A Survival Guide to Rosh Hashanah: How to Make a Holiday Meal in 3 Hours

Warning: Israelis wear their gas masks while grating horseradish to make gefilte fish with chrein

A plate of gefilte fish, April 2017
Rotem Maimon

Passover has the seder and Yom Kippur has its fast, but if you're not in Israel you may have forgotten that this Sunday is Rosh Hashanah. In Israel, the Jewish New Year is an event rife with tradition but low on religion, more family event than rite of passage.

You may have been too distracted to even think about it, too busy to prepare anything – but now it's fast approaching and suddenly you miss your grandmother's chicken soup with her handmade fluffy matzo. Still want to have a fancy Rosh Hashanah dinner or lunch, but only have a few hours to spare? Haaretz is here to help and guide you hand in hand through three hours of shopping and then cooking a full feast worthy of your grandma.

First, the menu

Pomegranate margaritas
Challah
Apple and honey
Gefilte fish with chrein
Matzo ball soup
Chicken in red wine and orange 
Roasted baby potato in rosemary and garlic
Herb salad with pomegranate and pecans
Vanilla ice cream (vegan, if you’re keeping kosher) with apple and honey topping

Now, reality check

You have two hours. You’re not going to bake your own challah. 

It’s Rosh Hashanah and every supermarket has those, plus many bakeries make them especially for the holiday.

We will make some dishes ourselves and use some store-bought items and many tricks of the trade to quicken things up, while not compromising on taste.

Let’s go shopping

Shopping list for 6 people:

From the liquor store:
1 bottle red wine
Tequila
From the bakery:
1 challah
Produce:
6 Granny Smith apples
1 lemon
4 limes
1 beet
Horseradish root (about 4 oz.)
3 lb. baby or fingerling potato
1 carrot
2 celery stalks
2 yellow onions
2 parsnip roots
1 zucchini
1 bag (5 oz.) baby kale mix, or your favorite salad greens
1 bunch flat parsley
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch mint
1 bunch green onion
Rosemary
1 garlic head
½ cup pomegranate seeds (or a whole pomegranate)
From the fridge:
32 oz. pomegranate juice
8 oz. orange juice
7 eggs
From the dry pantry isle:
12 oz. honey
4 oz. candied pecans
4 oz. walnuts
6 dates
Vegetable oil
Olive oil
White vinegar
All-purpose flour
Baking powder
1 quart chicken broth
Kosher salt and black pepper
Dry bay leaves
Cinnamon
From the Jewish section:
1 jar gefilte fish
1 box matzo meal
From the meat department:
3 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs and/or breast
6 pieces chicken thighs (bone-in, skin-on)
6 pieces chicken drumsticks
From the freezer:
Vanilla ice cream (or vegan coconut-base vanilla ice cream)

Back from shopping and one hour has passed. Two more to go.
The full cooking routine is here before you. You can find the full recipes below.

The cooking

1. Turn oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (230 degrees Celsius). Grease a large rimmed baking sheet.
2. Now make the chicken soup according to directions below.
3. Next, liberally salt and pepper bone-in skin-on chicken on all sides. Arrange in one layer on the greased baking sheet. Roast for 15 minutes. Remove from oven. 
4. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
5. Make matzo balls according to recipe and put in fridge. Boil salted water in a large pot to cook matzo balls in.
6. Now make the chicken in red wine. Follow instructions 3 and 4 in the recipe below.
7. Next prepare baby potato in garlic and rosemary according to recipe and roast in oven (400 degrees Fahrenheit) for about 40 minutes.
8. You can now cook matzo balls in the salted water you’ve prepared, for 20 minutes. Remove them from water when they’re ready and keep in a covered dish until ready to serve.
9. Shake the potato pan and continue to roast until 40 minutes are over.
10. After an hour of cooking the soup, add salt to taste, cook for another 5 minutes and remove from heat. Discard chicken, or keep for another dish.
11. Make the apple and honey ice cream topping according to recipe and set aside.
12. Make the chrein for gefilte fish and keep in a tight covered container until ready to serve.
13. After an hour of cooking the chicken in wine, remove lid and continue to cook for another 30 minutes until sauce is thick and glossy. Add salt to taste. 
14. Make herb salad and the dressing. Keep in fridge until ready to serve.
15. Slice gefilte fish to small portions, arrange on a serving platter. 
16. Now for the fun part: Set the dinner table, have a fork, knife, tablespoon and teaspoon for each guest. Set a kiddush cup (or a glass of wine), Shabbat candles and the challah. Slice 2 apples, mix them with a few drops of lemon juice to prevent browning and put on the table in a small bowl. Have a small bowl of honey next to it.
17. Have soup bowls and dessert cups ready in the kitchen. Have serving dishes and utensils ready for chicken, potato and salad.
18. Now quickly make margaritas and serve the first one for yourself. You’ve earned it.

During the meal:

1. Serve pomegranate margaritas as guests arrive. Reheat any dishes that need reheating and keep at low temperature until serving.
2. At the table, if you want, start with blessings over candles, wine, challah, apples and honey: “May the new year be as sweet as honey.”
3. Eat gefilte fish with chrein while reciting “May we be the head and not the tail.”
4. Serve matzo balls in chicken soup.
5. Mix green salad with dressing, pecans, dates and pomegranate, and serve next to chicken and potato to the center of the table. You can now recite “May we be filled with mitzvahs as the pomegranate is filled with seeds.”
6. Serve vanilla ice cream for dessert, topped with cooked apple in honey and chopped walnuts.

