Jesus walks into a restaurant and says to the maitre’d, “Table for twenty-six please.”

The maitre’d does a quick head count, and says, “I see there are only thirteen of you here. Please let me know when the rest of your party arrives, sir, and I’ll be happy to seat you.”

Jesus replies, “Oh, we’re all here. We’re just all going to sit on the same side.”

The Last Supper was kind of a going away party for Jesus. It was a bittersweet celebration. He shared food and conversation and lessons with friends. He gave his apostles, and all of us, his example of humble service to loved ones. He established the sacramental priesthood and gave us the extraordinary gift of the Eucharist. But he knew that at the end of it, he must suffer the physical agonies of his passion, and endure the betrayals of eleven of his closest friends . . . one by one. 

Still, the Holy Thursday meal is something to remember with joy, especially as we then enter two days of fasting and abstinence on Good Friday (required) and Holy Saturday (recommended). In our family, for dinner on Holy Thursday we do a modified seder meal, without attempting to copy the ceremony or prayers. We are not obliged to celebrate Passover, because Jesus’ sacrifice ushered in a new covenant. I don’t even think it’s appropriate to attempt the religious ceremonies of another faith. But it’s fun (and delicious) to approximate what Jesus and his friends ate that night. It’s one of our family’s favorite meals of the whole year.

For dinner music, try Israel in Egypt by Handel or The Prince of Egypt Soundtrack.

LAST SUPPER MENU

  • Lamb Chops with Rosemary and Garlic
  • Applesauce
  • Potato Knishes
  • Bitter Herb Salad
  • Flatbread
  • Crispy Rice Lamb

RECOMMENDED PREP SCHEDULE

  • What you can do the day before:
  • Make a triumphant red-cross-on-a-white-background banner of paper or fabric for your Crispy Rice Lamb.
  • Make the knish dough.
  • Marinate the lamb chops.
  • Make the salad dressing.

I usually start meal prep at about two o’clock, to be ready to serve at five thirty or six. This is one of a handful of BIG celebratory meals we do each year. It’s a whole family endeavor, with music playing and all hands on deck. Little kids are enthusiastic if not all that useful helpers, but putting the extra time in to let them “help” now, creates shared memories . . . and also eventually creates actually-capable big kid helpers. Future you will appreciate it.

The applesauce is the big variable. Prep time is about ten minutes. If you’re making it in a crock pot, cooking takes four hours. In an instant pot, it takes fifteen minutes. If you’re buying it from the store, it takes no time at all! That’s okay too. I’ve definitely gone that route some years.

1. If you’re using a crock pot for the applesauce, be sure to begin that first, 4.5 hours before dinner. If you’re using an instant pot, it can wait, but applesauce also keeps just fine in the pot (without the warmer on, otherwise it will brown the bottom) so might as well get it done.

2. If you didn’t begin the knish dough, lamb chops, and salad dressing the day before, get those done and refrigerating.

3. Make the knish filling, assemble the knishes, egg wash them, and get them in the oven.

4. Make the Rice Krispie Lamb.

5. Make the flatbread dough, leave it to rest. Pre-heat the skillet you’ll use for the flatbread and lamb chops on low.

6. Prepare all the salad ingredients, but wait to assemble it.

7. Grill the flatbreads. Put them in a tea-towel-lined basket to stay warm. I like to put the basket into the turned-off, still-warm oven after the knishes are done.

8. Grill the lamb chops, and finish in the oven with the knishes if desired.

9. Finishing touches: smash the applesauce, assemble the salad, plate it all, and call in the troops.

10. Enjoy!

Applesauce

In a Jewish Passover seder meal, haroset (an applesauce-like mixture with wine, nuts, apples, etc.) represents the mortar used by the Jews in Egypt. Recipes for haroset are available, of course, but my family prefers to go the straight-up homemade applesauce route. Any apples will work. Golden Delicious apples are traditional. But I like to use a mix of sweet Honeycrisp and tart Granny Smith. It doesn’t even need added sugar. But you can add a bit, depending on the sweetness of your apples and your tooth.
Prep Time 10 mins
Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 4 large apples about 2lbs peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 1/2 cup water omit if using a crock pot
  • 1/2 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice from about a 1/4 lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ cup or to taste sugar or brown sugar (optional)

Instructions
 

  • Peel and core the apples. I use a “johnny apple peeler” to do all three steps at once (peel, core, and slice).
  • For the Instant Pot:
  • Add the water, lemon juice, and cinnamon (and sugar if using) to the instant pot and stir to combine. Add the apples and toss to mix. Secure the lid and cook on manual (high pressure) for 8 minutes. Turn off the “keep warm” option. Do a controlled quick release or allow the pressure to naturally release.
  • For the Crock Pot: Add the lemon juice and cinnamon (and sugar if using, omit the water) to the crock pot and stir to combine. Add the apples and toss to mix. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours.
  • The mixture can sit in the crock pot or instant pot until it’s time to serve, then mash it a few times with a potato masher before putting it in a serving dish. (For a smoother texture, use an immersion or regular blender.)

