More cluck for your passover buck

I have always enjoyed researching and developing new dishes to serve during Passover, but have you ever heard of Mock Gefilte Fish? Because everyone loves chicken, I am constantly looking for new and different chicken dishes to prepare, and I find that each recipe has a story all its own.

Mock Gefilte Fish, made with ground chicken, really tastes like gefilte fish. An ancient and popular dish substituting ground chicken or turkey for the fish, it was served during Passover among the Vishnitz Chasidic Jews, and called falsher or “false fish.” The Chasidim, who were very strict, fearing that fish may have contained some undigested bread, abstained from eating it during Passover.

We like the idea of surprising our guests by serving this just-like-the-real-thing “gefilte chicken” — chilled on a bed of lettuce, with horseradish, at the seder. And it solves the problem for those who cannot or prefer not to eat fish.

I can’t imagine a Passover dinner without chicken soup with matzah balls, but the question I am often asked is “How can I make my chicken soup taste like chicken?” My answer is always the same: “The more chicken you put in your soup, the more flavor it will have.” I always make my mother’s matzah ball recipe, which produces the lightest, best matzah balls I have ever tasted.

The secret for flavorful soup is to use whole chickens that have been tied (or trussed) with kitchen string to keep them intact. Add water, lots of vegetables, salt and pepper, bring to a boil, and simmer for 1 hour or until the chicken flavor is intense. When cool, carefully remove the chickens from the soup to be used for other dishes on the seder menu.

The leftover chicken soup that you served for Passover seders can be pureed with the vegetables in it and served during the remaining days of Passover. In addition, you can serve it with a Parsley Pesto Sauce, either drizzled on or mixed in.

We often cut the soup chicken into quarters or pieces and bake them in a rich tomato-mushroom sauce until the chickens have absorbed the flavor of the sauce. Then, just before serving, we transfer them to a large platter to serve as part of our seder dinner. Or, for another meal, spoon the tomato-mushroom sauce onto individual heated serving plates, place the chicken on the plates and top with mushrooms and vegetables.

Another use for leftover chicken is Chicken-Fennel Salad, served on a bed of lettuce for lunch, or as a main course. Bake popular “sliders” using my recipe for Passover Rolls. They can be filled with sliced chicken or chicken salad, and are great for the children to take for lunch.


Mock Gefilte Fish. Photos by Dan Kacvinski

2 1/2 quarts chicken broth
2 onions, sliced
5 stalks celery, sliced
5 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds ground chicken or turkey
2 eggs
1/2 cup matzah meal or potato starch
Lettuce leaves
Red horseradish

In a large pot, combine the chicken broth, 1 onion, 3 stalks celery and 3 carrots. Bring to a boil over high heat, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

In a food grinder or wooden bowl, combine the chicken with the remaining onion, celery and carrots. Grind or chop the mixture until well blended. Transfer to a glass bowl. Add the eggs, matzah meal and 1/2 cup chicken broth from the pot. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Blend well. The mixture should be soft and light to the touch.

Wet your hands with cold water and shape the mixture into 2-inch ovals. Place the balls in the chicken broth in the pot. Bring to a boil, cover partially, and simmer for 30 minutes or until done. Transfer to a large glass bowl with the broth. Cool, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Serve on a bed of lettuce with horseradish.

Makes 16 to 18 portions.


2 (3-pound) chickens, trussed
2 pounds chicken necks and gizzards, tied in cheesecloth
4 large onions, diced
1 medium leek, sliced into 1-inch pieces
2 to 3 cups thinly sliced carrots (16 small carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces)
2 to 3 cups thinly sliced celery with tops (5 stalks celery with tops, cut into 1-inch pieces)
3 medium parsnips, thinly sliced
12 sprigs fresh parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a large, heavy Dutch oven or pot, place trussed chicken, necks and gizzards, onions, leek, carrots, celery, parsnips and enough water to cover. Over high heat, bring to a boil. Using a large spoon, skim off and discard the scum that rises to the top. Cover, leave the lid ajar, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 1 hour. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Uncover and simmer 30 minutes longer, until chickens are tender.

Using two large slotted spoons, carefully remove the chickens from the soup and transfer to a large platter. Let soup cool to room temperature, then chill. Skim off fat that hardens on the surface and discard.

Makes 12 servings.


3 eggs, separated
About 1/2 cup water or chicken stock
1 to 1 1/2 cups matzah meal
1/8 teaspoon salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper

Place egg yolks in a measuring cup and add enough water or chicken stock to make 1 cup. Beat with a fork until well blended. Set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks; do not overbeat. In a small bowl, combine matzah meal with salt and pepper. With a rubber spatula, gently fold the yolk mixture alternately with the matzah mixture into beaten egg whites. Use only enough matzah meal to make a light, soft dough. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and let firm up for 5 minutes. Form into balls.

Bring soup to a slow boil. Using a large spoon, gently drop in matzah balls. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 10 minutes (do not uncover during this cooking time).

Makes 8 to 10 matzah balls.


1 cup finely packed fresh parsley leaves, without stems
1/2 cup tightly packed fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons pine nuts or walnut pieces
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup olive oil
Pinch sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Put the parsley, basil, pine nuts and garlic in a processor or blender. Pulse until finely chopped. With the machine running, slowly pour in the olive oil in a thin stream. Add sugar, salt and pepper. Pour into a glass bowl, cover and refrigerate.

Makes about 2 cups.


1/2 cup olive oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 can (15 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes, with juice
12 medium mushrooms, quartered
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Chickens from soup, cut into pieces
Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a large roasting pot, heat olive oil and add the onions, minced garlic, carrots and celery; sauté until soft. Add tomatoes and mushrooms, mix well, bring to a boil over medium heat, and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the wine and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, adding additional wine or liquid if needed.

Transfer the chicken to the roasting pot and baste with the onion-tomato mixture to coat the chicken. Add the parsley, rosemary and salt and pepper. Bake, covered, 30 to 40 minutes, basting occasionally, until the chickens are heated through.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.


Chicken-Fennel Salad

4 cups diced poached chicken
1 cup diced fennel
4 green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1 to 2 cups mayonnaise
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Romaine or iceberg lettuce, for garnish

In a large mixing bowl, toss together the chicken, fennel, green onions and parsley. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add to the chicken mixture and mix gently until combined. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve on a bed of lettuce or tucked into a Passover Roll, resembling a slider.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.


Chicken sliders with Passover Rolls

1 cup water
1/2 cups safflower or vegetable oil
2 cups matzah meal
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a heavy saucepan, bring the water and oil to a rolling boil.

In large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the matzah meal and salt. Pour the boiling water mixture into the matzah mixture and blend well. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, until completely blended. Let mixture rest for 10 minutes, covered.

With well-oiled hands, tear off pieces of dough and shape into rolls. Place 2 inches apart on a well-oiled foil- or Silpat-lined baking sheet. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to cooling racks.

Makes about 12 large or 24 small rolls.

Judy Zeidler is the author of “The Gourmet Jewish Cook” (Morrow, 1988) and “The International Deli Cookbook” (Chronicle, 1994). She teaches cooking classes through American Jewish University’s Whizin Center for Continuing Education. Her soon-to-be-published cookbook, “Italy Cooks,” is based on 35 years of travel to Italy. Her Web site is

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