President Obama is hosting his third Seder in the White House. He was the first president to do so, a tradition he started after participating in a last-minute Seder on the campaign trail in 2008. This year the White House has also asked eight top chefs--one for each day of Passover--for their recipes and thoughts on the holidays, posted online. The request is potentially treacherous--Obama's own Seder, remember, got knocked about a bit by Marty Peretz last year for not taking place in Jerusalem. What political, religious, or foodie landmines might the chefs step on? But instead, it looks like they've unintentionally mostly stuck with a safe topic: the ever-present debate over gefilte fish. Looks like most of the chefs here aren't fans.
Only Peter Hoffman, chef of New York's Savoy, ventured into the political. Clearly, Hoffman is not one for subtlety: His suggestion is Tahrir Square salad. "This year is no exception and in honor of the liberation struggles being fought and won in Egypt, Tunisia and the ongoing struggle in Yemen our menu draws on those traditions for our inspiration," Hoffman explains.
But Hoffman also sounds off on the fish issue: there is "is no matzoh ball soup, no brisket, no gefilte fish" at his Passover table. Likewise, Michael Leviton, chef at Lumiere in Newton, Massachusetts, says , "This most certainly will not be Bubbe and Zayde's Seder. ... I came up with this recipe because I didn't want the house to smell like gefilte fish for days after my seder." Instead, Leviton offers "Maple-Mustard Glazed Smoked Sable with Beets and Horseradish Vinaigrette." Translation: that's basically cooked weasel (marten, actually) with root vegetables. Yum?
"Most dishes like gefilte fish and matzoh ball soup are rather labor intensive, but we never complain," writes Michelle Bernstein, who owns Miami's Michy’s and Sra, by contrast. She and three others put the dish on their menus, but no one offered a recipe. Todd Aarons, executive chef at Tierra Sur at Herzog Wine Cellars in Oxnard, California, writes, "I love to embellish this process of the Seder meal with the tastes and foods of our past as well as the present adding new and healthy ingredients." The Aarons's family table will be missing one bit of history.