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Mama Deb
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Knives and Fire XVII (Week Five)

More beef plus veal.

We began with our final kashrut lecture – this one was on the laws of cooking and Jews vs. non-Jews. Many Jewish laws, both Torah and, as in this case, Rabbinic, have one overriding reason – the separation of nations, both to preserve national identity and to prevent intermarriage. Sharing food is an intimacy. Sharing cooking is more so.

There are three kinds of “bishul” (cooking) – bread (any of the five grains – wheat, spelt, oats, rye and barley – ground to flour, and then baked), cooking (everything else) and milk, which isn’t cooking but is a special case.

Bread proved a special challenge because requiring it to be made by Jews (pas yisroel, Jewish bread) made a hardship. People could not find bread they could eat. So, they created the category “pas palter” – baker's bread. This is bread baked by anyone, but using kosher equipment and ingredients. Such bread may be eaten if pas yisroel is not available.

The next category did not allow for such leniency, although it does have leniencies. This is bishul yisroel vs. bishul akum (other.) Not all foods count for this - only foods usually served cooked that might be used on a royal table during a state occasion (royal foods.) So, baked potatoes, yes; potato chips, no. Carrots, no because they are often served raw.

But for Ashkenazi Jews, the solution is simple - have a Jewish person turn on the flames - light the ovens and the burners. Once this is done, there is Jewish involvement and all is well. For S'phardi Jews who follow the stricter (in this case) Beit Yosef, it's harder - an observant Jew must physically cook the food (or at least the meat) by putting it in the oven or on the grill, and turning it if necessary.

Then we have milk. Here, we're worried that the dairy farmer mixed milk from a non-kosher animal with the regular milk (given how hard it is to milk horses and pigs, I'm not sure why this would happen, but okay, fine.) If he's Jewish, we're not worried; if he has supervision, we're not worried. If there are no non-kosher animals, we're also not so worried, although supervision is still necessary. This supervised milk is called "cholov yisrael" and it should be preferable. However, most large dairy farms are also supervised by the USDA, who also don't permit mixing in non-kosher milk. And it was ruled in the fifties that such Cholov stam, produced on kosher equipment, was permitted. It's better to use cholov yisrael, and those who hold by that regard dishes used for cholov stam to be non-kosher, and so those of us who are cholov stam need to know this.

After this, we had more discussion of beef - methods of cooking, basically. If the meat is tender, any method would work, but dry heat is preferred. If the meat is tough or cured, moist-heat or combination (browning first and then cooking in liquid - braising or stewing) is best. Since most kosher cuts are tougher, wet cooking is important, as are other methods of tenderizing - pounding, marinating, or cutting correctly (across the grain.

With dry heat, especially roasting, temperature is important - the larger the piece of meat, the lower the temperature, although for a large piece of meat, it's good to start at a high temp to caramelize the outside before dropping down to a lower one. This cooks the large cuts more evenly and reduces moisture loss.

Chef also cut up another chuck - in this case, the chuck/shank of a veal. So, it was significantly smaller - the beef chuck coming from an animal over 4 times the size of the veal - and more tender because it is much young, and the flesh was white because it was milk-fed. The meat of animals allowed to graze turns red overnight. Poor thing. We took the tenderest parts and cut them, in a shallow diagonal, across the grain. We took these cutlets and put them between sheets of plastic wrap and pounded them gently.

After that, we made several kinds of veal dishes - veal marsala (with wine, demi-glace and mushrooms), veal piccata, with lemon and chicken stock, and veal francese, which floured and egged before being cooked. I made piccata, and it was yummy.

The method for the first two were about the same - the meat is very lightly floured and cooked in a hot pan with a very little fat until it was browned on both sides but still pink. The meat is then put aside, and items are added - onions, shallots, garlic, mushrooms - and cooked until done, and then the pan is deglazed with wine (off the stove, of course) and then there's stock and/or demi-glaze, and maybe lemon juice. This is all reduced until it's nappé and the meat added back, and cooked in the sauce until done. Then place the meat attractively on the plate, add the mushrooms (or lemon slice - both piccata and francese had a lemon slice in the sauce)and pour the sauce over everything. Maybe put on a bed of noodles.

The francese ws the same, but it was dipped into eggs *after* the flour. He also did one traditionally breaded - flour, egg, breadcrumbs,and one with sliced almonds (flour, egg, almonds.) He said that could be done with ground almonds and potato starch - so it could be used for Pesach.

May I just say ...

... how very much I'm enjoying your accounts of these classes?

I love veal piccata, but have never actually cooked veal myself. Perhaps I need to get more bold. (-:

Re: May I just say ...

Thank you!

It's very good, but veal has its own issues. I prefer turkey, actually.

"Palter" doesn't mean "permitted", it means "baker". "Pas palter", which is permitted, is bread produced for sale at a commercial bakery. Because buying a commercial product is less likely to lead to personal intimacy than is eating something cooked in someone's home, and because bread is a necessity of life, pas palter was permitted, though when pas yisroel (bread baked by a Jew) is available it is to be preferred. The permission does not extend to non-bread items, or to bread baked in a private home.

Thank you.

s/Beit Yaakov/Beit Yosef/

Thank you. Corrected.

