When chef Todd Gray, an Episcopalian by birth, married his Jewish wife, Ellen Kassoff Gray, their union in the kitchen — combining his passion for farm-to-table cooking with her family’s traditional recipes — led to the opening of their acclaimed Equinox Restaurant in Washington, D.C. Now the two have gathered 125 of their favorite recipes in “The New Jewish Table.” And what better time to roadtest them than at Passover seder?
1 cup chicken livers (about 7 ounces)
¼ cup canola oil
1 large yellow onion, cut into ¼-inch dice
3 celery ribs, cut into ¼-inch dice
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
½ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 matzo crackers (full sheets), crushed into pieces
4 Cornish game hens
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (½ stick), cut into small pieces
Freshly ground black pepper
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
2 celery ribs, coarsely chopped
1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 cup Roasted Chicken Jus (recipe in Chef’s Appendix)
Braised Cabbage for serving (recipe page 134)
1Make the meat. Dot the hens with margarine instead of butter, or brush them with canola or olive oil.
2Make the stuffing. Clean the livers (see page nine), then coarsely chop them into half inch pieces. Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, and garlic, cook for two minutes; lower the heat to medium-low and continue to cook until the vegetables are translucent and begin to soften — six to eight minutes. Add the livers, sage, salt, and pepper; saute until the livers are cooked — about five minutes. Transfer the mixture to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Place the crushed matzos in a medium bowl; add the liver mixture and mix well with a wooden spoon. Taste the stuffing and add more salt or pepper if you wish.
3Clean the hens. Trim any excess fat from the hens; wash them under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Set aside.
4Mix a mirepoix. Mix the carrots, celery, and onions in the bottom of a roasting pan large enough to hold all four hens.
5Stuff the hens. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Loosely fill the cavity of each hen with stuffing. Drizzle one and a half teaspoons oil over each hen and rub into skin. Sprinkle each hen with salt and pepper. Truss the hens with twine (tie the legs together, tuck the wings under the backs). Place the hens, breast up, in the roasting pan, on the mirepoix. Dot each with the butter, dividing equally. (If there is extra stuffing, place it in an appropriate size casserole or ramekin; add it to the oven with the hens about halfway through the roasting time.)
6Roast the hens. Place the pan in the oven and roast for 10 minutes, lower the heat to 325°F. Roast for 40 minutes more, until done (the internal temperature of the thigh should register 160° on an instant read thermometer),—checking from time to time that the hens are browning evenly and rotating the pan 180 degrees about halfway through the cooking time.
7Make the sauce. Transfer the hens to a cutting board and cover with foil to keep warm. Transfer the mirepoix and pan juices to a small saucepan and add the Roasted Chicken Jus. Bring to simmering over medium heat; simmer for 10 minutes. Strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into another pan or serving pitcher; discard the mirepoix and keep the sauce warm.
8Carve the hens for serving. Slice the thighs, legs, and breast meat from each hen—as you would when carving a turkey. Carefully spoon the stuffing from inside each hen and place on individual plates. Spoon some Braised Cabbage next to the stuffing. Arrange the meat from one hen on top of the stuffing and cabbage on each plate. Spoon the sauce over the top and serve.