The Unusual Seder of 2015

We normally celebrate Passover by hosting a Seder that’s got anywhere from 10-20 guests, depending on how many Special Guest Stars show up. And we are fine with it; we think it’s fun, though it is admittedly a whole lot of work to make our dining table fit that many people. The truth is, it takes the dining table, fully extended, plus two more tables added on, to sort of be able to squish everyone in. It’s not ideal, but, you know, we manage. This year, however, we had very few guests, and with that in mind, we made a few editorial decisions to alter the menu. Because we were cooking for fewer people, we decided we could make a different entree (one we could never do in reasonable fashion for a lot of people), and that we’d also skip the matzo ball soup. I KNOW how people feel about matzo ball soup, but I think it’s a pain to make. And, all right, fine: I forgot to save chicken broth in the freezer a few weeks ago, when I made a huge pot of it. I used it all up making risotto and Cincinnati chili. So. No matzo ball soup. No soup at all.

We did serve gefilte fish from a jar (as is traditional), and I did (as is also traditional) wonder why everyone grouses about gefilte fish, when, if we called them fish quenelles, everyone would oooo and aaaah over them. Well, it’s fine. Whatever. Gefilte fish for starter, and then, for the entree, we served a braised flank steak (cooked with vermouth, a ton of garlic, tomato paste, and onion, with carrots added in toward the end to lend a tzimmes-like quality to things), roasted asparagus goldenrod (because I had some egg yolks in the fridge and thought it would be fun to poach them — it was fun — but then I had to use them up somehow), and the man of the house, the Gourmensch, made latkes a la minute. I whizzed up a kind of faux chimichurri sauce in the food processor to serve alongside the flank steak; it seemed to me we needed something jazzy on the table, and chimichurri would do the trick.

Dessert was Smitten Kitchen’s chocolate coconut macaroons, which I recommend highly.

Saturday was the kid’s birthday and in lieu of cake (because there is no cake in the world that is both kosher for Passover AND acceptable as a child’s birthday cake, in my experience) we invited the guests to make their own ice cream sundaes. So we had three flavors of ice cream, and a vat of hot fudge sauce, and cans of Reddi-Wip (because, sure, I’m crazy, but I’m not making homemade whipped cream for small children, they don’t care), and about six little bowls of toppings. Reese’s Pieces, Sno-Caps, Junior Mints, rainbow sprinkles…. I did not agonize over whether or not any of these things were kosher for Passover because I have my limits. For more reasonable snacks, pre-game, so to speak, we offered the little ingrates a huge, huge bowl of cheese popcorn (the Gourmensch was in charge of this: we use the cheese powder you can get at considerable cost from King Arthur Flour; no, it is not cheap, and yes, it is worth every penny, because otherwise you’d go broke buying Smartfood in such quantity), and matzo pieces to dip in a tub of hummus (store-bought) and guacamole (homemade).

In the course of things, come Saturday evening, we were too exhausted to think about dinner, and so we got Indian takeout. Sunday night, we had stuffed baked potatoes, prepared from the recipe in Honest Pretzels, one of the kid’s birthday presents (and more on that later). Monday night, though, I was back on duty, and when I opened the fridge today and had to decide what I was going to feed us today, it was absolutely crystal clear what had to happen:

1. I had to use up leftover food; 2. I had to make something that would last us through two dinners; 3. I had to make something with the avocados still in the fridge (three perfectly ripe avocados, because I’d bought seven and only used four for the birthday party) — avocados, once ripe, last a while in the fridge, but not indefinitely.

The solution was clear. Chili with leftover flank steak; guacamole made with avocados, lime juice, and chimichurri sauce; to be served over rice. The chili was assembled in about 15 minutes; the chili simmered while I did the rice in the rice cooker and made the guacamole; and It Was Good. Furthermore, the dishes were done and the kitchen cleaned up by 7.45, which has to be a kind of This Old Hausfrau record. (Normally, we’re not done until 8.15, by which time we’re ready for bed, because we are Sad Old People.) With that extra half hour tonight, the three of us played a few games of Uno and made fun of the cat for a while.
The beauty part is, there’s enough leftover chili and guacamole, we can have this for dinner tomorrow night too. That’s right: I barely have to do anything to get dinner served tomorrow. Hallelujah.

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