To try to assist some of these curious kitchen folk, married chefs Jason and Stacy Clarke led a cooking class Monday night at Temple Emanuel in Cherry Hill, N.J.
The duo – he works as a sous chef for a gourmet catering company in Philadelphia, while she's a private personal chef in New Jersey – offered recipes featuring fresh seasonal foods because, they said, celebrating the new is what Rosh Hashanah is all about.
The menu, composed of a whole baked snapper with tomato ragout and fried leeks, served with couscous and sautéed vegetables, offered a healthy twist on the holiday meal.
And yet, it still didn't stray too far from tradition, as it incorporated some customary ingredients like carrots, tomatoes and zucchini.
The class of six women oohed and aahed as the Clarkes prepared the family-style meal in a little more than an hour, and shouted out questions ranging from "What's a shallot?" to "Can I freeze the vegetable after they are blanched?"
The Clarkes advised the women on which dishes could be made the day before – the majority of them – and what had to be freshly prepared – the fish. They also discussed what fish is best to use whole, as the recipe suggests, and what would work as a fillet.
Help for Burned Latkes
Though some of the participants came to the class just to learn new ideas in the kitchen – one admitted her holiday meal was already ordered from a nearby caterer – others, like Janet O'Neill, came to the class actually to learn how to cook.
"This is my first time cooking for the holidays, and I'm totally going to try these recipes," said O'Neill, who had not yet planned her menu. "Luckily, it's just going to be my family for dinner, so if I mess up, it's okay."
In a nod to more traditional High Holiday cuisine, Stacy Clarke prepared her grandmother's sweet noodle kugel recipe in the second half of the demonstration. It's made with good old-fashioned, fat-filled farmer's cheese, as opposed to the more calorie-conscious cottage cheese often preferred by later generations. (The kugel must have also served as a stand-in for dessert.)
As the class wound down, O'Neill asked, "Can you do one of these classes for Chanukah?"
All the other women nodded in agreement as O'Neill added, "I always seem to burn my latkes."