After many years of attending Yom Kippur dinner at my parents' house, I am finally hosting break fast at my home. Because I finally have a house. For the last 14 years I've lived in a tiny New York City apartment with a kitchen table that barely fit four people, so I've never physically been able to throw any type of dinner party.
Now that I have an actual dining room with a table that can fit up to 10 chairs comfortably (!!!) I'm ready to be the host for many holiday dinners to come. First up? Yom Kippur.
This is kind of a cheat meal to throw because the stars of the dinner — smoked fish and bagels — are made by someone else and purchased in advance. But there's still a lot of planning that has to be done, especially considering it's a big meal after a full day of abstaining from food and drink. Most families serve dairy and fish because they're lighter on an empty stomach, and since you're not supposed to be cooking on Yom Kippur, everything ideally should be able to be prepped beforehand.
Here is what I am doing in advance to make sure my first big dinner in my new home is a success.
1. I'm making a roster of bagel flavors.
This might seem a bit type-A (okay, it is type-A), but when they call or text to RSVP, I'm asking my guests what type of bagel they'll want to eat. There are so many different flavors, it's worth quickly asking what someone wants because most people have a favorite flavor. My husband loves egg bagels, while some people prefer cinnamon-raisin (yes, I've seen many people put lox on a cinnamon-raisin bagel for a sweet-and-savory twist).
Asking in advance will ensure that people will actually get what they want and not fight over the only two sesames in the bowl. Lenny Bromberg, owner of the best Jewish deli in the Philly area, Ben & Irv's (says me!), suggests getting two bagels per person along with a loaf of pumpernickel bread. "Since everyone has been fasting, people tend to eat more," he says. "Even someone who only ever eats one bagel might eat one and a half." Oh, and no matter what final count you get, always buy six extra everything bagels. Because people love everything bagels.
2. I'm definitely not skimping on the fish.
Bromberg goes through about 2,000 pounds of whitefish salad during the week of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, so smoked fish is expected at any break-the-fast meal. I ordered the fish trifecta: Nova lox, whitefish salad, and baked salmon. Bromberg suggests ordering two to three ounces of lox per person (so for 10 people, you'd need at least a pound to a pound-and-a-half), at least two pounds of whitefish salad, and a slice of baked salmon per person. He also reminded me to get the typical extras: cream cheese, lettuce, onion, and tomatoes. For vegetarians (or people who aren't lovers of smoked fish), I will pick up a few "fun" cream cheese flavors like scallion, sun-dried tomato, and cinnamon-raisin.
More on Lox
3. I picked up some nice disposable plates.
While I am excited to finally have unpacked my fine china now that I have room for it almost 10 years after getting married, there's no way I'm using it for the first time with lox. Smoked fish — while delicious — is oily and I don't want to risk someone dropping a nice plate. Plus, I don't want to spend a night doing dishes after a day of not eating. Sturdy disposable plates hold up to a heavy bagel topped with all the fixings — and then I'll be able to toss it at the end and be done with it.
What I got: Masterpiece Premium Plastic Heavyweight Plates, $16 for 48 at Sam's Club
4. I'm making a kugel in advance.
Kugel is an irresistible traditional baked noodle casserole. It can be prepared in a million different ways (with spinach, or caramelized onions, or potatoes, or apples, etc.). There's no wrong way to bake a kugel and it almost always tastes better the next day.
Try this recipe: Mom's Simple Savory Kugel
5. I'm planning on serving all the carbs.
Because this meal should be easy on the stomach, carbs are an obvious choice. After bagels and noodle kugel, you might think other carbs would be off limits? Not in my break-the-fast feast. I'm starting my meal with a round raisin challah. Circular challah is unique to the high holy days (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur), as the roundness signifies the new year, so I plan on serving it alongside my bagels as another vehicle for cream cheese.
And I'm going to end the meal with an epic Jewish apple cake because it is so dense and tastes even better the day after (or a few days after), so I can totally prep this a few days before. This recipe is a good one, but I usually use double the amount of apples it calls for. It'll look insane when put in the pan, but you want to use every last apple slice because it gives the cake a richer texture.
6. I'm preparing for leftovers.
If there's anything I learned from watching my mom it's that no matter how well you plan, you'll probably have extra fish and bagels at the end. Buy aluminum foil so you are ready to package up lox to eat a day or two after, or to freeze. "Nova lox, baked salmon, and whole white fish can be frozen if you wrap it tightly with foil," Bromberg says. "Just don't freeze the whitefish salad because it's made with mayo and won't thaw." The fish will stay fresh for about a month, so you can relive your break-the-fast meal a few weeks later when you're craving salt.
7. I'm stocking up on orange juice and wine.
This is essentially a "breakfast for dinner" type of meal, so you get to serve the best of both worlds: orange juice and wine. And the only wine that goes with bagels and lox? Manischewitz, of course. You won't want to drink anything stronger than that on an empty-ish stomach!
Are you hosting Yom Kippur this year? What else are you doing to prepare?