Passover Seder 2011 – day 2

This year we hosted the first seder (SEE HERE), but my Mom cooked the second. That means a very high bar of quality.


Parker 91 for the 2001 Opus One. “Tasted twice Deep garnet-black colour. Still a lot of primary fruit with dark cherry and blackberry aromas complimented by cloves, cardamom and a hint of mint. The medium to full bodied palate provides a medium+ level of very finely grained tannins and medium+ acidity. Long finish with lingering earthy / mineral flavours. Drink now to 2019. Tasted April 2009.”

The 1998 Haut Maillet was a typical mature pomerol. Tasty, but a bit sour.


The seder plate.


The ubiquitous matzah.


Horoset, a mixture of apples, nuts, cinnamon and other spices.


Mom’s homemade horseradish, sweetened and colored with beet juice.


The fully set table.


The components of the Hillel sandwich, a combination of matzah, horoset, and horseradish.


A sample Hillel sandwich. For more details, see here.


The salad.


Plated, endives, other greens, and smoked kosher trout. Very refreshing, and tasty.


Homemade matzah ball soup. The classic chicken broth and light fluffy balls.


Broccoli Rabe.


Sauteed with pine-nuts and currents


Brisket braised in sweet and sour sauce. Cooked to extreme tenderness.


Extra gravy.


On the plate.

To see the first night of passover, click here.

For the Hillel Sandwich, here.

Passover Seder 2011 – day 1

April rolls around and it’s seder time again, the ritual dinner celebrating the exodus from Egypt. As usual, things have to be done in full Gavin style.

Various ingredients. There are all sorts of traditional requirements to this meal, the most significant of which is an avoidance of any leavening agents, yeast, etc.

Parker 92. “Bachelet’s 2005 Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes – from 60- to 70-year-old vines both below the route nationale and north of Gevrey in Brochon – offers lovely black fruit aromas with hints of anise and mint. A truly palate-staining intensity of vividly-fresh, tart but ripe black cherry and blackberry is underlain by firm, fine tannins (not precluding an emerging silkiness of texture) and augmented by bitter-herbal and stony notes. Although palpably dense and abundantly tannic, this outstanding village wine still comes off as juicy, sleek, invigorating and refined. Put it away for at least 5-7 years.”

Parker 94. “The profound 1997 Barolo Bussia boasts intense aromas of molasses, cherry liqueur, melted tar, licorice, and toast. Dense and full-bodied, with enormous quantities of glycerin and fat, this hedonistic, thick, viscous Barolo can be drunk now and over the next 15-16 years.”

And for those who crave the old school sweet and alcohol finish of the classic kosher wine, the Kesser. No vintage listed or needed.

This is a traditional seder plate. It contains each of the ritual elements of the dinner. Starting at the egg on the right and heading clockwise. Egg, horseradish, lamb shank, lettuce, horoset, parsley.

Hard boiled eggs. Dipped in salt water before eating.

A glass of wine is left for Elijah, the prophet. He gets the cool cup.

Parsley, dipped in salt water.

Matzah, or unleavened bread. When the Israelites escaped from the Pharoah Ramses (check out Exodus if you aren’t clued in on that) there was no time to leaven the bread. So matzah, an unleavened cracker, is eaten in symbol remembrance.

More traditional accompaniments. At the top, Horoset (mixture of apples, nuts, and spices — homemade of course), the green is parsley, the pink stuff horseradish with beets, the white atomic horseradish! Mind bendingly potent. The water in front is salt water.

Another seder plate.

Matzah is traditionally eaten with the horseradish and horoset. This is called the Hillel sandwich, for more on that click here.

Gefilte fish. This is housemade from Pico Kosher Deli. It’s various chopped fish, boiled. A sort of unfried chicken McNugget of the fish world. Yummy with horseradish.

A big dinner requires a big pot.

Matzah balls prior to cooking.

The matzah ball soup. A very tasty vegetable/chicken stock with… matzah balls.

Start of the stuffing for the chicken.

The stuffing. Onions, matzah, peppers, etc.

The stuffed chickens.

On the BBQ. The grill is really the best way to cook whole chickens. You do need something like this foil to protect the bird from the direct heat.

The spread.

The plated chicken and stuffing.

Potato kugel.

Carrot fritters and pesto.

The salad and dressing.

My plate. You can compare to the litany of Thanksgiving plates.

The dessert spread.

The sponge cake in its early stages. Because no leavening agents are allowed, sponge cake is traditional. It’s fluffed up with egg.

It’s served with strawberry sauce (basically strawberries and sugar).

Fruit slices, also traditional.

Cookies.

Matzah, coated in chocolate and carmel.

Home toasted almonds.

The flour-less chocolate torte.

Iced.

Iced, decorated with almonds and chocolate dust.

With finished decoration.

Very full!

To see day 2 of passover, click here.

The Hillel Sandwich

The Hillel Sandwich is a a traditional passover specialty. Simple in concept, it is a potent and delectable seasonal item.

The base is matzah, unleavened bread (cracker-like). Seder participants recall the slavery that reigned during the first half of the night by eating matzo (the “poor person’s bread”), maror (bitter herbs which symbolize the bitterness of slavery), and charoset (a sweet paste representing the mortar which the Jewish slaves used to cement bricks). In the process of fleeing from the wrath of Pharaoh, there was no time to leaven the bread, and hence what was probably a flat risen bread like pita, became matzah (even flatter and denser).

My mom’s homemade horseradish (the pink color comes from beets mixed in). This is known as the bitter herb and symbolizes the bitterness and harshness of the slavery which the Jews endured in Ancient Egypt. This concept is extended to represent the bitterness of any kind of enslavement or bondage, throughout the whole world and all peoples.

Horoset, a mixture of apples, nuts, cinnamon and other spices. This is representative of the mortar used by the Jewish slaves to build the storehouses of Egypt.

We lay everything out.

Start with the horseradish.

Throw some of the horoset on top, and enjoy.

On the symbolic level: During the Passover Seder (the annual commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt), one re-enacts ancient customs in the Haggadah. In the section of Korech, or ‘sandwich’, participants are instructed to place bitter herbs between two pieces of matzo and eat them after saying in Hebrew: This is a remembrance of Hillel in Temple times — This is what Hillel did when the Temple existed: He enwrapped the Paschal lamb, the matzo and the bitter herbs to eat them as one, in fulfillment of the verse, “with matzot and maror they shall eat it.”(Numbers 9:11) In modern times, when there is no paschal lambAshkenazi practice is to emulate this by making a matzo, maror, (horseradish or lettuce) sandwich. Philo has called this sandwich a “moral migration from wickedness to virtue. Repentant sinners at first brood bitterly (maror) over their past misdeeds. Then matzah, the healing food, brings them to humility and contentment.”

The culinary  interest is in the combination of flavors and textures. The crunch of the matzah, the often savage punch of very good horseradish, and the sweetness of the apples. For me, both the matzah and the apples allow one to withstand a higher does of horseradish. At home I like to mix the sweeter red (because of the beets) radish with Atomic Horseradish. The later is often lethally potent, and good for some good table pounding during the 10-15 seconds required to “endure” the experience.