Everything You Need to Cook a Perfect Passover Seder Dinner, According to Jewish Chefs
Your brisket will never be the same.
Passover Seder is a feast at which family and friends gather around the table to eat, drink and celebrate. The momentous dinner kicks off the seven-day festival of Passover in celebration of the Jews’ freedom from slavery.
The meal is elaborate and celebratory, with traditions varying from region to region. With help from some notable Jewish chefs around the country, we’ve put together a list of the essential kitchen tools that every home cook needs to whip up the Seder dishes that would make their Bubbe proud.
Brisket is the star of the show at most Seder dinners and is a mainstay on Jewish dinner tables across the country. The ultimate comfort food — brisket is slow-cooked with herbs and vegetables for hours — making for a terrifically tender, flavor packed dish. Chef and owner of New York City's Bubby’s, Ron Silver thinks a good quality, enamel roasting pan is the key to great brisket. After intensely searing the meat Chef Ron cooks his brisket in a mix of vegetables, red wine, onions and herbs for about eight hours. He tops the pan with a tight fitting lid to lock in flavor — so, no peeking!
Most dishes at the Seder meal are deeply symbolic and this one is no different. Matzo ball soup is an essential part of a traditional Passover meal, as matzo represents the unleavened bread the Jews ate while fleeing Egypt. James Beard Award-winning chef, Zachary Engel, of Galit in Chicago calls it an essential part of his Passover dinner. Chef Zach credits growing up in a Jewish household as the son of a rabbi and his many trips to Israel as the grounding elements of his modern Middle Eastern cuisine. With his award winning culinary experience and family history, it’s no wonder Chef Zach has a few Seder tricks up his sleeve. In addition to a trusty stockpot, he credits an ice cream scoop as his secret weapon. This gadget makes for perfectly rounded and uniformly shaped matzo balls.
Diners at Russ & Daughters know that each time they come for a visit, they’re getting fresh, traditional Jewish food. Maybe it’s the time-tested recipes or the generations of great cooks who passed them down, but this family run business serves up Passover foods that everyone will love. Take their Charoset for example; it’s crisp, bright and packed with flavor. Fourth generation owners Niki Russ Federman and Josh Russ Tupper say that Charoset is their favorite part of Seder dinner. They make theirs’ with diced Granny Smith apples, golden raisins, toasted walnuts, extra heavy malaga (sweet) wine, lemon zest and lemon juice, fresh grated ginger and cinnamon. The tool they use to do it? A sturdy chef’s knife. Without a sharp knife the apples will start to crush and crumble, causing it to take on a pasty quality.
Gefilte fish seems to be one of those dishes that people like, but have no idea what it actually is. The dish is a mixture of different types of poached fish that gets chopped, combined and served at Seder, often as an appetizer. Chef Bradley Rubin from Eleven City Diner in Los Angeles says Gefilte fish holds a special place in his heart, which is why he prepares it with care. Chef Bradley even has a secret weapon that he uses to prepare the perfect Gefilte fish. A special chopper has been passed down from his ancestors in the Ukraine to, most recently, his mom. This family heirloom is an essential tool in the preparation of Gefilte fish because it perfectly chops all four fishes needed to make this customary treat. Once you get the hang of it, we’re sure you’ll be using this handy chopper for everything from herbs to garlic to vegetables.