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Anyone ready to discuss the seder menu?

I am in the process of planning my seder menu which is largely governed by what can be prepared in advance, what can be frozen, and how I will manage my kitchen on the day-of. We're kosher but not shomer shabbos - so I'll cook on Sat Apr 19 as well. I'm trying to feed the traditionalists as well as those of us who would like a little something new and different. I think we have 45 or 50 ppl invited and expect about 35. Here's the menu to date:

Apps:
Salad (outsourced)
Chopped liver (outsourced)
Gefilte fish (might be outsourced)
Mock gefilte fish?
breakfast-beef wrapped mini hot dogs baked w/ brown sugar
Chicken soup w/ matzoh balls.

Entrees:
Brisket (love the Sara Moulton recipe!)
Chicken Marbella from Silver Palate
Sweet & sour meatballs (outsourced)
Chicken breast baked in parchment

Sides / Vegetarian
Ratatouille
Farfel kugel
Spinach/broccoli something
Steamed carrots & cauliflower

Dessert:
Flourless choc cake
choc-pecan cookies from Maida Heatter (Savannah Chocolate Chewies)
Brownies
Some non-choc dessert
Candied nuts
Amaretti
Sorbet

Here are my questions: How does this sound? What's missing? and most important... what can I freeze in advance?

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  1. If you have kashered the kitchen for pesach and set up an area for it (sorry, I keep kosher-lite now but was a mashgiach) then you can freeze the soup (without matzoh balls) and the brisket - they taste better once the flavors get a chance to meld.
    What are you going to have for the actual seder? I would suggest making the charoset the day before to let the wine and spices to flavor the fruit fully. I love grating fresh horseradish - it makes such a difference! Do you have your bitter herbs picked yet?

    5 Replies
    1. re: TampaAurora

      thank you to my mother-in-law.. who is handling charoset and horseradish! I've never made my own horseradish but it's certainly worth a try. I'm kashering the kitchen at the beginning of April - there'd be a riot in my house if I did it now! but still plenty of time to cook. Have you frozen matzoh balls with success? I thought mine were not so great last year.

      1. re: doc_k55

        I freeze matzo balls very successfully and have great recipe if you need it. Lay drained balls individually in one layer on large cookie sheet coated with plastic. Freeze in freezer till solid, pop in ziploc bag or Food Saver them. This way you can grav individual balls.

        1. re: Diane in Bexley

          I'd love your recipe. I've never frozen matzo balls in advance. What school of matzo balls do you belong to - no, not orthodox, conservative or reform! - soft or hard? What is the texture like for the frozen matzo balls.

          1. re: KingsKetz

            These are fluffy matzo balls, which is what we prefer. I also add dill weed which gives a unique flavor, this is optional. Many recipes call for chicken fat (schmaltz) but canola oil works well and is much healthier.

            8 eggs
            1/2 cup club soda or seltzer water
            1/2 cup canola oil
            2 cups matzo meal
            1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp white pepper
            3 T dried dill weed (optional)

            Beat eggs with oil and water till fluffy, add seasoning. Gradually add matzo meal till incorporated. Refrigrate bowl for 30-45 minutes. When ready to make, bring 8 qt pot of water to boil with 2T salt (very important to cook in salted water, as this adds flavor). Rinse hands in cold water, shake excess water off very well. Make golf ball size balls, drop in boiling, salted water. Should get 25-30 matzo balls. When all balls are in pot, lower to light simmer, cover and time 30 minutes. When you think balls should be done, uncover, remove one, stick toothpick in to middle, should be cooked all the way through. If not, cook a few minutes more. Drain very well in one layer in colander. When thoroughly drained, freeze as described above or refrigerate.

            This makes medium size matzo balls. I don't care for large ones, but I assume you can make those, just allow additional cooking time. When making soup, heat soup first, then add defrosted balls at last minute, just long enough to warm, so the soup won't be too starchy. Good Luck!

            1. re: KingsKetz

              Creole Matzo Balls
              Yield: 12 matzo balls

              Recipe from "Matzah Ball Gumbo: Culinary Tales of the Jewish South" by Marcie Cohen Ferris.

