Rosh Hashanah, easier to celebrate

On Rosh Hashanah we celebrate the Jewish New Year with prayer, song and sweets. But there's nothing sweet about rushing home from work to prepare a festive feast and attend religious services, all before sundown on Monday, when the holiday officially begins.

This year, go easy on yourself by preparing your Rosh Hashanah dinner on Sunday. After services Monday, with this plan-ahead menu you can just throw everything into the oven, and 30 minutes later have dinner on the table.

Rosh Hashanah is a time of celebration, marking the beginning of the High Holy Days of the Jewish calendar. Jews celebrate with plenty of wine and sweets, traditionally including apples and honey.

This menu features many traditional Jewish foods, in recipes that are easy to prepare ahead. Slow-braised chicken over noodles is a dish that spans cultures. This wine-braised chicken is inspired by the classic (and time-consuming) coq au vin, but instead of cooking all day, the chicken is done in less than an hour.

You can serve apples and honey with dinner, as is the custom, to herald a sweet year, or just wait for apple honey cake for dessert. This upside-down apple cake is incredibly easy to prepare but looks and tastes impressively complex.

After the plates have been cleared and the prayers sung, the shofar (ram's horn) has been blown and the time of reflection begun, you'll be thankful for this easy holiday dinner in celebration of the start of another wonderful year.

Shana tova! (Happy New Year!)


Wine-Braised Chicken

Makes 8 servings

12 bone-in chicken thighs

Salt and pepper to taste

6 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 750 ml bottle full-bodied

   red wine

3 medium carrots, roughly

   chopped

2 medium onions, roughly

   chopped

4 stalks celery, roughly

   chopped

4 cloves garlic, smashed

3 cups chicken stock

3 sprigs fresh thyme

1 bunch    parsley stems, plus 4 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

10 ounces pearl onions

10 ounces white mushrooms,

   cleaned and halved

8 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons flour

1 pound egg noodles

1. Season chicken liberally with salt and pepper.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Sear chicken in two batches, 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Transfer to plate and set aside. 3. Add wine to empty skillet and cook, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits of chicken, about 10 minutes, or until wine is reduced by half.

4. While wine is reducing, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a heavy-bottomed stockpot over medium-high heat. Add carrots, onions, celery and garlic and cook 6 to 8 minutes, or until softened and beginning to brown. Add chicken, reduced wine, chicken stock, thyme and parsley stems, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook about 40 minutes, or until chicken is tender and cooked through. Remove chicken and place on a baking sheet to cool.

5. When chicken is cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skin.

6. Strain the cooking liquid into a medium bowl and discard the solids (but keep the pot, you'll need it again). Let the broth sit, undisturbed, so the fat rises to the top.

7. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pearl onions and cook 5 minutes, or until just beginning to brown. Add 2 tablespoons butter and, when melted, add the mushrooms. Cook 10 to 12 minutes, or until mushrooms and onions are browned and cooked through. Season to taste with salt and pepper and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons parsley.

8. Using a ladle, remove and discard most of the fat that has risen to the top of the broth (it's OK if some remains).

9. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in the original stockpot over medium high heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes, or until mixture is browned. Add defatted broth and bring to a boil. Add chicken and mushroom mixture and return to a boil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

10. When ready to serve, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and toss with remaining 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons parsley. While the noodles are cooking, reheat the chicken until heated through. Serve over noodles.

Per serving: 866 calories, 41 grams protein, 56 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams sugar, 49 grams fat, 229 milligrams cholesterol, 628 milligrams sodium, 4 grams dietary fiber.


Apple Honey Cake

Makes 8 servings

10 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup honey

2 medium Golden Delicious

   apples, peeled, cored,          and sliced 1/2-inch thick

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup sugar

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup buttermilk

1. Set oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9-inch cake pan.

2. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the honey and bring to a boil. Pour into the prepared pan and arrange apple slices in concentric circles in the pan.

3. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.

4. Place remaining 6 tablespoons butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle and mix on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until combined. Add half the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Add vanilla and buttermilk and mix until just combined. Add remaining dry ingredients and mix until smooth and fluffy.

5. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs.

6. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the perimeter of the pan. Place a cake plate over the pan and invert pan onto plate. Let sit 5 minutes. Remove cake pan. Cool completely at room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve; allow to return to room temperature before serving.

Per serving: 351 calories, 4 grams protein, 51 grams carbohydrates, 38 grams sugar, 16 grams fat, 91 milligrams cholesterol, 283 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.