While food is always a major part of any celebration, few holiday meals adhere so strictly to a set menu of dishes as Passover. The Jewish holiday celebrates the escape of the Hebrews from enslavement in Egypt, and is celebrated over the course of about a week. Passover is known in France as “la Pâque” or “la Pâque juive,” which literally translates to “Jewish Easter.” (“Easter” in French uses the plural, “Pâques.”)
The main meal eaten during Passover is known as the Seder, and involves several symbolic foods that are incorporated into the retelling of the Passover story. While some foods are always present, like the eggs that symbolize rebirth, or the matzo that recalls the quick escape of the Hebrews that left no time for leavening bread, other dishes can be tweaked to accommodate local customs or available ingredients.
There is a long, rich Jewish history in France, and it has left its mark on Passover foods served across the country, from Alsace to Provence. Here are a few Passover dishes served in France that could Frenchify your Passover seder. After all, how better to celebrate a holiday that calls for four glasses of wine over the course of the meal?
Provençal Veal Breast Stuffed With Swiss Chard
In lieu of a traditional brisket, many Jewish families in Provence make a veal breast stuffed with common ingredients from the south of France, like thyme, rosemary, tomatoes, and swiss chard. Try this recipe for an upgrade on your Passover roast.
Alsatian Matzo Kugel
Most people assume that the default base of Kugel, a Jewish casserole of German origins made from eggs, fat, and starch, are noodles, traditionally egg noodles. But in Alsace, on the French-German border, Matzo Kugel has been on the Passover Seder table for generations. This recipe subs in butter or vegetable oil for the traditional veal fat, but if you’re making the Provençal Veal Breast you might as well go whole hog on the veal.
Haroseth (also spelled charoset) is a paste of fruits and nuts eaten at Passover to symbolize the mortar used by the Israelites as they toiled making bricks for their Egyptian enslavers. It is often made from apples and walnuts, but this traditional recipe for Provençal Haroseth, which dates to the 13th century, uses raisins, apricots, figs, and chestnuts.
Brassados are another French-Jewish food from the South of France. These bagel-like rolls date back to antiquity and are sweetly flavored with anise, orange blossom water, or rose water, with their floral flavorings possibly inspired by Jewish perfumers in Grasse. While this recipe calls for flour and yeast, matzo meal can be substituted for a crunchier version, and instead of yeast, use baking powder. (Note: you will not need to let them rise, you will knead and go straight to the boiling water step.)
French Chocolate Cake
While Passover might not be your first association with flourless chocolate cake, it’s a rather popular dessert because grains and leavened breads are omitted from the Passover Seder. French chocolate cake, which goes heavy on eggs but uses very little flour, can be easily tweaked with matzo meal (or almond flour) to make it Seder appropriate, as in this recipe.
Catherine Rickman is a writer and professional francophile who has lived in Paris, New York, and Berlin. She is currently somewhere in Brooklyn with a fork in one hand and a pen in the other, and you can follow her adventures on Instagram @catrickman.