I really didn’t want to put together a Passover Seder this year. I really didn’t. We had just come home from an extremely relaxing vacation at the beach and the last thing I wanted to do was stress out over a Seder meal. I almost blew it off. Almost. Then the Jewish guilt set it, and it set in hard.
So last night I toasted farfel, which for those not in the know, is crushed up matzoh that is mixed with egg, oil, salt, and pepper, and toasted in the oven for about twenty minutes. It’s basically a Jewish version of oyster crackers for matzoh ball soup because in our family you can’t have too much matzoh in matzoh ball soup. It has been a staple on my family’s Seder table for decades and it would be blasphemy to keep it off my own table now that I’m the one doing the cooking.
I also made something that I dubbed matzoh crack.
It may look pretty disgusting, but it’s totally addicting. Come on, you’ve got to doctor up matzoh to make it edible. Drenching it with homemade caramel and chocolate does the trick.
Today, Seder Day, I went into hard-core Jewish Mom Cooking mode or JMC for short. I first got the chicken soup simmering. I’m known for never cooking the same thing twice, and chicken soup is no different. I perused epicurious.com and found a chicken soup recipe that looked interesting and decided to give it a go. So much for a stress free Passover. The recipe called for removing the skin, which I did, giving me a good excuse to try for the first time making chicken schmaltz and gribenes.
These two things are a Jewish delicacy. I used the schmaltz, also known as rendered chicken fat, for the matzoh balls. When you render the fat, you still have the skin, which is the gribenes. The little pieces of greasy goodness didn’t last long. They may be small, but each bite gives you a pop of crunch and grease all at the same time. I haven’t tasted them in years, and it took all my willpower not to eat the whole plate. It’s amazing how one food can transport you back in time. As I snacked on these sumptuous morsels, I felt like I was sitting in my Grandma Ida’s kitchen fighting with my brothers over who got the last piece of gribenes. My Grandma Ida was an amazing cook, but an even more amazing woman. She was a pint-sized powerhouse who raised two sons all on her own. If you know my Dad, you know that was an even more difficult task than it sounds. From the stories I’ve heard, he was hell on wheels as a kid. Some think he still is.
The star of any Seder has to be the matzoh ball soup. I usually pop open a box of matzoh ball mix, but since I had the schmaltz, I tried a homemade concoction that included fresh herbs.
For an adult palate, they tasted great. They even tasted great to a 9-year old.
For the younger set however, not so much. My 6-year old said, “I like the soup and the farfel, but I don’t like the green stuff in my matzoh balls.”
She may not have liked matzoh balls, but she loved the grape juice. So did her younger sister.
While they may not have been drunk, they were entertained thanks to these little guys:
Nothing says Passover like plague finger puppets! I bought these a few years ago, and shockingly we still have all ten. Yes, we do know our young audience. Unlike Seders from my childhood, we also do a kid-friendly abridged version, using a preschool Haggadah. It hits all the highlights from the four questions to the dayenu song in about fifteen minutes.
One thing that didn’t make our Seder however, was gefilte fish. I couldn’t do it. I don’t like it. My husband doesn’t like it. And my kids? Are you kidding me? No way.
Sure, our Seder may not have been 100% traditional, but we’re far from a 100% traditional family. All I know is it created lasting memories for me and my family. That’s good enough for me, and I’m sure it would have been good enough for my Grandma Ida too.