Somebody's Mother's Passover Recipes

When we first discussed posting recipes using our sauces to illustrate their versatility, I kicked and screamed. On the one hand, I always thought their highest and best use was on ice cream. And, on the other hand, I'm just not Martha. It takes one or two full days to prep and shoot and I'd probably rather be running or, as I like to think of it, slouching toward fitness. However, I was wrong and, in spite of myself, I've enjoyed the experimenting. The sauces are versatile, even though I'm not.

Nonetheless, I have included the following recipes from Somebody's Mother's Mother and Grandmother because let's face it, there should be a more palatable option than eating that dreadful fish en gelee out of a jar. On a purely religious note, thank God there are Passover pictures online (and Three Points Kitchen for the photo of the Matzo we used on the Recipes page). I am for sure not cooking this dinner twice.

To understand the context in which I offer the following Passover recipes, a word about my family background is in order:

My mother's family were French and German and settled in Louisiana before the Civil War, securing their collective standing as one of the oldest families in the State...Jewish or otherwise. They entered the country through the Port of New Orleans. Some stayed and some settled in smaller towns such as Lafayette, Lake Charles, Sweetville, and Monroe where they quickly assimilated into the communities in which they lived. They learned to cook crawfish etouffee and became expert at making roux. They also went to church, as there were typically no other Jewish families in town. My grandmother was driven each day to the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Grand Coteau by horse and buggy and became well versed in Catholic educational tradition and the Liturgy. My mother has kept a rosary on her desk for as long as I can remember, which was a gift from our great family friend Sister Jon Mary who often visited us on Friday nights, staying until the stroke of midnight whereupon she usually asked me to make her a salami sandwich.

My mother grew up in Yoakum, Texas and regularly went to the Methodist Church on Sundays on the sound theory that any old religious training was better than none. My father was born and raised in Arkansas City, Kansas where he, too, went to the Methodist Church, but his family had come to the United States from Austria-Hungary rather more recently than my mother's. Thus, when my parents' first Passover rolled around, a holiday which is not widely celebrated in Yoakum, my mother mustered all of her Southern will, her French flair and her German work ethic to rise to the occasion, hoping to impress her new husband and mother-in-law.

To have a real appreciation for the dinner which ensued, you really have to be Jewish, so stop reading if you aren't. Mother had read somewhere that the dinner was to begin with Matzo Ball Soup. The aforementioned balls dissolved somehow in the broth and by the time they were served, the concoction looked something like oatmeal. Further having read that a fish course was to follow, Mother put her best foot forward and served stuffed crab. (Note to the uninitiated and intrepid non-Jews who have continued to read, Jewish tradition calls for something called Gefulte fish, and certainly not shellfish, which is inappropriate for the holiday even if one is not kosher.)

My grandmother was rather underwhelmed and since I don't remember having heard much about the rest of the dinner, I can only presume Mother blacked out. With remedial instruction by some of the older women in town and with the original Settlement Cook Book as her Bible, and after many years of practice Mother became a wonderful Passover hostess. We loved for her to retell the story because it made her laugh and Passovers became fun for us. One year my brother Ross sneaked our Yorkshire terrier into the dining room and kept her satisfied under the table by feeding her charoses whereupon she got drunk, wandered away and we found her sprawled on her back in the nursery, all four legs splayed. No doubt she was thinking of England.

So with mirth and good cheer I offer the following recipes for Charoses, Matzo Ball Soup, Gefulte Fish, Matzo Kloese, or dumplings which are German in origin, and Matzo Charlotte, something my other grandmother who had never heard of Passover until Mother's first, mastered for dessert. What you serve beyond this is up to you-chicken comes to mind-but, as a reminder, you might want to avoid paella and pork. If you live in the South, save those for your next covered dish supper... at church.

Charoses

Ingredients:

  • 6 to 7 apples
  • 1/2 lb pecans or almonds
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • sugar to taste
  • wine

Pare and grate the apples. Chop the nuts very fine. Blend apples, nuts, cinnamon, sugar and enough wine to bind.