The recipes:

Pomegranate margaritas

Serves 6
1½  cups tequila
3 cups pomegranate juice
4 tablespoons honey (or to taste)
Juice of 4 limes
Kosher salt for rim
Ice
Directions:
1. Put tequila, pomegranate juice, honey and lime juice in a pitcher and mix to combine. 
2. Rim two glasses with salt and fill with ice, then pour margarita on top.
            
Gefilte fish with chrein

Use store-bought gefilte fish (chances are, this is the kind you grew up with anyways), but impress you guests with your bravery making your own chrein (horseradish sauce). Just as a side note, Israelis wear their gas masks while grating horseradish.

Traditionally, the horseradish is ground in a meat grinder, but to save time and dirty dishes we’re going to grate it instead.

Chrein (horseradish sauce):

Yields 1 cup
Ingredients:
4 oz. fresh horseradish root
1 large beet, raw
3 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

1. Peel horseradish and beet, and grate on the finest grater. Transfer to lidded container. Add the rest of the ingredients, mix, adjust salt to taste and seal tight. Keep in the fridge until serving. 

Matzo ball soup

Since we’re short on time, the recipe calls for boneless and skinless chicken cuts. Those do not require the skimming of foam or fat as much as the bone-in skin-on cuts do, and are still very tasty.

Serves 6

Ingredients:
For the chicken soup:
3 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs and/or breast
1 carrot, peeled
2 celery stalks
1 yellow onions, peeled
2 parsnip roots, peeled
1 large zucchini, halved
5 parsley stems, leaves on 
2 bay leaves
10 black peppercorns (optional)
Kosher salt to taste
For the matzo balls:
3 large eggs
¼ cup water
cup vegetable oil
1 cup matzo meal
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions:

1. For the soup, put all the ingredients (besides the salt) in a large pot and cover with 8-10 cups of water. Bring to boil over high heat, then cover pot, reduce heat to low and cook for an hour. Add salt to taste, cook for another 5 minutes and remove from heat.

2. For the matzo balls, mix eggs, water and oil in a medium bowl. Sprinkle all over with matzo meal, salt and pepper, and mix to a sticky dough. Use 1 oz. ice cream scoop, or a spoon, to create matzo balls and arrange them in a cooking tray. Put in the fridge for 30-60 minutes.

3. In the meantime, put salted water in a wide pot where you’ll be cooking the matzo balls, and bring to boil. Keep on low heat until you’re ready to cook.

4. Cook matzo balls in salted water for 20 minutes. Remove from water and keep in a bowl until ready to serve.

5. Remove chicken and vegetables from soup (you can keep chicken for a chicken salad), reheat soup before serving with a couple of matzo balls per person.

Chicken in red wine and orange

Serves 6

Ingredients:
6 pieces chicken thighs (bone-in, skin-on)
Kosher salt
Black pepper
6 pieces chicken drumsticks
1 chopped yellow onion
2 cups red wine
1 cup orange juice
1 cup chicken broth

Directions:

1. Heat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a rimmed baking sheet.

2. Liberally salt and pepper chicken on all sides. Arrange in one layer on baking sheet. Roast for 15 minutes. Turn oven off.

3. Put chopped onion in a Dutch oven or a large lidded pot, arrange chicken on top, then pour wine, orange juice and chicken broth to cover chicken. Chicken should be almost covered completely. You can add water as needed.

4. Put Dutch oven on medium-high heat and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and cook for 1 hour on slow simmer. Then remove the lid and cook for another 30 minutes, basting chicken occasionally, until sauce is thick and glossy. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

5. You can reheat the dish covered over low heat or in a 325 oven.

Roasted baby potato in rosemary and garlic

Use either baby gold potatoes or fingerling potatoes. The advantage of the latter is that you do not need to slice them in half.

Serves 6

Ingredients:
3 lb. baby gold potatoes or fingerling potatoes
6 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 rosemary branches
Directions:
1. Oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a rimmed baking sheet.
2. Wash potatoes and cut in half. If you’re using fingerling potatoes, there’s no need to cut them. Mix potato with the garlic, oil, salt and pepper, and arrange in baking sheet. Put rosemary branches among potatoes. Roast for about 40 minutes, or until tender. 

Herb salad with pomegranate and pecans

Serves 6

Ingredients:

1 bag (5 oz.) baby kale mix, or your favorite salad greens
1 bunch flat parsley
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch mint
1 bunch green onion
4 oz. candied pecans, chopped
6 dates, pitted, cut to 4
½ cup pomegranate seeds
For the dressing:
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Black pepper

Directions:

1. Put salad mix in a large bowl. Wash and chop all herbs (no need to separate the leaves, chop leaves and stems together, discard bottom part of stems). Chop green onion. Add herbs and onions to salad bowl. You can cover and keep salad bowl in fridge until ready to serve.
2. For the dressing, mix all ingredients together.
3. When ready to serve add pecans, dates and pomegranate seeds to salad. Gently mix dressing in and serve.

Vanilla ice cream with apple and honey topping

Super easy Rosh Hashanah-themed dessert.

Use vegan ice cream if you keep kosher. I prefer the coconut milk variety.

Serves 6

Ingredients:

4 Granny Smith apples
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons honey
Pinch cinnamon
3 cups vanilla ice cream (see note above)
4 oz. walnuts, chopped

Directions:

1. Peel, core and slice apples to thin slices.
2. Put in a nonstick pan together with olive oil, lemon juice, sugar, honey and cinnamon, and sauté over medium heat, stirring frequently, until apples are tender – about 8 minutes. Adjust sugar and lemon juice to taste.
3. To serve, put a large scoop of ice cream in each cup, top generously with cooked apples and chopped walnut, and serve.