Potato Knishes

These hearty and delicious doughy-potatoey bundles are a traditional Jewish delicacy. However, full-disclosure, they wouldn’t be served at an observant Passover meal, because chametz (anything containing grain that has come into contact with water and risen) must be avoided at Passover. However, since we are not attempting an observant Passover meal, and they are amazing, we like to have these. They are great with applesauce, sour cream, or spicy mustard. A more authentic, chametz-free choice would be potato latkes. Serves 6-8 (about six 3-inch knishes); Dough prep time 15 minutes; Dough rest time 1 hour or overnight; Filling and assembly time 1.5 hours; Cook time 45 minutes

Ingredients
  

  • Dough
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Filling
  • 1 1/2 pounds about 3 medium russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 1 small yellow onion peeled and diced small
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • To finish
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon water

Instructions
 

  • Stir together your dry ingredients in the bottom of a medium/large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, oil, vinegar, and water. Pour it over the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Once the mixture is a craggy, uneven mass, knead it until smooth, about a minute. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap. Set it aside for an hour (or in the fridge, up to 3 days) until needed.
  • Prepare the filling:
  • Put the potatoes into a large pot, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the potatoes can be pierced easily with a knife, about 20 minutes. Drain, then transfer to a large bowl to cool.
  • Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the butter and oil and once they’re fully melted and a bit sizzly, add onions and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring frequently, until deeply caramelized, about 45 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the potatoes and mash with a potato masher until almost smooth. Stir in the salt and 10-20 grinds of black pepper and set the filling aside.
  • Assemble:
  • Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat your oven to 375°F.
  • If the dough has sweated some beads of oil while it rested, knead it back into an even mass. Divide the dough in half. On a well-floured surface, roll the first half of the dough into a very thin sheet, roughly in the shape of a 1-foot square. Create a two-inch thick log from half your potato filling across the bottom of your dough. Roll the filling up in the dough like a burrito, but not too tight. Keep rolling until the log has been wrapped twice in dough. Pinch and twist the ends of the log. Repeat the process with the second half of your dough and the second half of the filling.
  • Make indentations on the logs with a table knife to divide them into thirds. Pick up the end of a log and squeeze and twist the dough a full twist at these points, separating the filling as you squeeze and twist, as if you were making sausage links. Cut the dough at each twist, then pinch the ends of each segment together to form a sealed knish. Use the palm of your hand to flatten the knish a bit into a rounded dome.
  • Bake:
  • Arrange the knishes on your prepared baking sheet so that they don’t touch. Whisk the egg yolk and water together to form a glaze and brush it over the knish dough. Bake the knishes for about 45 minutes, rotating your tray if needed for them to bake into an even golden brown color. Leave them to rest on cooling racks while you prepare the rest of the meal.

Flatbread

These tasty flatbreads are quick and easy and make an excellent side for curries and any meal that needs a “pusher.” They’re great with dips or folded and filled with sandwich fixin’s. They are relatively flat, but allowed to rise (chametz again). A more authentic addition to a Passover meal would be store-bought or homemade matzo bread (more like crackers).

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • A scant teaspoon baking powder about ⅔ teaspoon, I use 2 tsp for a triple recipe
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
  • cup ice water
  • 1-3 Tablespoons vegetable oil for frying
  • Optional additions: ½ teaspoon garlic and/or 1 teaspoon dried herbs or 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh herbs

Instructions
 

  • Place the flour, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl and stir to combine. Add the oil and ice water, and mix to make a soft, cohesive dough. (Add garlic or herbs to the dough if desired.) The dough should be moist but not sticky. Add water or flour by the teaspoonful if needed. Cover with plastic wrap, and let it rest for 10 minutes.
  • Preheat a heavy-bottomed skillet on the stovetop. Add 1 tablespoon oil and heat until the oil starts to shimmer in the pan.
  • Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Each piece should be about the size of a large egg. Dredge each piece in flour, and roll or hand-flatten to a rough circle or oval, about 1/4″ thick.
  • Fry a flatbread in the hot oil for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown. Flip and fry on the second side for another 2 minutes. Transfer from the pan to a cooling rack, then to a tea-towel-lined basket for serving. Add more oil as needed for frying successive breads.

Lamb Chops with Rosemary and Garlic

Lamb rib chops make for an impressive presentation with their long handle, and kids like to pick them up and eat them like an ice cream on a stick. But this recipe also works with the little triangular lamb loin chops.

