Shavuot 2015

Mostly I’m cooking for dinners. We’re out for all the lunches.

Friday Night:

Saturday Night:

  • Cranberry BBQ chicken (only baked in the oven at 375 for an hourish)
  • Gingered Broccoli and Carrots (Moosewood Restaurant Favorites)
  • Roast potatoes
  • Apple and Pear Crumble

Sunday Night:

  • Corn and cheese casserole (Moosewood Restaurant Favorites)
  • Green beans with lemon zest dressing (Moosewood Restaurant Favorites)
  • Spanish rice (Moosewood Restaurant Favorites)
  • Cherry Clafoutis

I’m also making a tomato, watermelon and feta salad to bring to a lunch. Will post cookbook recipes later.

Confessions of a Jewish Bacon Lover

It’s all there in the title really. I love bacon. You don’t have to worry about the state of my kitchen – it’s still kosher. The bacon in question is cured beef belly from Grow and Behold.* The founder and CEO of this company was a classmate of mine from age three till high school, so I paid close attention to the various specialty products they were making – sausage, etc. When they introduced a bacon product that seemed to actually behave like bacon,*** I jumped at the opportunity to try it. Our first experience involved fried rashers of bacon and then eggs that had been scrambled in the fat. This made the eggs a bit too rich, but I knew that I could do a lot with this new product.

We joined a CSA the summer before we got married. This meant we ended up with a whole whack of interesting vegetables that Himself was not a big fan of. The first summer I mostly made frittatas out of the dark leafy greens or traded them for more of what the both of us would eat. The second summer, I turned to bacon. It turns out that Himself does enjoy greens properly removed of their bitterness, sautéed in bacon fat and served with bacon crispy bits. So we’ve been eating greens that way for the last few years now.

Bacon Sautéed/Braised Greens

Ingredients:

  • Dark Leafy Greens (kale, chard, collards)
  • Grow & Behold Beef Bacon (either thick cut rashers or chunks)
  • Lots of garlic
  • Chicken Stock
  • Lemon Juice
  • Red Pepper Flakes

Directions

  1. Cut the bacon into small pieces (lardons would be appropriate, I go for itty bitty chunks)
  2. Place them in a large sauté pan (that has a lid) over medium high heat to render out the fat
  3. When the bacon is crispy, remove to a small bowl. Leave the fat in the pan.
  4. If making chard, dump the chopped stems in the fat with some salt. If making hardier greens, skip this step as you will have thrown out the stems.
  5. Chop the garlic VERY fine. Throw it in the fat (with salt if not making chard) on low heat to gently cook the garlic.
  6. Deglaze the pan with chicken stock, scraping up all the lovely brown bits on the bottom of the pan.
  7. If making hardy greens, toss them in the pan now with some extra chicken stock and cover the pan. Cook the greens until soft. If making chard, toss the sliced leaves in the pan and crank the heat up to high. Cook until wilted.
  8. When the greens are soft and wilted, season with red pepper flakes and lemon juice. Stir the crispy bacon pieces back in.
  9. Serve to a grateful family.

*Purveyor of fine kosher happy** cows, chickens, lamb and ducks.

**By which I mean allowed to roam free as their natures move them and eat mostly grass, rather than crammed into barns and feedlots and served corn.

***Rather than beef fry, which doesn’t have the right kind of fat striations and mostly just winds up being curly and crispy and not quite good enough.

Shawarma From My Freezer

Himself is a huge shawarma fan, vastly preferring it over falafel every time we go out to our local Israeli joint. So when he saw this recipe on the New York Times website, he asked me to make it. I took a look at it and said “huh, I bet I could prep that ahead and freeze it.” I happened to have two packs of chicken thighs in the fridge that either needed cooking or freezing, so I took about 10 minutes* and prepped the marinade, dumped it over the chicken in a gallon Ziploc freezer bag and popped in my freezer.

Last night, I took it out of the freezer and put it in the fridge. I chopped up some broccoli and put it on a sheet pan with olive oil, salt and za’atar. I dumped the chicken on another pan and shoved it and the broccoli into a screaming hot oven. I won’t say that my whole house smelled like a Middle Eastern restaurant, but the inside of my oven sure did.

Upon eating it, Himself remarked that he “liked this better than he usually likes chicken thighs.” That’s because these (like the grilled ones I made sometime last year that he also liked) are cooked at an insanely high temperature. This is the way you should cook boneless, skinless chicken thighs so that they taste good. I enjoyed it as well, although less than I might have because I had a dentist visit today. Definitely will make again.

Not actually my chicken. Food stylists are much better at presentation than I am.
If you think this is my chicken, you overestimate my abilities a lot.

*It took me a bit longer than normal to prep the marinade because I ran out of ground cumin and had to grind some fresh from seeds in my mortar and pestle.

Failures

I wish I could say that every time I step into the kitchen, I make magic. But not every experiment is a successful one.

Himself bought some Magner’s cider a while back and decided he didn’t like it. We brought the remaining 4 bottles to Arisia where they didn’t get drunk. Someone suggested I use it to make cholent*, but I don’t make it often enough to justify using the cider. But I thought that it might make a good braising liquid for brisket.

So I bought a smallish brisket, seared it the way I normally do, deglazed the pan with cider, added some garlic and sliced onions and another bottle of cider, and put it in the oven at 200 to braise for a couple of hours. Afterwards I took it out and sliced it. I seemed a little tough, but I figured I’d braise it some more the next day, and it would spend some time in a 200 degree on Shabbat.

