Although the calendar still dictates that it’s August, our minds and hearts pulse Rosh Hashanah. Both physically and spiritually, it’s time to prepare for the New Year. Cleaning the house, ensuring our children’s best clothes still fit, and making sure the dining room linens are cleaned and starched. So, why not get a head start on your holiday menu as well? I have developed a festive main dish, a side dish and, of course, honey cookies, that can be neatly tucked into your freezer.
Chicken is a wonderful main dish, both for weeknight meals and for special occasions. On Rosh Hashanah, however, I like to up the ante by purchasing the more expensive capons, whole chicken legs that have the skin left on but that have been deboned. These wonderful pieces of meat provide a festive air to a celebratory dinner. As an added bonus, especially at this time of year, when there are challahs to be made, salads to toss, honey laden goodies to bake and vegetables to prepare, this delicious capon recipe can be prepared fully in advance. A week or two before our Rosh Hashanah dinner, I make the rice filling, stuff the capons, place them in a 9”x13” baking pan and spread the jam over each capon’s surface. Then I cover them securely with a piece of parchment paper, followed by a piece of aluminum foil. I prefer that aluminum foil not touch the raw chicken so I always place the parchment paper first directly on top of the raw capons. Then I double bag the entire dish. For ease of identification later, so that I am not rummaging around in my freezer, I place a sticker on top of the outer bag, saying when the dish was assembled and how many capons are in the package. There the capons happily nest until the day before I want to serve them. Then I defrost the dish overnight in my refrigerator. Into the oven they go a couple of hours before my Erev Roshanah meal, leaving me a refreshed and happy hostess. The capons taste just as fresh and juicy as if I had spent the morning filling, sautéing and baking.
Rice and Vegetable Filled Capons
This is the perfect meal for any special occasion. What I like to do is make double the amount of filling so I will be sure to have an additional side dish or leftover for the next day. This mixture is particularly scrumptious placed on slices of fried breaded eggplant. Sometimes I even top this with mushroom sauce.
12 chicken bottoms (whole legs), deboned but with skin left intact(called “capons” in kosher butchers)
2 Tbsp oil
1 small onion, diced
2 red pepper, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 Tbsp Kosher salt
1 Tbsp agave, xylitol or granulated sugar
¼ tsp paprika
¾ cup white rice
1 cup apricot jam or spread
1. Heat the oil in a 4 qt. saucepan set over medium heat. Add the onion; sauté until translucent. Add the peppers, salt, agave and paprika; sauté for 5 to 10 minutes or until softened. Add 3 cups of water; bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Stir in the rice; cook for 5 minutes.
2.Reduce the heat to low; cook, covered, for 12 minutes or until the water has been absorbed by the rice.
3. Preheat the oven go 350F°. Line a 9” x 13” baking pan with parchment paper. Place the chicken bottoms, skin side down, in the pan. Spoon 2 Tbsp of the rice filling in the center of each bottom. (You will have rice left over).
4.Fold two sides over to the center and then bring over the other two sides. Roll the chicken bottoms over carefully so that the seams are facing down. Arrange the chicken bottoms tightly together, as snugly as possible so that they don’t open. Brush the apricot jam over the chicken bottoms. (Dish can be frozen at this point for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight.)
5. Bake, covered, in the center of the preheated oven for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Uncover; cook for 15 minutes.
Makes 12 servings
Sidebar: Typically, I don’t like to freeze dishes that contain rice. However, this recipe is the exception to that rule. I find that the extra fat that usually accompanies capons provides a protective coating that helps the rice maintain its luxe texture and consistency. It’s also important to use white rice for this dish since it absorbs the excess moistness and flavor in the filling. When I tried other varieties, for example brown rice, the filling fell apart and didn’t absorb the flavor of the vegetables and the slices did not cut nearly as cleanly.
I chose simple roasted vegetables for my side dish, since the main course filling already contained a starch. I have to admit that I was hesitant at first to include a recipe of this nature. After all, it’s really only fresh vegetables arranged neatly on a skewer, brushed with a fillip of olive oil and lemon juice. Surely, I don’t need to break it down. But break it down I did, especially after I got rave reviews from my taste testers. The simplicity of the vegetable skewers belies their sweet succulence. The combination of fruity olive oil and citrusy lemon juice coaxes out all of the vegetable’s natural exuberance, as does the intense heat of the oven or grill. As the heat does its work, the vegetable’s inherent sugars caramelize, imparting a taste sensation for which there is no comparison.
Roasted Vegetables On Skewers
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 zucchini, washed and halved vertically, sliced into half moons
2 yellow summer squash, washed and halved vertically, sliced into half moons
2 red peppers, cut into 2” chunks
2 yellow peppers, cut into 2” chunks
1 box (8 oz.) mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
2 red onions, cut in wedges and then halved
1. Soak 12 wooden or bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes to prevent charring and splintering.
2. Preheat the oven to 425 F°. Line a 9” x 13” baking pan with parchment paper.
3. In a small bow, stir all of the marinade ingredients together; set aside.
4. Remove the skewers from the water; pat dry. Thread a piece of the red pepper, summer squash, mushroom, red onion, yellow pepper and zucchini onto the skewer; repeat once. Repeat with remaining vegetables and remaining skewers. (I like this particular order but, of course, you can choose your own colorful pattern!!).
5.Suspend the skewers on top of the prepared 9” x 13” pan, brush lavishly with the prepared marinade. Bake in the center of the preheated oven for 25 minutes.
Makes 12 servings.
Although the instructions above call for oven roasting, these skewers can easily be cooked over a countertop grill or on an outdoor barbecue.
These cookies are soft, sweet and the perfect ending to a Rosh Hashanah celebration. I’m happy to report that my taste testers, munching happily away, remarked that they were just like regular sugar cookies.
1-1/4 cups potato starch
¾ cup tapioca flour
¾ cup brown rice flour
¼ cup sweet rice flour
1-1/2 tsp xanthum gum
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
3 large eggs
1 cup oil
1 cup honey
½ cup agave
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F°. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a bowl, stir together the potato starch, tapioca and rice flours, xanthum gum, baking soda and powder; set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the beater attachment, beat together the eggs. Slowly add the oil, and then the honey and agave, until well combined. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl, mixing well until well combined.
4. Using a medium-sized ice cream scoop, scoop batter to form cookies. Place on prepared baking sheets, about 2” apart.
5.Bake in the center of the preheated oven for 14 minutes or until browned.
Makes about 40 cookies.