a favorite in my family. I think this rendition was the best so far, because I finally mastered the gravy-from-juices. Normally I am too rushed, but this time I actually focused on cooking the roux , whisking in the stalk, and simmering with a couple handfuls of chopped dried apricots. It was simply fantastic.
And finally, what Rosh Hashanah would be complete without the round raisin challah? None in my book. You might be familiar with challah as the traditional braided egg bread enjoyed by Jews (and our friends who are lucky enough!) but the New Year challah takes on a different shape and features sweet raisins. Let me tell you, this challah was the rosh of all challot. (Rosh means head in Hebrew, and Shanah means year, hence, Rosh Hashanah is the head of the year. Rosh also refers to the head on your body, or a leader of a group. Challot is the plural for Challah. So what I am saying here is that this challah is the most prominent, the one in charge!) I used a recipe which I have had success with in the past, substituting honey for the sugar to create the distinct Rosh Hashanah sweetness. Instead of dividing the dough to make two braids, I kept it all together to make one large, round challah. I added rolled golden raisins right into the strands, just like the method described here. All was looking good and I was proud of myself for producing the woven round shape just like in the pictures. Boy did this thing rise. And rise, and rise. By the time I put it in the oven, it was huge! So huge, that maybe it couldn’t handle the heat. In case you can’t tell here, it managed to flatten out somewhat, and pretty much spread the size of an entire cookie sheet.

No worries, my family still gobbled up the tender, sweet doughy bread to welcome in the sweet New Year :)

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