In her recent cookbook, Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France, renowned Jewish cooking maven, Joan Nathan, dishes up recipes that are festive for the Jewish holidays as well as for every day.
Even armchair cooks will relish this book in which Joan shares photos and the intimate back-stories of many of these French Jewish recipes.
During a recent phone conversation, Joan told me Jewish life in France has become alive again; recent North African arrivals have infused Parisian life with a new Jewishness.
There are kosher grocery shops and bakeries all over Paris. One of Joan's favorites is Florence Kahn's in The Marais. It's not kosher, but it has everything East European. On every one of her trips to Paris, Joan goes there, if nothing else, to enjoy the blend of aromas.
Below, I have adapted three exciting recipes and bits of their stories from Joan's book.
Honey-Coated Baked Chicken
If you read Joan's book, you will see that you can combine this dish with her recipe for preserved lemon. This chicken recipe is from Irene Weil, an American born to Viennese parents. She married a Frenchman and lived in France where she raised her children and acquired a French and Moroccan sense of adventure in her cooking.
- Preheat oven to 375.
- Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a saute pan, and fry 2 peeled onions, cut into rings, until golden.
- Spoon onions into a 9-by-13-inch casserole.
- Season the parts of two 3 1/2 to 4 pound chickens, each cut into 8 pieces, with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
- Brown them in the same saute pan.
- Put the pieces, skin side up, on top of the onions in the casserole and smear a little honey on the chicken.
- Pour 3 cups white wine and approximately 1/4 cup honey into a saucepan and bring to boil.
- Reduce by half and pour over the chicken.
- Bake uncovered for 40 minutes or until the chicken pieces are cooked through.
- Sprinkle with a handful of chopped fresh cilantro.
Saffron Rice Pilaf (Riz au Safran)
Joan notes in her book, rice, and therefore pilaf, traveled with the Jews to Provence, where many Persian Jewish merchants and scholars settled and lived until the end of the fourteenth century or even later.
- Stir a pinch of saffron into 2 Tbsp hot water in a bowl and set aside.
- Heat 3 Tbsp olive oil in a heavy-bottomed ovenproof pan.
- Add 1 large finely chopped onion and 1/2 cup pine nuts, almonds or pistacios.
- Cook over medium heat until the onion is translucent and the nuts are fragrant and beginning to change color.
- Lower the heat, and stir in 1 cup long grain rice.
- Add the saffron and its water, along with 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg, 1 bay leaf, as well as freshly ground pepper and salt to taste (or around 1 tsp), and 2 cups water.
- Bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to a slow simmer, cover, and cook for 15 to 18 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender.
- Remove the bay leaf and fluff the rice with a fork. Taste, and adjust the seasoning.
- Serve warm.
Joan got this recipe from the late Ruth Moos of Annecy, who, during World War II, briefly posed as a hotel maid, while her husband Rudi hid from the Gestapo among hams and pork sausages in a butcher's smoke house.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and grease a 9-inch springform pan with vegetable oil or spray.
- Separate five large eggs.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the five egg yolks with two additional whole eggs, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp grated cinnamon, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp vanilla extract, and the grated zest and juice of 1 lemon.
- Mix in 5 large peeled and grated carrots (around 2 1/2 cups grated) and 1 1/2 cups ground hazelnuts or almonds.
- Beat the five egg whites to stiff peaks in a clean bowl with clean beaters.
- Gently fold batches of the stiff egg whites into the carrot batter.
- Pour into the prepared pan, and bake for 50 minutes or until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Allow to cool before unmolding.
What are some of your favorite holiday menus, traditions, recipes?
More recipes and other ideas (including if, like me, you fear death by chothcke) for the holidays: