Hostable: Sarah Massry| April 11, 2022
Styling and Photography by Miriam (Pascal) Cohen
My Cooking Style — Pesach and Year-Round
My cooking style is basic and traditional, with some interesting recipes, spices, and kitchen gadgets thrown in for variety. I come from a family of excellent and creative cooks, who serve as my inspiration.
Before I got married, I was an early intervention therapist in Monroe. I learned so much from the women there — they are devoted to their families and super geshikt. As a wedding gift, they put together a handwritten cookbook for me with their best personal recipes. My “Monroe cookbook,” as well as my sister Miriam (Pascal) Cohen’s Real Life Kosher Cooking and More Real Life Kosher Cooking (ArtScroll/Mesorah), are my go-to sources for recipes.
I have great Pesach cookbooks, but I also adapt some recipes that I know my family likes from my year-round repertoire. For example, I use my year-round French onion soup recipe, and for Pesach I bring it up a notch with the addition of marrow bones and flanken. Some of our favorite salads and dips can be adapted as well.
When hosting guests, I enjoy serving several courses; there’s always soup even during the daytime meals. I also like to put out a variety of desserts so we can linger at the table. Even on Pesach, nuts, chocolate, homemade sorbet, and ice cream are great. I also like to serve healthier options to accommodate everyone, like fruit (which I try to cut before the seudah) and apple compote, which is delicious served with slivered honey-glazed almonds.
Hosting the Food Blogger
I’m often asked if it’s intimidating to host my sister, who is a cookbook author and food influencer. The answer is NO! My sister is so gracious, complimentary, and appreciative of the food that she didn’t cook herself.
Sometimes she comes with food from recent photo shoots. Then my children can look at the recipes in the magazine and say, “We ate that!”
Pesach breakfast is tricky, especially when the meal starts late. I like to do a lot of baking with almond flour. It’s filling and sort of healthy (almonds are protein, after all!). My family’s favorites are chocolate chip biscotti and lemon bars.
My parents and my in-laws are my role models in hachnassas orchim. Over the years, though, I’ve learned that something has to go. With enough shortcuts, it doesn’t have to be the guests.
- Beautiful disposables can be very helpful on Pesach. Even though a disposable plate never entered my childhood dining room, at times I use a combination of disposables and real. Even using elegant plastic cups can eliminate a lot of dishes. There are so many gorgeous modern designs — some even look like china.
- I like to do a lot of cooking at once. Having the cleaning lady help with the cooking prep really gives me an edge in the kitchen (I don’t yet have teenagers). She helps with the peeling, dicing, chopping, dishes, and cleanup as I go along. Many housekeepers are great in the kitchen — and if not, they can be trained. Cleaning help on Yom Tov itself is also a game-changer.
- Fresh food tastes best, but it comes at a price. I always cook ahead of time and prepare the guest rooms a few days in advance. When cooking in advance, I like to double the recipe and freeze some for second days, freeing up my time on Chol Hamoed.
- My chicken soup gets frozen in advance and then reheated with fresh vegetables on Erev Shabbos. Julienned squash and carrots look pretty in the soup and cook quickly.
- Hosting — especially on Yom Tov — can be overwhelming. I can plan everything to a t, but real life gets in the way and the results can be disappointing. I try to remember that Hashem rewards us for our efforts, not the results. When you feel stressed and overwhelmed, connect to Hashem and ask Him to help you. A wise friend once shared that when she talks to Hashem, it keeps her from yelling at her children.
Set My Table
Amazon has some beautiful and inexpensive chargers. These chargers were left over from a family simchah, and I love them!
I like to use crisp white or ivory textured tablecloths (Elegant Linen has beautiful ones).
There’s nothing like fresh flowers, but there are so many nice faux arrangements for the times when you don’t have fresh. This arrangement from Domani Home was gifted to me by my amazing sister-in-law, Sarah, when I had Covid.
I use stemware from Set Your Table in Lakewood.
Red Onion Chicken
Recipe by Sarah Massry
This recipe is easy to make and it looks nice on the table. I often prepare it in advance and bake it on Erev Shabbos or Erev Yom Tov. To save a step, bake it in an oven-to-table pan.
- 4 chicken legs (or 1 chicken quartered)
- 3 Yukon gold potatoes, chunked
- 1 large red onion, sliced thinly
- 1 Tbsp oil
- ½ Tbsp paprika
- ½ Tbsp garlic powder
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 3 Tbsp water
Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).
Place the potatoes in a baking pan and bake for half an hour.
Sauté onion in oil and set aside.
Rub cleaned chicken pieces with paprika, garlic, salt, and pepper. Place on top of the baked potatoes. Arrange the sautéed red onions on top of the chicken. Pour water over the onions.
Cover well and bake for two hours. Uncover, baste the chicken, and cook for an additional 30 minutes.
(Originally featured in Family Table, Issue 789)
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