Ingredients
  

  • 1 pound lamb chops
  • 2 Tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove minced (½ teaspoon)
  • 4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil divided

Instructions
 

  • Marinate:
  • In a small bowl, mix the rosemary, salt, pepper, garlic, and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil together. Coat the lamb chops with the mixture, massaging it into the meat with your fingers. Leave the chops in the fridge to marinate for 30 minutes or up to 24 hours. (Note: single rib chops and loin chops less than 1 inch thick should be cooked straight from the fridge. Double rib chops and thicker loin chops should stand at room temperature 30 to 40 minutes before cooking.)
  • Sear:
  • Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in an oven-proof sauté pan over high heat. When the oil is shimmering hot, sear the chops. If you are working with single rib chops or thin loin chops, sear only on two sides, and only a minute (or less) on each side if you want the result to be rare or medium rare. Sear thicker chops on all sides about 2 to 3 minutes per side.
  • Check:
  • At this point, if you want your lamb chops rare (I do), they are likely cooked enough.
  • If you would like your chops more cooked, you can put them in a 375°F oven for 3 to 5 minutes, or keep them in the hot pan, lower the heat to warm, and cover the pan for a few minutes.
  • Note that rib chops are so small, and cook so quickly, checking for internal temperature with a thermometer can be impractical. For this reason I use the “finger test for meat” to check the doneness of the chops. (Google it.) That said, if you have an instant read thermometer and want to check thick chops, aim for 125°F for rare, 135°F medium-rare, and 140°F for medium.
  • Rest:
  • When done, remove the chops from the pan, cover with foil and let them rest 3 to 5 minutes before serving.

Bitter Herb Salad

At a Jewish Passover Seder meal like the one Jesus was celebrating on Holy Thursday with the apostles, bitter herbs are served as a reminder of the bitterness of the slavery endured by the Jewish people in Egypt. This salad is bitter and sour (and yet very tasty). Kids don’t usually LOVE it. But in our family everyone must try it. If they don’t like the bitterness, we discuss how that’s kind of the whole point.

Ingredients
  

  • For the salad:
  • 1 5 ounce package herb mixed salad greens
  • 1 large orange cut the peel off and slice into segments
  • 6 ounces jicama peeled and julienned (substitute carrots or parsnips if you wish)
  • 1 cup pistachios shelled and toasted
  • 1 ⁄2 cup goat cheese your choice, chevre, feta, etc.
  • For the dressing:
  • 1 lemon zest of
  • 1 orange zest of
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 large shallot minced finely
  • 1 ⁄4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • Toast the pistachio nuts and set aside to cool.
  • Prepare the vinaigrette in a small, non-reactive bowl and allow to marinate. It is best made at least 1 hour in advance.
  • When it’s time to serve, toss the greens with the remaining salad ingredients and 1 tablespoon of the salad dressing in a large salad bowl.
  • Serve the remaining salad dressing on the side.

Crispy Rice Lamb

You could make a lamb cake . . . but those turn out creepy, like, 90% of the time. That’s kind of their charm. But you can make a slightly-less-weird-looking Rice Krispie Lamb in a fraction of the time. Everyone wins! Let a kid do the sculpting and then you won’t have to take credit for your lamb’s looks. #momhack Note: I use a large canning pot for this recipe. If you don’t have a VERY large pot, but you do have a very large mixing bowl you can pour the hot marshmallow mixture over your cereal in a very large mixing bowl. Or, halve the recipe and make a smaller lamb.

Ingredients
  

  • 1 1/2 cups 3 sticks unsalted butter
  • Four 10 ounce bags 22 heaping cups mini marshmallows
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract optional
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 18 cups crispy rice cereal one 18 oz “large size” box
  • 2 raisins or chocolate chips for eyes
  • Wooden skewers for support
  • A triumphant red-cross-on-a-white-background banner

Instructions
 

  • Melt the butter over medium heat in a VERY large pot. Once melted, set the heat as low as possible and add the marshmallows. Stir the mixture until the marshmallows are completely melted. Remove from heat, then immediately stir in the vanilla extract and salt. Finally, fold in the cereal. Make sure each piece of cereal is coated with the marshmallow mixture.
  • Spray your counter or a large piece of parchment paper with cooking spray and dump the pile of marshmallow crispy rice mixture onto it. Let it cool for 3-5 minutes. Look at a picture of a lamb cake or a paschal lamb. With well-buttered or cooking-sprayed hands mold the lamb into approximately the correct shape. It’s best to mold out the head, legs, ears, and tail rather than trying to attach them. Plan on a sitting lamb without much of a neck and you’ll have more success. Insert wooden skewers as support if needed. He might still droop. Consider that part of the fun. Attach your banner to a skewer and nestle it against the lamb’s body behind his leg. Insert raisins or chocolate chips for eyes. Leave it to rest. Station a kid to watch for incidents of drooping.

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