Dont be a chicken &mdash instead, prepare one for Purim dinner

The Purim seudah (feast) is an indulgent, fun meal, with tradition calling for turkey and garbanzo beans.

Turkey, tarnigol hodu (which translates literally to “Indian chicken”) in Hebrew, represents King Achashverosh, who was considered stupid, like a turkey. Garbanzo beans remind us of the vegetarian diet that Queen Esther adopted in order to ensure her observance of kashrut.

I’ve chosen a delicious, traditional Persian dish that captures the essence of the exotic royal life. In addition to hamantaschen, our family loves spicy cookies. We enjoy these ginger snaps with fresh fruit, as well as part of mishloach manot, the food gifts we exchange at Purim.

Persian Jeweled Rice with Chicken

Serves 6-8

3 cups Basmati rice

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 small chicken, cut into 6 pieces

1 large yellow onion, chopped

1/2 tsp. fine salt

1 cup chopped orange zest

3 medium carrots, peeled and julienned

3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp. saffron threads, ground and dissolved in 2 Tbs. hot water

1 tsp. ground allspice

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup dried cranberries, washed and soaked for 10 minutes in hot water, then drained

1/2 cup currants

1/4 cup chopped pistachios

1/4 cup slivered almonds

Wash rice in cold water; repeat several times until water is clear. (For plumper rice, soak at least 2 hours in 8 cups of water with 2 Tbs. of salt.)

Combine the 1/4 cup of olive oil, chicken and onion in a large skillet. Sprinkle with the salt. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Reserve remaining cooking liquid and when cool, skim off excess fat.

Bring 8 cups of water and 2 Tbs. of salt to a boil in a large pot. Pour the washed and drained rice into the pot and boil for 6 minutes, stirring gently two or three times. Drain the rice in a sieve and rinse with warm water. Return the rice to the pan and cover with a clean kitchen towel and tight-fitting lid, folding ends of towel over the lid. Steam the rice for 20 minutes over low heat.

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil, combine the orange zest and the carrots, and blanch for 3 minutes. Drain and reserve.

Heat the 3 Tbs. of olive oil in heavy skillet with the reserved chicken liquid, add the carrot/orange zest mixture, saffron, allspice and sugar. Sauté 2 or 3 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved. Stir in the cranberries, currants, pistachios and almonds. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes longer and set aside.

To serve, arrange a layer of rice on large platter, place chicken pieces evenly around edge. Spread half of the carrot mixture over the rice and mound remaining rice in center. Garnish rice with remaining carrot mixture and serve.

Real Ginger Snaps

Makes about 48 cookies

8 oz. unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 egg

1/4 cup molasses

1 Tbs. grated fresh ginger

2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

2 1/2 cups flour

2 tsp. ground ginger

2 cloves, ground

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

granulated sugar

Beat the butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, then the molasses, then the fresh ginger, making sure everything is well combined. Mix together the baking soda, salt, flour, dried ginger, cloves and cinnamon. Combine the dry ingredients gently and thoroughly, without over-mixing. Allow the dough to rest 1 hour in the refrigerator before shaping.

Place the granulated sugar in a shallow dish. Form 1-inch balls of dough, then roll each one in the sugar. Place the cookies 2 inches apart on a lined cookie sheet. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes for soft cookies, 10 to 14 minutes for crispy. Let cookies cool a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Rebecca Ets-Hokin is a certified culinary professional. Visit her Web site at She can be reached at [email protected].