PASSOVER, A BRIEF HISTORY Passover is a Jewish holiday that begins at sunset on the 14th day of the Jewish calendar month "Nisan." This year, Passover begins on April 19th. The holiday celebrates the Jewish people's emancipation from slavery during the Pharaoh's rule in Egypt. It is also a somber remembrance of the hardship that the Jews endured before achieving freedom. The story of Passover begins when the Jews, forced into slavery, worked ceaselessly to build some of the great cities of Egypt. The Pharaoh, who felt threatened by the sheer number and strength of the slaves, pronounced that every Jewish boy be thrown into the river Nile. Only one survived. When Moses grew up, God told him that he must free the Jewish people from their miserable lives as slaves. According to the story, after several failed attempts at persuasion, God created ten plagues to fall upon the Egyptians. During the final plague, darkness engulfed the Pharaoh's land and the first- born child of every Egyptian family perished. A lamb was sacrificed, and its blood was placed on the door of every Jewish household, indicating that the Angel of Death pass over the home. For this reason, the annual holiday is named "Passover." MATZOH BALL SOUP Yield: 10 cups INGREDIENTS 4 Tablespoons schmaltz (chicken fat) 1 whole chicken (about 4 pounds), cut up [in 8 pieces] 10 cups mineral or filtered water 1 large Spanish onion, chopped 2 celery stalks, chopped 3 carrots, peeled and chopped 1 bunch fresh thyme leaves chopped and stems reserved 2 bay leaves 2 teaspoons kosher salt teaspoon ground black pepper 2 cups fresh shelled green peas cup dry vermouth 1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic 1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley MATZOH BALLS 2 cups mineral or filtered water 3/4 cup schmaltz (chicken fat), or vegetable oil 1 teaspoons kosher salt 2 1/2 cups matzoh meal 1 teaspoons chopped fresh Italian parsley teaspoon ground ginger 7 eggs METHOD Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the chicken pieces and brown on all sides. Add the water, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon, reserve the poaching liquid, and when cool enough to handle remove the meat from the bones and set aside. Strain the poaching liquid to remove solids, reserving 8 cups, and set aside.* Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in the pot over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and carrots and sweat for 4 minutes, until tender. Tie the thyme stems together and add them to the pot with the bay leaves, salt and pepper. Add the chicken and reserved poaching liquid and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, partially cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, to make the matzoh balls, combine the water, schmaltz, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Gradually add the matzoh meal and stir with a wire whisk until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan. Stir in the parsley and ginger and mix well. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Reduce heat to low and cook for 25 minutes, stirring frequently. Drop the matzoh dough by heaping spoonfuls into the simmering soup. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Stir in the chopped thyme, vermouth, and garlic and heat through. To serve, remove the bay leaves and thyme stems, ladle the soup into bowls, and top with the chopped parsley. *To de-fat the stock, refrigerate for 1 hour, until a fat layer forms on the surface. Skim the layer of fat off the top and discard. CHEF GILLIGAN