Make a Date with your Chicken

As mentioned in last week’s blog, my old friend, chicken baked with dried fruit and olives, in which all take delight, actually got jilted, because I ran out of olives. (Let’s not discuss the Wednesday night fridge raid that must have taken place evidenced by a tidy pile of mounded pits that were discovered when I came down to cook Thursday morning.)

So, necessity being the mother of invention, I looked around the kitchen and spied my little container of dates, and thought, Hmmmm…what can I introduce you to? Dates are naturally very sweet. Chicken goes well with sweet, but needs something to balance the flavour to create that symphony, that when hit upon, is an instantly recognizable classic.

I wandered over to the pantry to see what was in cold storage. My local supply of garlic ran out before Chanuka and I really don’t like buying the garlic from China which is all that seems to be available at the market.

In 2008, Trader Joe’s stopped selling garlic and other “single-ingredient” foods from China. When I looked into it, I learned a few unsettling facts. The bulk of the world’s garlic is produced in China and the hat trick that did me in was;

1. it can be doused in chemicals to stop sprouting,
2. it is whitened using bleach, and
3. it can be grown in untreated sewage.

I use peeled fresh garlic from California, under the brand of Christopher Ranch, which is sold in the refrigerated section. It is a little more expensive, but I am a true believer in the power of the bulb, so I don’t mind. So I was delighted when Pat the Produce Man showed me that they are now carrying fresh bulb garlic from this same California source alongside the usual Chinese stock. Garlic is going in everything these days, now that flu season is upon us. I don’t know if it’s the powers of garlic keeping everyone away, or its immune boosting properties that keep the germs at bay, but its liberal use is perfuming the kitchen the way caramelized onions do in the fall.

Now I have plenty of garlic in the larder. But last week I didn’t. What I had last week was shallots, which is a French kissing cousin to garlic and onions (they are a little more delicate), wonderful either finely minced and paired with mushrooms, or roasted halved. Providing the perfect counterpoint to the dates, rounded out by the spicy notes of a little fresh ginger and cinnamon, bathed in a little honey and lightened with a little lemon juice, it truly was a dish fit for the New Year of the tree.

Spiced Chicken with Shallots and Dates
serves 6-8

2 whole chickens, cut into eigths
2 Tablespoons olive oil
6 shallots, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
2 Tablespoons peeled, grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 cup chicken stock or water
250 grams or ½ cup pitted dates
2 Tablespoons honey
2 Tablespoons lemon juice

Heat the oil in a sauté pan and brown the chicken pieces lightly.

Transfer to a baking dish and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Add the shallots and brown. Add the ginger, cinnamon, salt and pepper.

Deglaze the pan with the chicken stock while scraping up the browned bits left from the chicken.

Add the shallots and cooking liquid to the baking dish. Scatter the dates and drizzle the honey over the chicken.

Cover with a tight fitting lid (ideally), or tin foil, and bake in the oven for 45 minutes.

Remove the cover and continue baking for another 30 minutes or until the chicken is browned.

Squeeze the lemon juice over the dish before serving.

Please join Rabbi Heber, COR’s director of Community Kosher, and myself at the Village Shul for a very special series entitled Mashgiach @ Home on Tuesday nights, Feb. 12, 19 and 26. These classes are designed for those who have been keeping kosher for years and, also, for those who are considering keeping kosher, by educating in very practical terms how we apply the laws of Kashruth in our own kitchens.
There will be recipe handouts, follow-up fun quizzes after each class and a completion certificate for you to proudly display.

Shabbat shalom,

Nancy Weisbrod, Director of Culinary Education, Kashruth Council of Canada


Nothing Wasted, Everything Gained


I was brought up as a bag rinser and elastic saver.  The kitchen faucet perpetually had a plastic bag turned inside out drying and waiting for its next employ.

One of the outstanding values that I learned in my mother’s kitchen is not to throw food out.  We were brought up with a saying that there was nothing left but the squawk.  Even waxed paper was reused and certainly trimmings of flesh, fish or fowl all found their way into the meat grinder and changed into delicious morsels.

Being called thrifty used to be considered a complement.  I wonder now how my kitchen habits would measure up?

I know I don’t have the same systems in place partially because there is so much convenience available.  There is simply not the same need to be as resourceful. 

But I must say I was delighted to find fresh chicken livers in the supermarket this week with labelled instructions on how to kasher them. 

Growing up, on Friday night our table had fried chopped chicken livers, topped with gribenes (chicken skin cracklings) served with challa.  Although I don’t intend to make shmaltz (rendered chicken fat), I am excited to serve chopped liver and caramelized onion.

Remember when chickens from the butcher had a little package stuffed in their cavity containing the heart, liver and gizzard?  These were the treasures that our grandmothers transformed into our favourites.  How did we go from relishing chicken feet fricassee to serving only chicken fingers?

Kashering meat and fowl used to be the responsibility of the homemaker.  Some of us even have memories of certain boards and basins reserved for such a purpose.  The whole chicken was then broken down and became the source of a number of delectable dishes.  Now, the koshering process is done for us.  Packages of chicken are offered, separated into singular parts not calling into play the homemakers ingenuity.  But when it comes to livers, a delicious, inexpensive source of protein, rich in iron, I commit to the koshering practice so that I can offer my family their own culinary memories of chicken livers on the Shabbos table. 

Shabbat shalom from My Kosher Kitchen,

Nancy Weisbrod, Director of Culinary Education, Kashruth Council of Canada