Growing up, Shabbat dinner was something that my mother tried hard to make a priority every Friday night. She wisely knew that as we grew older our Friday nights spent as a family would dwindle. And while growing up in my house was not the easiest, as soon as she lit those candles and my father sliced the deep golden, egg washed challah, peace replaced hostility in our dining room. The fighting stopped, they even held hands; their fingers intertwined like the braided ropes of that baked bread. I was not brought up in a particularly religious household, but Shabbat dinner was something my mother could count on to bring her family together and it brought out the best in my parents’ troubled marriage. They fought loudly, painfully. Wounding each other and their children with words that were sharp as daggers and with screams that were so loud the house shook, frightening my brother and me. We would sit still as stone statues, perched at the end of my bed together, his small feet dangled mid air, we were afraid to move, afraid to breathe, afraid to be noticed. Their once a week peace treaty was Shabbat.
My mother, tiny, blonde, and very southern, would stand next to my father who was seated at the head of our formal dining room table. His Paul Stewart silk neck tie tossed over one shoulder in anticipation of ruining it on the delicious dinner that awaited him. The crystal sparkled, the antique linens were ironed and crisp, clusters of fragrant fresh flowers were arranged throughout the house. Shabbat brought wonderful smells and tastes, but most of all it brought peace to our house.
My parents’ marriage had disintegrated by the time I turned 19. My mother had been right to create those Friday nights just the four of us, and my guess is she thought of them often, long after he left her.
Today in my own household, with my own foursome, we welcome the weekend every Friday night by celebrating Shabbat. We light the candles, we say the prayer over the wine, we bless the challah, we come together. And if I close my eyes, I can see that dining room perfectly, that gleaming table on Hoskier Road. I can see my father, silk tie flung over his shoulder breathing in the smells of my mother’s roasted chicken as he takes my mother’s hand and gently pulls her down to him for a kiss, her face flushed with pleasure as he tells her how beautiful she is.
“Hey guys,” he looks at my brother and me, “Isn’t your mother pretty? Doesn’t she look beautiful tonight?”
And we would nod our heads, feeling a little bit shy in witnessing that intimate moment that glowed with candlelight.
She always did.
Click here for Jule’s favorite fool-proof roasting pan.
Ina’s Shabbat Chicken
- Oven Proof Roaster (Jule's favorite is linked above)
- Large Spoon for Basting
- 1 Organic Whole Chicken, bag of giblets removed
- 1-2 Large Yellow Onions
- 2 Large Carrots cut up or handful of baby carrots
- Potatoes (any kind, peeled and cubed)
- 1-2 cups of cold filtered water (start with 1, you can always add more)
- Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
- Preheat oven to 400°.
- Rinse chicken in cold water, removing bag of giblets, continuing to rinse chicken until water runs clear.
- Pat chicken until bone dry with paper towels and place in roasting pan.
- Season generously with Lawry's seasoned salt.
- Peel and chop onions, carrots, and potatoes in large uniform cubes (same size, same cooking time)
- Surround bird with vegetables.
- Season vegetables with Lawry's seasoned salt.
- When oven is preheated, add 1 cup of cold, filtered water to bottom of roasting pan.
- Tent with foil and place in oven.
- After 30 minutes remove foil, shake pan, and begin to baste, spooning the juices on the bottom of the pan over chicken every 20 minutes or so. Cooking time will depend on size of chicken.
- Continue to roast and baste often until chicken is a deep golden brown, crispy, and potatoes and carrots are knife tender. Your onions will be translucent. Feel free to add more water to bottom of pan as you roast if you find that you need more.
- When chicken is done, remove from oven, allow to rest for 15 minutes, slice and place on platter surrounded by vegetables and juices.
- Take a bite, close your eyes, and enjoy your own version of Shabbat (you don't have to be Jewish!) Ina would be tickled pink that her chicken is part of it.
Illustration by @courtneycoloring