Eating Jewish: Rosh Hashanah Chicken with Cinnamon and Apples from Metz
Apples are a central component on Rosh Hashanah tables, from the honey dipped apples eaten at the beginning of the evening meal in the hope that they will help bring about a good and sweet new year, to the apple cake eaten at the end of a meal. Thinking about all the apple-eating that happens on this holiday, I couldn’t help but notice that more often than not apples are used in the dishes that grace the dessert table. However, while flipping through Joan Nathan’s latest cookbook Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous (I think this is definitely one of my favorite cookbooks at the moment) my assumptions about apples and desserts were dispelled when I saw the recipe for Rosh Hashanah Chicken with Cinnamon and Apples from Metz. I got extremely excited about this dish and I knew that I had to make it seeing as apples don’t often make it into the savory dishes that I cook.
As the title to this recipe suggests, this dish originates from the city of Metz, which is the capital of the Lorraine region in France. In the headnote to the recipe, Joan Nathan explains that she first encountered this dish while she was a student in France. The recipe comes from Rose Minkel who preserved recipes from her familial home of Metz, and whom Nathan met at Friday night dinners both women attended at the home of a mutual friend.
At one time, Metz held one of the most important Jewish communities in Europe. Unlike other Jewish communities in France and elsewhere, Metz preserved the evidence of the lives Jewish women led. The memoirs of Glückel of Hameln provide us with one look at this, while obituaries and the sentences of the Bet Din are other sources. I also think that this recipe, which tells us what women were preparing for themselves and their families, can be added to this list of sources.
What we have here is a recipe that is native to this particular community in France that gives a glimpse into the food that was being prepared and served by women on Rosh Hashanah. This is a delicious dish in which the simple ingredients come together so perfectly that you can't imagine they weren't meant to be cooked this way. The chicken skin becomes golden brown and crispy while the inside remains moist. The onions become sweet while the apples become soft and have a taste reminiscent to applesauce (not the awful jarred kind, but the wonderful homemade stuff) and the cinnamon lends subtle warmth and sweetness to the whole dish. The broth and wine mixture reduces and mixes with the chicken juices while cooking to create a sauce that is the ideal finish to this dish.
This recipe is a good way to expand your use of apples when cooking, while also preserving a source that bears witness to the history of the women of Metz.
Rosh Hashanah Chicken with Cinnamon and Apples from Metz
Adapted slightly from Joan Nathan’s Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous
One 3 ½ to 4 pound roasting chicken
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large onions, peeled and cut into chunks
About 1-2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 1/3 cups white wine
3 apples, cored and cut into 8 slices (I used red delicious apples but you could also use Fuji or Cortland apples)
2 tablespoons sugar
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Place the chicken in a roasting pan. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste, as well as ½ teaspoon of the cinnamon. Add the onions to the roasting pan and then pour 1 cup of the vegetable or chicken broth and wine over the chicken. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes.
Once the chicken has been cooking for 45 minutes, remove it from the oven and place the apples that have been sprinkled with the remaining ½ teaspoon cinnamon and the sugar, around it. Baste the chicken with the broth and wine mixture, adding more broth if necessary. Roast the chicken for another 35 to 45 minutes, periodically checking whether more broth is required, until the apples are soft and the chicken is cooked.