A Sweet Year

6 Oct

Last Thursday was the Jewish New Year. Amongst many other things, one telltale sign of Rosh Hashanah is apples and honey. Symbolic cuisine is a recurring theme in Jewish holidays as almost every single one revolves around food in some way.  Not surprising if you’ve ever met a Jewish mother and were thus nearly force-fed brisket and other hearty helpings because “no, I’m not hungry” simply isn’t a suitable response.

The symbolism of apples and honey for the New Year is the following: Not only are apples a choice harvest fruit of the late summer and early fall months in which Rosh Hashanah falls, but they are round, signifying the cyclical aspect of the seasons and the return to the beginning of the year. The honey represents sweetness, as you wish unto others a sweet year filled with happiness and joy.

Image courtesy of The Philadelphia Jewish Voice

In an ironic and definitely unintentional twist, we made a dish using apples and honey in class on the first day of the Jewish New Year celebrations. Accompanying this sweet combination was a plump duck breast that we seasoned with salt and pepper and fried in butter and the duck’s now removed fat, until both sides were browned. We placed the slightly cooked breast in the oven to bake a little more and to keep warm, and started on our apples. To give the apples the shape of potatoes, we skinned them, quartered them and then smoothed out the edges. We sautéed the apple pieces in a frying pan with butter, apple cider vinegar and honey and turned them constantly to assure all sides were equally cooked and fully coated with the honey/vinegar mix that gave them a beautiful sheen. Once the pommes de terres imposters were cooked and the duck was ready, we placed it all on a serving platter to enjoy.

The mix of sweet and sour perfectly complemented the rich duck flavour, and of course brought the arguably philosophical suggestion that one’s year (and life) is filled with both sweet and “sour” elements. How wise.

To whet our appetites before enjoying this delicious and somewhat thought-provoking dish, we made another autumnal recipe: crème de mais (or corn soup).

We simmered canned whole kernel corn in a deep-dish frying pan with melted butter and olive oil, and then added lightly browned sautéed onions and chunks of boiled potato. We immersed the mix in water and seasoned it with salt, pepper, paprika and a bay leaf. After it boiled for about 15 minutes, we removed the bay leaf and puréed it all in a food processor until it was smooth. To ensure an even creamier texture, we strained our mix and reheated it in a saucepan until it was ready to serve.

For dessert, another sweet-treat of mousse au chocolat blanc with a raspberry coulis center. Apparently white chocolate mousse doesn’t hold its shape as well as its darker cousin (probably because it’s not really chocolate at all), so we had to mix in gelatin to give it a bit more form. We melted the white chocolate, added our gelatin, and cooked it all until it boiled. While that was bubbling away we beat together sugar and egg yolks and slowly poured that mélange over our white chocolate mix. Once combined, we transferred this combo over to a small bowl and placed it on ice until the consistency slightly congealed. In a separate mixing bowl, we beat egg whites and whipping cream and then folded both mixes together until they were cohesive but still fluffy. We delicately filled some pre-cooled cups with our winter-white concoction, and placed a small dollop of coulis in the middle so that the weight of the blood-red sauce caused it to run down in a straight line to the bottom of the cup. Once the mousse was further cooled in the fridge and thus a tad firmer, we were able to add another dollop of coulis to the top for decorative purposes, and of course a little more flavour as the tartness of the raspberries offered a lovely contrast to the sugary nature of the mousse.

A meal of balance and symbolism, I can think of no better way to bring in the New Year. Too bad none of it was kosher…

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One Response to “A Sweet Year”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Digesting the Experience « Shortt and Sweet - 11/10/2011

    […] A Sweet Year: In an ironic and definitely unintentional surprise, we made a duck breast dish with the classic Rosh Hashanah combo of apples and honey on the first day of the Jewish New Year. And for dessert? A sweet white chocolate mouse with a raspberry coulis. […]

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