Mama Deb (mamadeb) wrote,
Mama Deb

Food porn and yom tov

Yom Tov cooking is, to say the least, challenging. Three-day Yom Tov cooking is even more challenging. To whit - I have to come up with six "festive meals", at least one of which must either cook quickly or reheat well and two of which must conform to Shabbat cooking laws. And any cooking done during the holiday must be done without the aid of any small appliances and only with items already in the house because you can't buy anything even if the stores are open. Which they aren't. For three days.

1. You can't start fires. You can only transfer flames.

This means that if you have an electric stove or your gas stove doesn't have a pilot light, you have to adapt. Electric stove users *must* keep two burners, one high, one low, on constantly, and they have to decide which temperature they want their oven set on for the whole holiday.

Gas stove users - if you have a pilot light, it's easy, as all you're doing is making a flame larger or smaller. You can cook as usual. Most stoves don't have pilot lights anymore. They have electric ignition instead. There are a couple of solutions. One is to keep two burners on. Many rabbis permit raising and lowering flames, so these burners can be adjusted, but they must be on all yom tov. Ovens, therefore, can be kept on "warm", which means there is a a flame going and one can adjust up or down. Some rabbis permit one to turn off burners because one is permitted to remove fuel from a fire. That the fire will go out eventually, or even immediately, is immaterial. This is the opinion I follow. To light my burners, I keep a long burning candle and use fireplace matches to transfer the flame to the pilot light, or my yom tov candles or whatever else needs lighting. Then I hold the matches until they go out naturally, as I'm not permitted to extinquish flames unless it's life threatening.

Newer models of stoves will shut off if left on for more than 24 hours. Some of these stoves have a "Sabbath mode" to override this shut off.

2. You cannot prepare on a holiday for the next day, even if the next day is a holiday. Holiday candles for day two cannot be lit until full dark. Can't even set the table. So food for the second night has to be prepared in advance and reheated *or* it has to cook quickly because you don't want to eat your holiday dinner at 10PM. This creates a big problem for a Friday Yom Tov, because you *have* to prepare for Shabbat in advance. Everything must be done before the day officially changes, including lighting the Shabbat candles. So we make something called an "eruv tavshilin" before y om tov starts - we set aside two items of cooked food, traditionally a roll and a hard boiled egg, with a blessing and the intention of using them for Shabbat. We have therefore begun our Shabbat preparations and we may continue them. This time, I set aside a roll and a container of shelled pistachios. Because that's what I had.

I thought I had it in hand. Wednesday afternoon, I had a lasagna for Thursday night already in the fridge, and I had the pot of stuffed peppers (a complete improvisation) and the pan of sweet potato kugel cooking nicely, as well as the ginger/garlic chicken for Wednesday night's dinner. I knew what I was making for Shabbat, and all was going well.

And then. As I was stepping out of the shower at 5:30, I realized something. I forgot to get my steaks and such for Friday lunch. Friday was Jonathan's Hebrew birthday, and we had a guest and I always make steak for that meal. And now I had a guest coming and nothing planned. The stuffed peppers were going to a friend's house. The lasagna was going to feed four of us Thursday night and I didn't anticipate leftovers. (I was right.) I I had one quartered chicken cooking and another one in the fridge. Eight quarters. Each quarter equals one serving. I needed nine.

Panic time, especially since Yom Tov was coming in less than an hour and all the stores were closed anyway. I ran to the freezer (yeah, straight from the shower) to see what we did have. A frozen turkey carcass. A package of turkey meat. Various Italian sausages, both sweet and spicy (and no peppers or mushrooms, without which I will not make a spaghetti sauce) and. Ah ah! A whole boneless chicken breast. A bag of frozen spinach. I knew I had eggs and onions and garlic, and I always have pasta unless it's Passover. I could manage.

First Day

So. Wednesday dinner: vaguely Oriental chicken, salt and pepper noodle kugel (store bought), freshly steamed broccoli. Next time, I marinate the chicken in the garlic and ginger instead of just pushing it under the skin.

Thursday lunch: I put the pot of stuffed peppers (I used my standard meat loaf recipe of ground beef, matzo meal, grated onion, an egg and spices, plus a bit of tomato sauce to stuff eight large, squat green peppers. I'd been requested to not use rice. I put them in a pot with some oil, and then to a larger pot with some oil. I covered the peppers with chopped onions, the rest of the small can of tomato sauce and a large can of whole tomatoes that I squoshed. And I let that simmer.) and the pan of sweet potatoe kugel (I peeled and cubed eight sweet potatoes, boiled them and mashed them with allspice, salt, a couple of eggs and honey, and baked them in a 9x9 pan.) in a low oven to warm while we were at shul. When we got home, we loaded the food into my shopping cart,covered it with an old tablecloth and took them to our friends' house.

Next time, I use more sweet potatoes, but Jonathan requested I make the stuffed peppers again. No leftovers except the gravy and I let J keep that.

Second Day
Thursday night - feeding my older brother and his younger brother. The lasagna reheated well and tasted good. I also had a green salad (from a bag, with chopped red onions and homemade vinaigrette) and a fruit cup for dessert. No leftovers.

I took the chicken breast out to thaw.

Friday morning, I did not go to shul. Instead, I made chili-lime chicken and rice. To make chili-lime chicken, you take a large amount (4 tablespoons, more?) of chili powder, and mix it with the juice and zest of a lime, plus some oil until you get a paste. You slide the paste under the skin of, preferably, a chicken cut in eighths, but mine was in quarters and I didn't feel like butchering. I can, mind you. Any paste left over can be spread on top of the skin. Bake in a hot oven. When the brown basmati rice came to a boil, I put it in the oven, too. I also made a fast tuna salad with yellow onion, Italian seasoning and mayonnaise. When our guest came, I put up a pot of frozen peas and mixed veggies to heat. I served the tuna in bowls lined with green salad.

Then it was time to cook for Shabbat. (Yeah, I did spend most of the holiday cooking.) And this time, I had to make the meal out of, essentially, nothing. Well, out of pantry stuff, I guess. I'd already taken the spinach out to thaw. I put up a pot of water for macaroni. Then I cut up two onions - one yellow and one red. The red onion had a soft spot, but I cut that out. Limited resources and all. I sauted the onions in olive oil with a couple of cloves of sliced garlic. I also added coarsely ground pepper, allspice and, in the end, a splash of balsamic vinegar. Meanwhile, I squoze the water out of the thawed spinach, and mixed it with matzo meal, salt, pepper and allspice, plus shelled pistachio nuts (the ones I'd set aside, actually). When the onions were cooked, I mixed them in, and then added two eggs. It wasn't a huge amount, and I didn't want it to dry out, as it would in a 9x9 pan, so I greased a foil loaf pan with margarine and poured the mixture into that, and slid it into the oven. By this time, the water had boiled and I added the macaroni. I sprinkled the saute pan with pepper and sauted the chicken breast, which I'd divided into two, removed the tenders and beaten with the meat hammer until it was just brown on both sides.

I drained the macaroni, dancing around my husband, who was making a thermos of strong coffee for Shabbat, and poured it from the colander into a casserole dish over margarine, salt and pepper and mixed it. I put the chicken fillets on top of this and covered the dish. 20 minutes before Shabbat, I turn the oven down to 200F and slid the casserole into the oven.

The spinach kugel came out so good I will make it again - next time, it'll be larger and I think I'll use pine nuts instead of pistachios, and the chicken breasts did not dry out, plus the macaroni got flavored by the chicken.

Lunch was macaroni, spinach kugel and the leftover Oriental chicken from Wednesday night.

Three yom tovs down, one to go.

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