When we sat down to lunch today, the brisket was still tough**. I have no idea what went wrong, but I suspect that for such a thin liquid as cider, the meat needed to cook at a higher temperature. Next time I’ll mix the second bottle with some of my usual brisket braise (ketchup, brown sugar, some form of vinegar) and cook it at 350 for a hour before dropping the heat down. And then no more Magner’s.

 

 

 

*Slow cooked beef stew with potatoes, barley and often beans. Himself is not a big fan, so I don’t make it too much.

**We’ve been reading a lot of The Very Hungry Caterpillar with Monster lately.

Overnight Crock Pot Potatoes

This year at Arisia I attempted something new. Because one of our eaters is nightshade allergic, we can’t put potatoes in the beef stew. But it’s not a real Jewish shabbat lunch without slow cooked potatoes. So I tried cooking potatoes in one of our crock pots overnight. I started with this recipe, and fudged with it a bit. Here’s my version.

  1. Cut a bunch of baby potatoes into wedges. The amount will depend on the size of your crock pot and how many people you’re trying to feed. Dump these into the crockpot.
  2. Pour in a few tablespoons of olive oil. Don’t waste your fancy peppery extra virgin oil on this one.
  3. Take whatever fresh herbs you have in the house (I used rosemary, sage and thyme) and strip and chop the leaves and sprinkle them over the potatoes.
  4. ETA: Peel the bulk of a head of garlic. Throw in the cloves whole.
  5. Add salt to the pot. At Arisia we used rosemary salt, but any salt will do.
  6. Set your crockpot to low and cook overnight.
  7. Enjoy with friends.

Crock Pot Beef Stew for low FODMAPs Diets

Over the years, I’ve been perfecting this stew with the help of my good friend Merav Hoffman. It’s our traditional Arisia Saturday lunch, and this year I think we finally got it.

 

Ingredients:

  • Flanken. This is a cut of beef short rib that is a cross section of the whole piece, with wee pieces of bone studding the length. It should be heavily marbled with fat.
  • Carrots.
  • Butternut Squash
  • Turnips/Rutabaga (whatever is cheap at your grocery store)
  • Tabatchnik beef broth. This is the only store bought beef broth that is both kosher and safe for someone on a low FODMAPs diet. In theory you could use a homemade broth or stock, but I don’t love anyone enough to keep both chicken and beef stock on hand. If you don’t need nearly all alliums eliminated from your diet, you can use Manischevitz or Osem. In a pinch you can use water, but it won’t taste nearly as good.
  • Canola oil
  • Various seasonings

Directions:

  • Peel and chop all of your veggies into small chunks. If you were smart, you bought peeled and cut butternut squash.
  • Cut the long pieces of flanken into small chunks. Each chunk should have no more than one piece of bone in it. Some pieces may have no bones.
  • Get your biggest heavy bottom sauté pan or skillet. Heat a few teaspoons of canola oil in it.
  • Brown the pieces of flanken on both sides. Remove to your crock pot.
  • Deglaze your pan with some of the beef broth and dump this in the crock pot with the veggies and meat.
  • Add your herbs and spices. At minimum there needs to be salt and pepper.
  • Pour in your liquid until it’s about 3/4 – 5/6 the way up the side of the crock.
  • Set your crock pot to low and cook for 8 hours at minimum. Overnight is best. You’ll know it’s done when the house smells like really good meat.

Mission Insanity

My mission (and I chose to accept it) was to feed a group of kosher and shabbat observing Science Fiction and Fantasy fans over Arisia (a regional convention) in a hotel. My tools were 2 six quart crockpots, one 20 cup rice cooker, one 36 quart cooler and two room refrigerators in a hotel suite. Knives and cutting boards were also provided.

Mission parameters:

  • One hot meal and one cold meal served every day
  • Feed two adults on a low FODMAPs diet
  • Feed one set of five year old twins, a two year old and our Monster
  • Successfully feed the rest of a group of adults ranging in number from 8-14

Meals Served:

Friday Night Dinner: cooked chicken (regular BBQ sauce, HFCS free BBQ sauce and a cobbled together Asian marinade), oven roasted vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower and green beans), rice and green salad.

Saturday Lunch: Beef Stew (browned flanken, butternut squash, turnips, carrots and beef broth), crock pot roasted potatoes, rice, roasted vegetables and green salad.

Saturday Dinner: make your own sandwiches. Deli, sliced cheese and tunafish provided, along with pickles and chips.

Sunday Lunch: make your own sandwiches.

Sunday Dinner: crock pot Maple Mustard Chicken (mix maple syrup, dijon mustard and rice vinegar until it tastes right*), roasted vegetables, rice and green salad.

Monday Lunch: Please make our food go away.

This catering operation involved multiple Costco and grocery runs, spilled flanken and broth all over my kitchen floor, oil splashed in my closed eye and a whole lot of stress. I do feel that it paid off, but next year this process will require retooling.

Everyone ate well, including those with complicated diets. We overbought some on deli and overbought A LOT on salad greens and vegetables. At the convention, there was a small mishap with the rice cooker, but otherwise everything went pretty smoothly. I will probably keep using this particular loose formula for maple-mustard chicken because it came out really well.

 

 

* Somewhat like a honey mustard, only more mustard forward and without honey.