A Passover menu much more than meh

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A roast chicken is a quintessential holiday meal. But just because it is traditional and typical does not mean that it isn’t wonderful, or that it can’t be really special.

Even a meh roast chicken is pretty good, but when it is brined properly, seasoned well and roasted with care and precision, well, it can be pretty darn transcendent. Ditto roasted veggies.


Sure, we’ve been doing them for years, but have you done them with a lemon-caper dressing? And mashed potatoes are rather common, but how about gussying them up with mashed garlic and pan drippings from the chicken? Now we’re talking!

The following menu forms the basis for a small-group seder. Cooks can fill in with their “must-haves,” but this cleaves pretty well to tradition while giving each dish a bit of a refresh.

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Rapturous Roast Chicken

Serves 4
Many brining instructions require heating the water to dissolve the spices, then cooling the brine before adding the chicken. Pshaw, I say. I have always just chucked it all in cold and it’s worked just fine.

Brining
1 roaster, 5-7 pounds
3 tablespoons salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon each finely ground pepper, garlic powder, dried thyme and dried rosemary
1 gallon water (approximately)
⅓ cup white vinegar


Roasting
3 tablespoons minced garlic
½ cup water or broth

Directions
Brine the chicken: Fill a large pot halfway with water, and add all remaining ingredients except the chicken; stir to dissolve. Rinse the chicken, remove the giblets and place it in the pot. Fill the pot the rest of the way with water to cover the chicken. Cover the pot and place it in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours.

Roast the chicken: When the brining is complete, heat your oven to 350 degrees. Remove the chicken from the brine, rinse well, pat dry and place it in the roasting pan. Place garlic inside the chicken cavity and pour the broth or water into the bottom of the pan.

Roast the chicken in the oven for 20 minutes per pound, until a meat thermometer inserted in the thigh registers 170 degrees. Tent the chicken with foil for about 10 minutes. Scoop about ¾ cup of pan drippings to mash into the potatoes (see below). Carve, plate and, just before serving, pour some of the remaining pan drippings onto the sliced meat.

Mashed Potatoes with Garlic and Pan Drippings

Serves 4
I do not peel potatoes, but if you and your crew must have the skins removed, be my guest.

The preparation is the same. Yukon Golds and red bliss potatoes have thin skins so they might be a good compromise for the peel/non-peel contingents.

6 large potatoes, cut in uniform chunks
8 cloves garlic, peeled
½ to ¾ cup pan drippings from roasted chicken
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions
In a large pot, place the potatoes, garlic and a generous pinch of salt. Cover, bring it to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until a knife inserted into a potato goes through easily and the potatoes are soft.

Drain the potatoes and garlic well and return them to the pot. Leave them on the turned off but still warm burner for a minute, uncovered, to allow them to dry.

Using a fork, poke around the pot and mash the garlic cloves before you mash the potatoes – you want to be sure to mash the garlic well — it will be much milder than raw garlic, but it needs to be spread throughout the dish, not left as whole cloves. Pour the pan drippings over the potatoes and garlic and mash well. Season with salt and pepper, and serve hot.

Roasted Cauliflower and Broccoli with Lemon Caper Dressing

Serves 4 generously
This dressing brought the dish to another level and could be used on any vegetables, roasted or steamed.

The vegetables
1 head cauliflower, cut in pieces
1 head of broccoli, cut in pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
Generous sprinkling of salt and pepper

The dressing
1½ teaspoons capers, chopped
½ teaspoon caper juice
Juice of ½ lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions
Heat your oven to 400 degrees. On a rimmed baking tray lined with parchment, place the broccoli and cauliflower pieces and toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for about 35 minutes until the vegetables are starting to brown at the edges.

While the vegetables roast, make the dressing: Mix all ingredients in a measuring cup or small bowl.

When the vegetables are done, place them in a serving bowl and toss with the dressing.

Serve hot or at room temperature.

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