I used to be quite active in several food forums like eGullet, but I started having problems when I posted a recipe or a link to a blog post where I had changed the recipe slightly due to kashrut issues. People started arguing with me about how the recipe was no longer authentic, such as my mother-in-law’s chicken paprikàs recipe. She is 100% Hungarian and the recipe doesn’t contain sour cream, so I was very annoyed when someone who claimed to be half-Hungarian told me not once, but three times that the recipe was not chicken paprikàs, that is was pörkölt and that I couldn’t call the dish paprikàs because it didn’t have sour cream in it. I have another recipe for pörkölt with slightly different ingredients, and frankly didn’t have the patience to argue with him other than to tell him that I would like for him to tell my 92-year-old mother-in-law Holocaust survivor, a tough woman who survived two Gestapo interrogations, that her recipe was not authentic. Why can’t kosher versions of a national dish also be authentic, especially when they are made by a native of that country and they were made by generations of Jews while they lived there?
My family has always made variations of a dish, especially when the dish called for pork, such as bacon or sausage. For example, frijoles negros (black beans). The recipe my father made called for pork knuckle, so he used to make it with beef kielbasa sausage. A lot of cooks in Eastern Europe and France would substitute smoked goose for bacon in dishes that called for a smokey pork flavour. Does it change the taste from the original? Probably. But one could argue that the kosher version is also original.
When a meat recipe has a dairy ingredient, I do not replace it with a non-dairy substitute. I really dislike non-dairy creamers, while rice and soy milk are usually too sweet to substitute. So when I found another Ad Hoc recipe for Thomas Keller’s famous fried chicken, I had to think long and hard if I wanted to make it because it called for buttermilk. I read a couple of kosher sites that suggested substituting coconut milk with lemon juice, but I was afraid that the coconut taste would be a more than subtle flavour additive. I decided to replace the regular flour with self-raising whole wheat flour and dip the chicken in water. I know that this altered the recipe significantly because the crust was not as crunchy, but it was partly my fault by not double-dipping the chicken. I should have first dredged the chicken in flour, then the water, and then again in the flour. I only did a single dip. However, even with all the changes I had to make, the chicken was delicious and I will make it again. Next year, though, I will use half the salt because there is already enough salt on a kosher chicken. The lemon brine tenderizes the chicken and also adds a nice flavour from the thyme and rosemary. The flour mixture is just peppery enough.
3-3/4 liters (1 gallon) cold water
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
12 bay leaves
1 head of garlic, smashed but not peeled
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
3 large rosemary sprigs
1 small bunch of thyme
1 small bunch of parsley
Finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
Two 1-1/2 kg (3-pound) kosher chickens
3 cups whole wheat self-raising flour
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
Vegetable oil, for frying
Rosemary and thyme sprigs, for garnish
In a very large pot, combine 1 liter (1 quart) of the water with the salt, honey, bay leaves, garlic, peppercorns, rosemary, thyme and parsley. Add the lemon zest and juice and the lemon halves and bring to a simmer over moderate heat, stirring until the salt is dissolved. Cool completely and stir in the remaining 2-3/4 liters (3 quarts) of cold water. Add the chickens, making sure they are completely submerged, and refrigerate overnight.
Drain the chickens and pat dry. Scrape off any herbs or peppercorns stuck to the skin and cut each bird into 8 pieces. Make sure you keep the chicken on the bone to ensure moistness.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne. Put cold water in a medium size bowl. Working with a few pieces at a time, dip the chicken in the water, then dredge in the flour mixture, pressing so it adheres all over. Transfer the chicken to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
In a very large, deep skillet, heat 2.5 cm (1 inch) of vegetable oil to 165C (330F). Fry the chicken in 2 or 3 batches over moderate heat, turning once, until golden and crunchy and a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of each piece registers 71C (160F), about 20 minutes. Drain the oil from the chicken on paper towels, and keep warm in a low oven while frying the remaining chicken pieces. Transfer the chicken to a platter, garnish with the herb sprigs and serve hot or at room temperature.