Yup, somehow we ended up hosting a last-minute Passover Seder and dinner for 10. I won’t bother to tell you how a goy like me end up with this honor, but I will tell you how I got it done on short notice and with just a few hours prep time.

The first step was to channel my inner Rita, who loves the challenge of a party that requires more work than seems humanly possible. Also, the promise of Passover Crack kept me going. Most importantly though, I had more than a little help from my aunt Gail, who’s an actual chosen person (in case you were thinking wtf).

Gail led the Seder, and provided the Seder plate, charoseth, maror, wine, flowers, gefilte fish, and matzo ball soup, as well as a host of other essential ingredients.

I’m not sure how the actual Seder went because it coincided with baby Sid’s ‘falling apart time,’ and I had to leave the table to put him to bed. From the bedroom, it sounded like there were some good discussions going on. All in all, a huge success.

On the menu: Matzo Ball Soup by Gail, Shane’s Easy Oven Fries, Roast Chicken made by me with telephone support from my dad (recipe below), a beautiful salad that I forgot to photograph, roasted eggplant with pesto and goat cheese, hard boiled eggs and gefilte fish on the side, and for dessert, the always-addictive Passover Crack (recipe also below).

Extra thanks to Gail for the suggestion and help and to Shane for his bang-up post-dinner cleaning job. And to Sid, for napping.

• Easy, Delicious, Roast Chicken •
with help from my dad
serves 8-10

Two 3lb certified humane chickens (I like Murray’s)
1 stick salted butter, cut in half
2 lemons
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 bunch parsley
olive oil
salt & pepper

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove the innards from the chickens, rinse them inside and out, pat outside dry and sprinkle the insides with salt and pepper. Roll the lemons on the counter with you hand to soften, then cut several slices into the lemon lengthwise, all around. Stuff each chicken with a lemon, half a bunch of thyme, half a bunch of parsley and half a stick of butter. Put them into a roasting pan where they will fit somewhat tightly, breast side down. Salt and pepper the bottom side of each chicken, then drizzle with olive oil. Flip so the chickens are breast-side up and then salt, pepper and olive oil the tops. Cook for about an hour and a half, basting frequently, until the juices run clear. Remove from oven, let sit for 10 minutes or so and carve.

• Passover Crack •
from Smitten Kitchen

4 to 6 sheets matzo or approximately 40 Saltine crackers or crackers of your choice
1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into a few large pieces
1 cup packed light brown sugar
A big pinch of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semi- or bittersweet chocolate chips (or chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate)
1 cup toasted chopped almonds, pecans, walnuts or a nut of your choice (optional)
Extra sea salt for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 11-by-17-inch baking sheet completely with foil, and then line the base of the foil with parchment paper, cut to fit.

Line the bottom of the baking sheet with matzo or crackers, covering all parts. If using matzo, you’ll need to break pieces to fit any extra spaces.

In a medium heavy-duty saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together, and stir it over medium heat until it begins to boil. Once it has begun boiling, let it bubble for three more minutes, stirring it well. It will thicken a bit as it cooks. Remove from the heat and add the salt and vanilla, and then quickly pour it over the matzo or crackers. You’ll want to spread it quickly, as it will begin to set as soon as it is poured.

Bake the caramel-covered crackers for 15 minutes, watching carefully as it will bubble and the corners might darken too quickly and/or burn. You can reduce the heat if you see this happening.

Remove from oven and immediately cover with chocolate chips. Let stand five minutes, and then spread them evenly across the caramel. An offset spatula works great here. If you’re using them, sprinkle the chocolate with toasted chopped nuts and/or sea salt. (The sea salt is great on matzo. On Saltines, it’s really not necessary.)

Once completely cool — you can speed this process up in the fridge— break it into pieces and store it in a container. It should keep for a week.