For Foodies

Pass The Chipotle-Marrow Matzo Balls, It's Mexican Passover

Pozole soup Jalisco-style with chipotle-marrow matzo balls. i i

hide captionPozole soup Jalisco-style with chipotle-marrow matzo balls.

Meg Vogel/NPR
Pozole soup Jalisco-style with chipotle-marrow matzo balls.

Pozole soup Jalisco-style with chipotle-marrow matzo balls.

Meg Vogel/NPR

The typical American Seder meal served on the first night of Passover tends to be hearty, comforting and pretty bland. But it doesn't have to be.

At Rosa Mexicano, a New York-based chain of upscale Mexican restaurants, tried and true dishes like matzo ball soup and beef brisket are getting a spicy makeover this year for its 12th annual Mexican Passover week.

Diners enjoy a Mexican Passover meal at Rosa Mexicano in Washington, D.C., in 2013. i i

hide captionDiners enjoy a Mexican Passover meal at Rosa Mexicano in Washington, D.C., in 2013.

Courtesy of Rosa Mexicano
Diners enjoy a Mexican Passover meal at Rosa Mexicano in Washington, D.C., in 2013.

Diners enjoy a Mexican Passover meal at Rosa Mexicano in Washington, D.C., in 2013.

Courtesy of Rosa Mexicano

Wait, you may be saying. Mexican Passover? There are Jews in Mexico? Actually, yes, although the country is 97 percent Catholic.

Executive Chef David Suarez, who has been with Rosa Mexicano for nine years, says he loves to educate guests about the country's diversity. "There's always a small part of Mexico that people don't know about," he says.

Suarez, a New York native with a Cuban-Jewish father and an Eastern European Jewish mother, knows about cultural mashups.

Roasted brisket of barbecued beef wrapped in banana leaf with dried fruit tzimmes, served with glazed baby carrots. i i

hide captionRoasted brisket of barbecued beef wrapped in banana leaf with dried fruit tzimmes, served with glazed baby carrots.

Meg Vogel/NPR
Roasted brisket of barbecued beef wrapped in banana leaf with dried fruit tzimmes, served with glazed baby carrots.

Roasted brisket of barbecued beef wrapped in banana leaf with dried fruit tzimmes, served with glazed baby carrots.

Meg Vogel/NPR

"A lot of people don't know in Mexico City there's a huge Jewish population ... in the Polanco section," he says. There, it wouldn't be unusual to hear observant Jews, dressed in black from head to toe, speaking Hebrew with a Spanish accent.

In fact, nearly 40,000 Jews live in Mexico, mostly in the capital, "where there are 23 synagogues, several kosher restaurants and at least 12 Jewish schools," according to The Jewish Virtual Library.

Crispy matzo-breaded chicken breast with a salad of arugula, tomatoes and jícama with tamarind vinaigrette and salsa verde. i i

hide captionCrispy matzo-breaded chicken breast with a salad of arugula, tomatoes and jícama with tamarind vinaigrette and salsa verde.

Meg Vogel/NPR
Crispy matzo-breaded chicken breast with a salad of arugula, tomatoes and jícama with tamarind vinaigrette and salsa verde.

Crispy matzo-breaded chicken breast with a salad of arugula, tomatoes and jícama with tamarind vinaigrette and salsa verde.

Meg Vogel/NPR

Almost all of them are descended from immigrants who arrived between the late 1800s and 1939 to escape persecution in Europe. They brought with them traditional Passover foods like noodle soups, matzo and baked meats, says Alex Schmidt of the Mexican-Jewish food blog Challa-peno.

Still, there is room for experimentation when cultures collide.

"Every year when I was growing up, we'd go 'home' to Mexico for Passover. When I eat a spicy turkey sandwich between two pieces of matzo, feelings of being surrounded by family in a safe, loving place come simmering up," Schmidt told NPR back in 2011.

Diced mango tossed with lime juice and hot pepper and topped with coconut ice cream. Served with raspberry-wine reduction sauce and buñuelos. i i

hide captionDiced mango tossed with lime juice and hot pepper and topped with coconut ice cream. Served with raspberry-wine reduction sauce and buñuelos.

Meg Vogel/NPR
Diced mango tossed with lime juice and hot pepper and topped with coconut ice cream. Served with raspberry-wine reduction sauce and buñuelos.

Diced mango tossed with lime juice and hot pepper and topped with coconut ice cream. Served with raspberry-wine reduction sauce and buñuelos.

Meg Vogel/NPR

Since Passover celebrates the Jews' freedom from slavery in ancient Egypt, can you think of a better celebration of freedom than stuffing some chipotle into your matzo balls?

If you can't get to Rosa Mexicano while the Passover menu is available April 14 through 22, here are a couple of its recipes to try at home.

Sangria Haroset i i

hide captionSangria Haroset

Meg Vogel/NPR
Sangria Haroset

Sangria Haroset

Meg Vogel/NPR

Rosa Mexicano's Sangria Haroset (Kosher)

Makes 1 drink

Editors' note: Haroset is typically a relish made of apples, honey, cinnamon, wine and walnuts that accompanies matzo at Passover meals. At Rosa Mexicano, it's a cocktail that mimics those flavors, plus a kick of tequila.

1.5 ounces Herradura Silver Tequila

1/2 ounce apple juice (use any natural, unfiltered or cold-pressed 100 percent apple juice like RW Knudson)

3/4 ounce fresh hand-squeezed lemon juice

1/2 ounce cinnamon syrup (sugar dissolved in water with cinnamon)

1/2 ounce honey syrup (two parts honey mixed with one part warm water)

1/4 ounce Manischewitz wine reduction (sweet kosher wine boiled down to a syrup)

Garnish of 1/8-inch thick apple slices (3), fanned and skewered on a bamboo prism pick

Combine ingredients except Manischewitz reduction in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously with ice. Strain over fresh ice in a 10-ounce rocks glass. Drizzle Manischewitz reduction carefully on top of drink. It should not combine, but swirl in to add color. Garnish with apple slices.


Chipotle Matzo Balls i i

hide captionChipotle Matzo Balls

Meg Vogel/NPR
Chipotle Matzo Balls

Chipotle Matzo Balls

Meg Vogel/NPR

Rosa Mexicano's Chipotle Marrow Matzo Balls

Makes approximately 20 matzo balls.

Editors' note: The restaurant serves this in a tangy pozole broth (hominy and pepper and beef for Passover, instead of pork), but it would be tasty in place of traditional matzo balls in chicken soup, too.

4 eggs

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons schmaltz (chicken fat), or use vegetable oil

1 cup matzo meal

2 tablespoons marrow

1/2 chipotle pepper

1/8 teaspoon ginger, grated

2 heaping tablespoons cilantro, chopped

1 tablespoon onion, chopped

In a blender, puree the chipotle pepper and cilantro with the water to make it smooth. In a bowl, beat the eggs until the yolks and whites are well-combined. Sautee the onion in the schmaltz until brown, and let cool.

Take a large marrow bone and scoop out marrow with a knife. Drop the marrow in cold water and gently press with your fingers until all the blood is out and the marrow is white. (This takes a little time, but it's worth it.)

Place the marrow in a mixing bowl and cream it until it has the consistency of mayonnaise. Add the egg and mix well. Add the puree and then the onion and ginger to the mixture until it is all well-incorporated. Gradually add the matzo meal until fully incorporated. Cover and refrigerate for two hours.

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Form the matzo balls in your hand using about 1 1/2 tablespoons for each. Make smaller or larger depending on preference. Drop into boiling water and simmer for 30 minutes.

Serve with soup.

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