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Matzo Balls

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs chicken fat, chilled (this can be purchased from Rice Epicurean in Houston or your local specialty food store)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 rounded cup matzo meal, sifted
  • 1/2 tsp seasoned salt
  • 1/2 tsp chopped parsley

Cream the fat, add the eggs well beaten, season and add meal. Add parsley. Let stand overnight in refrigerator, shape into balls, about the size of a golf ball. Use ice water on the hands to roll. Boil in salted water and cook until done, maybe 20-25 minutes. Then add to hot chicken soup. Serve in soup, garnished with chopped parsley.

*Do NOT boil the matzo balls in the chicken broth

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Matzo Kloese (Dumplings)

Ingredients:

  • 2 matzos (tea matzos)
  • 2 tbs chicken fat
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 onion, chopped finely
  • 1 tsp chopped parsley
  • 1/4 rounded cup matzo meal, or a little more
  • 1 tsp seasoned salt
  • 1/8 tsp white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg

Soak the matzos in boiling water, and when softened, drain and squeeze dry. Heat the fat in a skillet, add the onions, fry to a golden brown, then add the soaked matzos. Stir until it leaves the skillet clean, then add the seasonings. After it cools, add the egg and the matzo meal. Let stand in the refrigerator overnight. Use ice water on the hands to roll and shape into golf ball sized balls and cook in boiling salted water until done, about 30 minutes. Drain and place in pyrex dish and keep warm in low temp oven (with door open) until ready to serve. Cover with melted butter and chopped parsley. These dumplings are especially good when covered by sauce from the accompanying chicken.

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Matzo Charlotte with Apples

Ingredients:

  • 2 matzos
  • 1/4 suet, chopped fine
  • 2 apples, sliced fine
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 egg yolks, beaten
  • 2 tbs raisins, seeded
  • 1 tbs almonds, blanced and grated
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 egg whites, beaten stiff

Soak matzos in water and squeeze dry. Add remaining ingredients, folding in the beaten egg whites last. Bake in greased baking dish about 1 hour in moderate oven at 350 degrees.

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Chicken Soup

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 lb stewing chicken
  • 3-4 qts water
  • 1 tbs salt
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 whole onion

Cover the chicken with water and let come to a boil. Cover; simmer slowly 3 or more hours, add the vegetables, boil 1 hour longer, strain, remove fat and add seasoning to taste. Let cool in broth. Serve soup hot adding matzo balls just before serving.

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Gefulte Fish

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs red snapper (fat fish)
  • 1 lb speckled trout (lean fish)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 3-4 eggs, well beaten
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1-1 1/2 tbs matzo meal
Broth:
  • Fish head, skin and bones
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • pinch of sugar (generous)
  • 1 carrot, peeled and sliced

Ask the fish market to fillet the fish for you, saving the heads, skin and bones. Have him grind the fish for you on his small grinder twice. Place heads, skin and bones in a large kettle, adding 2 quarts cold water, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp white pepper, pinch of sugar and one whole onion. Bring to a boil and boil for about 30 minutes or more. While broth is cooking, place fish in a wooden chopping bowl. Stir in eggs, salt, pepper, and sugar. (Do not use too much salt.) I use my hand beater to further chop the fish, to which has been added the onion, which you should chop fine in your Cuisinart, using the beater, very intermittently to mix the matzo meal, the eggs, seasonings, and about 1/3 or a little more of water, beaten in, to make a soft mixture.

When broth is ready, strain the bones, cooked onion, skin, and heads, and throw away, leaving the clear broth in the kettle. Wet hands, and form the fish into oblong balls, not too large, since they swell somewhat while cooking, and then shrink again when done. Slowly place the fish balls into the broth, by using an egg turner. Stack balls in two or three layers if necessary, and be sure to add enough water carefully to cover the fish. Cover the kettle and bring to a rapid boil. Then uncover and reduce heat. Simmer for about 2 1/2 hours until the stock has been reduced to less than half the original amount. While fish is cooking, steam the sliced carrots until tender, but firm. Carefully remove the fish to a serving platter. Place one slice of carrot on top of each fish ball, and then pour the strained stock over the fish. Cool and refrigerate until stock jells.

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