Your day was going fine. You and your spouse got home from work, mixed up some gin and tonics and were just about to dig into Chinese takeout. And then you get hit with the question.
Should we host Passover this year?
No, anything but that question. You drop your cocktail. An image of your mother-in-law shaking her head from across the Passover seder table immediately looms. Yes, you two did just fine executing the annual Hanukkah party last year, but that mostly involved standing in line for jelly donuts and buying some frozen latkes at Trader Joe’s. You don’t know the first thing about hosting a traditional Passover seder.
Before you make an Exodus and book a flight out of town, please consult our Passover hosting guide. With this handy checklist, you’ll become the baleboosta we know you were meant to be.
First: Pick A Haggadah
Everyone’s got their favorite. Your in-laws love their wine-stained, Hebrew-heavy, extra long volume. Your parents are devoted to their abbreviated, interpretative xeroxed version which includes the Marxist four questions. Your sister has a kid-friendly DIY printout with illustrations of today’s modern plagues. Your cousin just scored Midge’s Limited Edition Haggadah in honor of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (nice job, Maxwell House). Well, this is your Passover seder show. You decide. What story do you want to tell? There’s no wrong Haggadah.
Next Decision: The Passover Menu
Here are the big four questions. Do you need to be super traditional with Passover foods or is there some wiggle room to be more experimental? Will the family freak if they’re not served brisket? Must you gefilte? What’s everyone’s position on quinoa?
You’re a wise child. Whatever you piece together, we suggest focusing on dishes that can be made ahead and quickly re-heated or require a maximum of 15 minutes of pre-table preparation. This will allow you to actually be present for your favorite parts of the seder (those four cups of wine, debating what might happen to Midge and Joel in Season Three of Maisel, singing “Dayenu”), instead of running back and forth to the kitchen to check your molecular gastronomic take on potato kugel.
Once the main menu is finalized, make sure to stock up on a game-changing small-batch horseradish, horseradish so good, so fresh, it’ll bring tears to their eyes. Literally. And don’t skimp on Passover dessert. Break out your favorite flourless chocolate cake recipe, but also make sure to have some macaroons, pâté de fruit and other Passover-friendly treats on the dessert table for the noshers. You know who they are.
Ready, Set: The Passover Table
You’re going to need a Passover seder plate. While you could borrow mom’s, now is the time to get your own. (Lean into adulting, you can do it.) Shop for a beautiful one you can stand to see alongside the artisan ceramics you made everyone buy off your wedding registry.
As a refresher, the items that you need to scavenge for and assemble on this newly acquired plate include: a roasted egg (beitzah), a bitter herb such as romaine or endive along with salt water dipping bowls (chazeret), a roasted lamb shank (z'roah), charoset (a mix of apple, dried fruits, nuts, and spices - ask Grandma for her recipe), parsley (karpas), and horseradish (maror). Usher the plate – and your relatives – into the 21st century and add an orange, which is used today to symbolize inclusion for the marginalized Jews. (Abe Weissman would be shaking his head.)
Don’t forget to break out the schmaltzy matzah cover Aunt Rose bought you back from her Jerusalem tour – seeing it atop your stack of three matzahs will make her sooooo happy. If it’s packed away in your storage unit, let it go. You can always use some swanky napkins.
Make the table even more modern and festive by setting out these stunning chocolate kermies at each place setting. Yes, the 2nd plague is now our favorite Passover treat. Don’t forget a set for Elijah and Miriam! (They can share, but make sure they each get their own cup of wine.)
Before You Break: The Afikomen
For most kids, the highlight of the Passover seder dinner comes after the meal – hunting for the afikomen. Give them more than a silver dollar and be the “cool relatives” who reward with unconventional treats like ten plague tattoos, glittery rainbow chocolate bark and chocolate “ungapotchkies.” Those, by the way, are so good you may want to have some on hand for Aunt Rose.
Time to go all out for this Passover dinner you’re about to host. Your mother-in-law? We know she’ll kvell. And maybe next year – you’ll get the rabbi!