Thank you for making me look up "piccata". For some reason I had thought it meant "with olives", and since I loathe olives I have avoided anything piccata. Now I know that it literally means "with stuff", and in practise it means "with a lemon and parsley sauce"; I have no objections at all to either lemon or parsley (though I notice that you didn't mention parsley in your description).

Chef doesn't like cooking with parsley - he likes it as a final garnish. In this case, we dipped the lemon slice in it. Very pretty. This can also be made with sage or capers.

And it is very good.

I'd just like to say that I've been really enjoying this set of entries. I'm not Jewish and I don't cook that much or that well, but I love all the bringing together of culture and religion and food in one place. And you obviously love what you're doing too. Thank you.

Thank you!

Hmmm -- I have no clear idea how to cook veal, and it's too expensive to ruin, so I never buy it. I envy you those classes.

I am also interested to know that (some? all?) cholov yisrael consumers consider cholov stam able to treyf dishes, and I wish I knew on what principle that works (presumptive treyf? I mean, at that point isn't it a safek sfeika?). I guess nobody who's that machmir is likely to eat at my house anyway, though!

The people who hold by cholov yisroel believe there is a strong chance that milk not milked or closely supervised by religious Jews would be contaminated by the milk of non-kosher animals. The rabbi yesterday said that in this case, there is no nullification of one in sixty, just like Pesach, so that chance would render cholov stam treif. And if they're treif, so are the utensils they touch.

I do not agree with this - I hold by Rav Moshe and cholov stam - but I respect it.

Ah. OK. Not my view either, but, yes, it follows. How (or, more precisely, in what degree) to keep a kosher kitchen drives me crazy enough; keeping a kosher restaurant seems a tremendous challenge, precisely because then it does matter that as many people as possible are willing to eat what you've prepared.

What one does is contract with a supervising agency, who provides a mashgiach (a person, usually a rabbi, to supervise the kitchen and perform any halachic actions, like checking vegetables and any kashering). Kosher consumers all have at least some idea on how strict each agency is in terms of kashrut and use that knowledge to choose a restaurant, among other criteria. Any questions/differences between cooks and mashgiach should be referred to the agency as the final word.

There is no such things as "cholov stam". There's cholov yisroel, which is kosher, and cholov akum which is not. Cholov akum is treif, and any pot in which it was cooked is treif. End of story.

The only question is how to regard the commercial milk that we buy today, in sealed containers, in the supermarket. R Moshe Feinstein, in a series of teshuvot, developed a theory under which they count as cholov yisroel. If one accepts his theory as valid, then that milk is just as kosher as the milk from the Jewish firms. However, R Moshe himself, despite being confident enough of his reasoning to publish it, also advised that one who is careful with mitzvot should not rely on such a novel leniency. He himself did not rely on it, and he advised people to go out of their way to obtain "real" cholov yisroel if it's available, and to spend as much as $100 a year extra on this. He also ruled that since it is the job of Jewish schools to teach children to be careful in mitzvot, and not to rely on every leniency that comes along, schools must spend the extra money to provide "real" cholov yisroel.

Now if one accepts R Moshe's view completely, then commercial milk is cholov yisroel and therefore completely kosher; avoiding it is merely a recommended stringency. But if one rejects it, then commercial milk is just as treif as any cholov akum, and it makes pots in which it was cooked treif, just as any cholov akum does.

Where middle ground exists is with people who don't completely accept Reb Moshe's reasoning (lechatchila), but don't completely reject it either. They're not sure; maybe he was right, but maybe he wasn't. They won't drink commercial milk, because it might be treif. But when it comes to pots, that have probably not been used within a day, Reb Moshe's stance may be enough, in combination with all other considerations, to permit food cooked in them.

There's a further consideration: the classic case of the Benei Rhenus, the Rhineland Jews. There is a certain piece of fat that most authorities consider to be chelev, and therefore strictly forbidden. But there was one rishon (Rabbenu Yoel, if I recall correctly) who permitted that particular piece of fat, and in the Rhineland there were many who followed his opinion and ate it. The Shulchan Aruch rules that one may eat at the home of such Jews, without worrying that anything they cook in a fleishig pot may be treif. They are not to be regarded as flouting the laws of kashrut, and therefore inherently unreliable; they are following a legitimate opinion, though minority one, and are therefore part of the kosher-keeping community. As for their pots, one may rely on the assumption that they weren't used within 24 hours. The same logic surely applies to those who rely on R Moshe's leniency for commercial milk, even if one doesn't accept that leniency at all.

The rabbi (from O-K labs) who gave the lecture used the term Cholov Stam. *shrug*

Yeah, people do use that term, unfortunately. But it creates the impression that there is a third halachic category for milk, and there just isn't. At the OU conference I attended two years ago, the rabbi who spoke about this topic (I think R Avrohom Gordimer) suggested using the terminology "type A cholov yisroel" for "classic" CY, and "type B cholov yisroel" for commercial milk. But of course that presumes that type B is CY, and merely of a less desirable type. R Moshe's own term for this milk was "chalav hacompanies".

Thanks - that's very helpful. I was fairly sure that I had met people who preferred cholov yisrael but were willing to eat at houses and restaurants that didn't, but I wasn't sure how that opinion worked, either; now at least I have the general idea (and I rather like it).