By Amy Zimmer
DNAinfo News Editor
MANHATTAN — An average Passover meal might include matzoh ball soup, gelfite fish with horseradish and brisket chased down with some sweet Manischewitz wine.
But during a holiday where eating out can be tricky, New York Jews looking to spice up their bread-free week can find a twist on the Passover meal at several of the city’s top Mexican restaurants.
Barbecued brisket is wrapped in a banana leaf and haroset, a traditional dish typically made with apples and nuts, includes tropical fruits at Rosa Mexicano, whose Manhattan outposts — in Union Square, Lincoln Center and the Upper East Side — are offering “Mexican Passover” throughout the holiday, from Apr. 18 – 25.
Manischewitz is added to poached pears that are layered in a toasted hazelnut and matzoh cake with piloncillo-crème fraiche frosting.
Mexican Passover has become one of Rosa Mexicano’s most popular offerings in its lineup of festivals throughout the year. A growing number of families have been booking tables to have their own seders there, with the restaurant making the seder plate, said chef Joe Quinatana, the restaurant’s executive regional chef of New York, who is based in the Union Square outpost.
“The second night is becoming more popular,” Quintana said. “It’s becoming the international night.”
Dos Caminos, which has restaurants in SoHo, the Meatpacking District, Gramercy and the Upper East Side, will be offering “Passover-inspired” specials during the week. Toloache in Midtown will be offering Passover dishes during the week, as it has been doing since opening in 2007.
Tolache chef Julian Medina’s matzoh ball soup is made with zucchini, carrots and an epazote and jalepeno-scented chicken consommé. His brisket is braised with chipotle and served in a taco made of matzoh tortilla. There’s also a dulce de leche matzoh pudding.
The Mexican-born Medina (who is currently traveling in Mexico) converted to Judaism when he married a Jewish woman, Annie Sigal, who was born and raised on the Upper East Side, the restaurant’s publicist said.
“When their daughter Olivia was born, they found a way to reinterpret Passover dinner to reflect their new family,” she explained. “Once they tasted the new dishes, they knew they had to offer this menu at the restaurants.”
The food at these restaurants is Kosher-style rather than strictly Kosher, meaning the dishes respect the general tenets, avoiding mixing milk and meat (which is always forbidden) and nixing leavened bread. But they do not use special Kosher dishes, cook on counters specifically cleaned and prepped for the holiday or have rabbinical supervision.
Rosa Mexicano follows the rules for Sephardic Jews, who unlike Askenazi Jews eat corn and rice during the holiday.
The popular upscale Mexican restaurant began adding Passover dishes to its menu nine years ago, after CEO Howard Greenstone was talking to investors from Mexico about the tradition of Jewish culture in Mexico.
“I think there are more Mexican Jews out there that you hear about,” Quintana said, recalling a group of Mexican Jews who ate in the Union Square branch this week.
Although Quintana is not Jewish, he has learned a lot about the traditions of Passover, he said, and he enjoys how the menu fuses cultures together. He especially likes the tacos de lengua in which paper-thin slices of seared beef tongue in handmade corn tortillas are topped with salsa and a hard-boiled egg.
“I’m not religious, but I enjoy doing this every year,” he said. “You get a different crowd that wants to try something new.”
Please see below for a sampling of Mexican Passover recipes.
PASSOVER RECIPES FROM ROSA MEXICANO
Huitlacoche Noodle Kugel
1lb Broad (extra wide) egg noodles
4 oz Butter, melted
2 pints Sour cream
1 lb Cottage cheese
Salt to taste
2 cups Huitlacoche
1 cup Grilled corn, off the cob
1. In a pot, boil enough water, with plenty of kosher salt, and add the noodles
2. Drain and toss the warm noodles with the melted butter
3. Meanwhile, mix the eggs, sour cream, cottage cheese and salt together in a bowl
4. Add the noodles and the grilled corn and taste the mixture for seasoning
5. Spread half of the noodle mixture evenly into a buttered casserole dish
6. Spread the huitlacoche on top of the noodles and cover with the remaining noodle mixture
7. Bake, covered with foil, for 75 minutes in a 350 degree oven
8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool
9. To serve, cut out servings with a ring mold and garnish with chopped fresh parsley
Tropical Haroset with Candied Pumpkin Seeds
½ lb Pears, peeled, cored and diced
1 lb Apples, peeled, cored and chopped
¾ lb Bananas, peeled and mashed
1 lb Dates, pitted
½ lb Almonds, blanched
2 Tbsp Ground cinnamon
1 cup Riesling wine
1 ½ cups Sugar
1 tea Salt
2 ½ lb Pumpkin Seeds
1. Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse to a coarse paste with bits and pieces
2. Transfer the mixture to a sauce pot and simmer over low heat for 15 – 20 minutes, adding water if needed
3. Cool, cover and refrigerate. Chill from 1-2 hours before serving
4. To make the candied pumpkin seeds, combine the sugar with just enough water to create the consistency of wet sand.
5. Add the sugar to a pot and bring to a simmer. Add the salt and pumpkin seeds
6. Stir the mixture until the sugar coats the seeds, then turn the heat down and continue stirring until the sugar begins to crystallize then stir until the mixture is dry
7. To serve, top the haroset with the candied pumpkin seeds
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