There is nothing as wonderful to me as a “traditional” Shabbat dinner. But what does that even mean anymore? While it once meant wine, challah, chicken soup, roasted chicken, and more, now it may mean GF challah and a vegan meal. The foods have changed too much to cite here.
But, since Shabbat is more than the food, that idea of “traditional” has changed in other ways too. In fact, traditional celebrations — traditions themselves — change all the time, from generation to generation and even in between.
My grandparents’ traditional Shabbat meant that my grandmother started cooking on Thursday morning making her lokshen and challot and stuffed hoelzel and maybe even her schmaltz and gribenes. On Friday she made chopped liver, chickens and brisket and cholent and more. On Friday night we would arrive at her apartment and the festival began. There were 11 grandchildren and at least 10 adults — often more. The tables formed a “T,” the long part in the living room and the top along her long hallway. That meant we could not see my grandfather at the head of the table, but we could sure hear him. In fact, I think at times all of Roxbury could hear him as he sang Shabbat prayers in tunes from “the old country.” He then sang some songs in Yiddish and finally we could eat!
Those wonderful years ended too soon, and my traditions changed as my mother took over. She called herself an “adequate” cook. She really did not like cooking all that much, so those homemade challot and noodles, schmaltz and more were replaced with salads, vegetables and simpler fare. The challah came from a very good kosher bakery, but it was from a bakery and it was different. These new traditions were not the old ones, but they became our traditions, nonetheless.
Something in me must have longed for the days of my childhood Shabbat dinners, because I found myself trying to recreate that ideal for my children. I made challah and chicken soup and more and we sang songs while eating on my grandmother’s cream-colored, Irish linen Shabbat tablecloth. This was a new tradition born from sweet memories of past ones.
Now my children are grown and we have yet more new traditions. Every Shabbat, my son-in-law serenades our daughter with Eishet Chayil. We bless all our children and our daughter and her husband bless their son. To accommodate bedtime, dinner is often earlier than we are used to, but that, too, is part of this new tradition. Happily, my table can grow and we have a long L-shaped space for more family members and guests.
Someday, my children will all create their own “traditional” Shabbat and will take from ours what works for them. Yet another way of celebrating will begin. “Traditional” Shabbat is an ever-changing concept that is the thread that holds generations together — past, present and future.
Crunchy Asian Chicken Drumsticks (Meat)
3-1/2 cups pineapple juice
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup tamari sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2-1/2 Tbsp. fresh grated ginger
5 large cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup Sriracha sauce (less or none for a less or non-spicy dish)
18 to 24 chicken drumsticks, patted dry
3 to 4 extra-large egg whites beaten until frothy
3/4 cup unbleached flour or GF flour
4 Tbsp. tapioca or corn starch
1 Tbsp. salt, scant
1 tsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. onion powder
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced, divided
Cooked jasmine or basmati rice
Line two rimmed baking sheets with foil and then parchment (saves clean-up). Set aside. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Place the pineapple juice and all remaining sauce ingredients in a large pot. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until reduced by half, 20 to 30 minutes. Cover and set aside.
While the sauce is simmering, pat the chicken pieces dry and place on a plate.
Beat the egg whites in a large bowl just until frothy.
Whisk the flour, corn or tapioca starch, salt, pepper and onion powder together in a large bowl.
Dip each drumstick into the egg whites, let the excess drip off and dredge in the flour. Place on the parchment evenly spaced apart, alternating bone end to meat end for more space. Continue until all drumsticks are done.
Bake the drumsticks for 20 minutes, turning once.
While the drumsticks are baking, make the rice according to directions. Season as desired and, when cooked, add half the scallions and mix well.
After 20 minutes of baking, remove the pans from the oven and drizzle half the sauce evenly over the drumsticks. Carefully, using tongs, turn the drumsticks to coat them completely. Place back in the oven and bake another 15 to 20 minutes until deep mahogany. Sprinkle with half the sliced scallions and sesame seeds. Serve with the rice and the remaining sauce. Serves 6 to 12.
Maple Glazed Winter Vegetables with Roasted Garlic (Pareve)
2 heads garlic, cut in half crosswise and roasted
2 lbs. yams or sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into inch-thick slices, then quarters
2 lbs. butternut squash, peeled and cut into inch-thick slices, cut to size of yams
1 lb. turnips, cut into inch-thick pieces, then in half
2 lb. carrots, peeled and cut into inch-thick pieces
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 to 2 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger, to taste
4 Tbsp. (rounded) dark brown sugar, to taste
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/3 cup Canola or Corn oil, divided
1/3 cup pure maple syrup, grade Dark Amber
Parsley and sesame seeds for garnish, if desired
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Cut the top ends off of the garlic bulbs and place on a piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle generously with olive oil and wrap the foil over the bulbs. Roast in the oven for about 40 to 50 minutes, until the garlic is soft and golden. When done, set aside and let cool. At some point while the veggies are roasting, remove the cloves from the skins, place in a small cup and discard skins. Set aside the garlic.
Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees.
Generously grease a large casserole dish.
Place the sweet potatoes, squash, turnips and carrots into it. Add about a quarter cup of water to the pan and drizzle with 1 to 2 Tbsp. of oil. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake for 20 minutes until fork tender. Remove from oven and uncover carefully to avoid a steam burn.
Peel the ginger and, using a micro plane grater, grate about 1 to 2 tsp. into a small bowl. Mix the ginger with 3 to 5 Tbsp. brown sugar. Add the orange juice and 2 Tbsp. oil and mix well. Add the maple syrup and whisk to emulsify. Scatter the roasted garlic over the veggies.
Pour the glaze over the vegetables and toss gently to coat. Place back in the oven and roast, uncovered, until the vegetables are golden and soft, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove once during roasting to mix gently. Replace in oven to finish roasting.
Place on a serving platter and spoon any glaze over the veggies. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and minced fresh parsley, if desired. Serves 8 to 10.
Quick and Easy Jerusalem Kugel (Pareve)
2/3 cup canola oil plus 1 Tbsp.
1-1/4 cups dark brown sugar
4 extra-large eggs
1 tsp. salt
3/4 to 1 tsp. black pepper, more if you like it really hot
1 pound fine egg noodles
Spray a glass 9 or 10-inch round cake pan or 3 quart oblong baking pan generously with non-stick spray. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles as directed. Drain and place the noodles back into the pot. Add 1 Tbsp. of oil and mix well.
Place the sugar and remaining oil in a medium, heavy saucepan. Heat over medium heat until the sugar is melted, stirring almost constantly with a wooden spoon. Stir until a bubbly liquid caramel has formed. Immediately pour the caramel over the noodles and stir with the wooden spoon. Sprinkle the salt and pepper over the noodles and mix well. Let cool for 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time and mix well.
Pour into the prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees 60 to 90 minutes until golden and completely set. Serve hot or warm. Serves 8 to 12.