Holiday Entertaining

Roast Butterflied Chicken With Honey for a Sweet New Year

September 19, 2017

I grew up a Korean-American Presbyterian girl in New York’s lower Westchester county, in a town that was predominantly Irish and Italian-Catholic, but was also home to many Jewish-American families. I will always credit my best friend, Liz, who lived next door, for being my gateway into a lifelong exposure of Jewish culture: lighting candles on Hanukkah; accompanying her to temple where we’d chase each other (instead of her going to class); cracking up over Mel Brooks movies on our sleepovers; her trying to teach me to read Hebrew; how my first teaching job out of college was at a Hassidic preschool in Stamford, Connecticut.

As Morah Caroline, I taught children how to make challah, led brachas before meals, and kept Kosher in my professional life (while downing non-kosher everythings at her nearby apartment after work). The memories of being an “honorary member” of a Jewish family remain truly some of my happiest, and still make for the best times as an adult, right down to having a hora at my Korean-Presbyterian-Taiwanese-Colombian-Catholic wedding!

Since Liz was an only child, I was present for nearly every holiday meal. Rosh Hashanah dinners, unlike Passover seders, were a time when there would be more joys involved for the parents than just watching us kids running around to find the afikomen (and for the record, she always won). I can recall the smells of onions from the brisket, roast chicken that eventually made its way into matzah ball soup the next day, kugel, and topping the meal off with an apple-honey cake in hopes of a sweet new year. That was the part that has stuck with me—eating something with honey in hopes of a happy and sweet new year.

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Another thing I came to associate with Rosh Hashanah dinner—or any special occasion dinner, really—was the sight, scent, and taste of a whole-roasted chicken on a bed of vegetables, the warm scent of herbs permeating Liz’s house all day long, sometimes trickling over to our windows next door. As my parents usually cooked chicken in pieces, it felt like a rite of passage when I finally roasted my very first whole chicken for family and friends. I have the tendency to marinate my favorite roast chicken recipes with sweet herbs and honey, because I, too, have now come to associate honey with new beginnings, be it a year or a season.

I'm wearing a perfume of lavender. Photo by Bobbi Lin

To an assuming onlooker, one could say that both our heritages are completely different, and the contrast between us obvious. However, I can honestly say that one doesn’t have to look that closely to see the similarities. Just as Liz would happily nosh on the rice, dried seaweed, and mandoo my parents prepared at my house, the feeling was mutual when I’d be at her house, having whatever goodness her mother had from Zabar’s. It doesn’t make us all-knowing of each other’s cultures by any means, but it gave us truly the best introduction to each others’ lives and a lifelong best friendship.

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Top Comment:
“May only good things come your way for Rosh Hashana and always. I love your rite of passage! You are an excellent writer and of course a culinary master! Michele.”
— michele

Though Rosh Hashanah dinners with her family are now in my past, since we’ve gotten older and we no longer live next door to one another, I still find myself craving and making celebratory recipes during this time of the year. How great a concept it is, to be able to have an extension of different family and traditions that get to become your own. Making a roast chicken with honey is just one way I’ll continue to pay proper homage to such times, and I’ll always thank Liz and her family for letting me be part of theirs.

What are you making for Rosh Hashanah (or your next celebratory dinner)? Let us know in the comments!

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Avy
  • Janet Esterman
    Janet Esterman
  • michele
  • sexyLAMBCHOPx
  • Nikkitha Bakshani
    Nikkitha Bakshani
Caroline Choe

Written by: Caroline Choe


Avy September 21, 2017
Beautiful recipe! Where can I get this serving dish?
Nikkitha B. September 21, 2017
Right here!
Janet E. September 20, 2017
I enjoyed your article about your Rosh Hashana experience at Liz's house. It's amazing that it left a lasting impression on you.
I remember tasting Kimchi for the first time at your home. I think I ate it for a month straight.
Anyway,I can't wait to try your holiday recipe.
Hope all is well, and would love to see you again.
Janet Esterman
michele September 19, 2017
Hello dear Caroline. So proud of you! Thank you for a wonderful tribute. May only good things come your way for Rosh Hashana and always. I love your rite of passage! You are an excellent writer and of course a culinary master! Michele.
Author Comment
Caroline C. September 19, 2017
You too, Michele :) much love.
sexyLAMBCHOPx September 19, 2017
The timing of this recipe for Rosh Hashana is a tad late, don't you think? Like Christmas and Easter, Jewish holidays often require meal planning.
Nancy September 19, 2017
And negotiations with all the guests about who's bringing what. And shopping.
sexyLAMBCHOPx September 19, 2017
Yep. The Jewish holiday features on the site have always been an afterthought and often thrown in a day or so before the holiday. A tad insulting. Oh well.
Nikkitha B. September 19, 2017
Hi Chops. While Rosh Hashanah inspired Caroline's story, we hope you'll be able to use the recipe for a different feast if you're short on time. We posted a few recipes using apples and honey on Thursday; maybe some of them would be more useful to you this week:
sexyLAMBCHOPx September 19, 2017
Perhaps for a different feast, but it may have been more helpful to offer recipes using apples & honey (kinda laughing) before the holiday. My family menu is set so anything posted at this point, I guess is for another time. Try posting holiday recipe before the actual holiday. Shanah tovah.
DeadIrishWriters September 20, 2017
Really enjoyed the memory shared about lifelong best friends having the opportunity to share and celebrate each other's very different cultural experiences, this recipe being one example of that. Did 't see it as as a suggestion of upending an already planned holiday menu. I guess some people are only happy when they can passive-aggressively be critical of others, a tad annoying. Oh well.