              Ingredients:

              • 2 Tablespoons chicken fat or vegetable oil
              • ¼ cup onion, chopped fine
              • ¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped fine
              • 2 teaspoons Creole Seasoning
              • 2 large eggs
              • 1 packet (2 ½ ounces) Matzo ball mix
              • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
              • 2½ quarts cold water

              Method:

              1. In a small nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil over medium heat.
              2. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until tender, 2 to 3 minutes.
              3. Stir in the parsley and Creole Seasoning and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.
              4. Scrape the onion mixture into a medium bowl and let cool slightly.
              5. Add the eggs and remaining 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil.
              6. Mix with a fork until the eggs are well broken up. Add the matzo ball mix and stir until blended.
              7. Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
              8. Meanwhile, fill a 4 quart pot with 2½ quarts water.
              9. Cover and bring to a boil.
              10. Moisten your hands and form the matzo ball mixture into balls approximately 1 inch in diameter, using a heaping Tablespoon mixture for each one.
              11. Add a teaspoon of salt to the boiling water and drop the matzo balls in.
              12. Cover pot tightly, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes or until cooked through.
              13. Serve soon or, with a slotted spoon, transfer to a container.
              14. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
              15. Reheat matzo balls in chicken soup.

      2. mmmmm charosis - we have to make huge batches of it in my family because everyone loves it so much.

        1. I make the horseradish every year. It's easy, if a little time consuming....but not that time consuming. I boil a couple of beets, rinse and peel the horseradish roots. (The extra step of rinsing is important because of all the soil that clings to the peel. If you don't wash before peeling, you'll be washing a lot after peeling anyway.) I borrow my daughter's biology lab goggles, crank open all the windows near the food processor, and start processing chunks of horseradish root. After that, I add the beet (strictly a matter of preference) and then salt, sugar and white vinegar to taste. I use Joan Nathan's recipe from Jewish Holiday Kitchen as a starting point. If anyone ever wants to blackmail me, all they need are the photos my kids have taken of me wearing those goggles, holding a horseradish root. Yes, I look demented, but everyone in the family loves that horseradish!!

          1 Reply
          1. re: karenqltr

            I'm in charge of the horseradish too. I buy around 5 lbs of root and add a couple of fresh raw beets. Run it all through the meat grinder and then add the vinegar and salt. The beets add a little sweetness. I've learned to work under the ventalation hood turned on high. The fumes are killer.

            My cousins and aunts get together and cook a month before. We will do two sessions over the next two weeks. We prepare and freeze most all the dishes before hand. Our family seders typically have between 40-60 people so it's not something we can do at the last minute. The menu is almost always the same. Stuffed vine leaves, squash (yellow and green) and veal breast all stuffed with a rice/meat mixture, white rice, roast chicken, roasted potatoes which are cooked with the veal breast, mushrooms, keftes meatballs in a tomato based sauce. The cooking sessions are a great time to connect with family while we work together. We have around a dozen people that do the preperation and a few that do the final cooking/reheating and a lot that show up to eat. Look forward to it every year.

          2. Doc, menu sounds great, what time should we be there?? The only suggestion I would make is to serve some fruit along with dessert. I like strawberries, blueberries & blackberries with lemon curd (optional). The Passover Seder foods are very heavy and sometimes you just don't want a heavy dessert. You can make the lemon curd up to a week in advance and store in fridge.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Diane in Bexley

              thanks! I totally forgot the fruit tray on my menu....it is coming. I made lemon curd last year but used Mother's and a combo of the recipe from Joy of Cooking & Gourmet; and I thought it came out quite poorly. Do you have a good recipe?

              1. re: doc_k55

                Butter gives this superior taste, but I have successfully made with unsalted Fleischmann's margarine. You can also substitute lime juice and lime zest for a really unusual taste.

                1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
                2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest
                1/2 cup sugar
                3 large eggs
                3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into bits or unsalted Fleischmann's
                Whisk together juice, zest, sugar, and eggs in a 2-quart heavy saucepan. Stir in butter and cook over moderately low heat, whisking frequently, until curd is thick enough to hold marks of whisk and first bubble appears on surface, about 6 minutes.
                Transfer lemon curd to a bowl and chill, its surface covered with plastic wrap, until cold, at least 1 hour.
                • Curd can be chilled up to 1 week

                1. re: Diane in Bexley

                  If you can get good fresh strawberries now, they go awesome with lemon curd. Blueberries are a great combo with lime curd. If you feel like going to the bother, you can make individual meringue nests for the curd and berries. You could even do a meringue "pie shell" for a lower labor alternative. Meringues freeze acceptably.

                  1. re: rockycat

                    I am from the no-corn school of thought for pesach - so Fleischmann's is a no-no. Have you tried this w/ Mother's or with very cold oil?

            2. Sounds great! You can make and freeze the soup, brisket, brownies, and probably the farfel kugel (or at least make it the day before and just re-heat).

              Just wondering, since you have the Chicken Marbella, do you really need the chicken in parchment? Seems like a lot of work, and Chicken Marbella is so good!

              1 Reply
              1. re: valerie

                unfortunately we have a family member on a totally fat-free diet... so I think it's either baked chicken (plain) for that person or chicken in parchment, which is just tidier & easier at the last minute. I do agree with you, though.