This is not the Passover article I was planning to write. I’d planned to write a peppy, service-driven piece on how to successfully pull off two days of cooking for a modern, secular meal. But over the last few weeks (and long after the development of these recipes, and their photo and video shoots), everything became … well, very different. Many of us are now stuck at home with limited access to ingredients, separated from those we’d otherwise be cooking for and eating with. And publishing a piece on how to enthusiastically cook fancy cuts of meat for many of your friends and family (and their friends and family) suddenly seemed not only insensitive, but nearly impossible.
So things here have shifted a bit: The tone is different and the scope scaled back, but Passover is still on the calendar. And, ultimately, a bunch of new, highly cookable recipes still felt like a thing we could all use, regardless of how we’d use them.
Serendipitously, all the dishes developed for this secular menu already accommodated varying levels of ambition and product availability, relying heavily on pantry staples and encouraging flexibility (my two favorite things). Please know going in that the dishes here are inspired by tradition, not bound to it. (Yes, I may suggest melted butter as a substitution for chicken fat because this is not a kosher menu, and hey, we are all just doing our best.) There are echoes of what you might find during a traditional Seder, with a few modern updates: bright, acidic, few-ingredient salads and vegetables; a relatively bare-bones, extremely comforting chicken soup; a pot of simply braised meat. There is an ice cream sundae bar, which is less a recipe (and certainly not traditional) and more a reminder that you could maybe use an ice cream sundae. Most everything comes together quickly, though a few of the dishes take several hours to cook, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing now that we have a bit more time at home.
This piece was always going to be less about the ritual of Passover, and more about the ritual of cooking a celebratory meal, period. (My memories of Seder growing up are fuzzy at best — I grew up half-Jewish, and while we celebrated some years, it wasn’t until I moved to New York and started attending the annual Seders of my friends and their families that I became attached to the holiday.) Not to get too earnest, but celebrating literally anything feels essential right now. Like getting dressed in real pants to work from home or putting on lipstick to do yoga in my living room, I don’t need an excuse (or even a holiday) to make a more-elaborate-than-necessary dinner, and I don’t think you do, either.