It’s that time again — Purim is over, the costumes are away, and the shalach manot are almost gone! It is time to start using up the chametz and preparing for Pesach, as far in advance as is possible.
Many of the food customs of our grandparents are as gone as the dinosaurs. Take gefilte fish, for example. When I was a child, there was a fish in my grandmother’s bathtub. I am not sure it was swimming, just sort of slowly moving, but it was alive and had blinking eyes that I vividly remember. Somewhere between then and the first Seder, that fish became “gefilte.” Today we go to the supermarket and can choose from a dozen types of bottled, canned or frozen gefilte fish. I am confident that making homemade gefilte fish is a long forgotten activity.
Today, most moms work long, hard hours. Kids are in school and then tied up with after-school activities and sports. There is no time for a fish in the tub and, sometimes, very little time to prepare those foods we want to make.
So right now, I sit here with double pneumonia and wonder: how am I ever going to feed almost 40 people for the Seders? It seems the cold I caught three weeks ago was more than that. It seems to be a mini-epidemic. So I have been commiserating with friends and wondering, between coughs, how we are all going to make this work. But we will. With some planning.
Each year, I try to make some dishes ahead of time in a small corner of my kitchen that will be Pesach-ready by Monday. I can make my chicken stock, brisket, some stuffing recipes and desserts far in advance and freeze them for 2 to 3 weeks. No one is ever the wiser, and I save myself a lot of stress and work in the few days leading up to the holiday.
If you can, make some dishes in advance and remove some of the stress. You will be far more relaxed at and you may actually be able to sit and enjoy the Seder and your guests.
Chicken Stock for Soup (Meat)
I make this is a 12-qt. stockpot. I have also made it in a 16-qt. pot. Adjust ingredient amounts according to your pot size.
5 to 6 lbs. chicken frames
1 to 2 lbs. chicken necks
1 to 2 lbs. chicken wings
3 to 4 large onions with dark skin, only very outer skin peeled, ends trimmed
3 to 4 leeks, white and light green parts only
3 to 4 parsnips
2 bunch celery, no leaves
2 to 4 peppercorns
2 to 2-1/2 gallons spring water (tap water is fine also)
Place the chicken frames in the pot and press them down to break the bones and compact them a bit. Add the rest of the ingredients and then add water to fill the pot about 4/5 full. Bring to a boil, skim any foam, and reduce heat to simmer. Partially cover and simmer for several hours, adding more water as the liquid boils down. I cook this for about 6 to 7 hours.
Turn off the heat and let cool. Remove solids with a strainer, pressing down on the solids as they are removed. Discard solids. When you have removed all the solids you can with a strainer spoon, carefully pour the stock through a strainer into the containers you will use for freezing the soup. I use 2-1/2 qt. commercial non-BPA containers. Refrigerate overnight. Skim any fat in the morning and then freeze until needed for the holiday.
To make soup for the holiday, defrost in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days, bring to a simmer and add vegetables, and more chicken. I add a quartered pullet and lots of leeks and onions, celery and carrots. Cook for several hours. Makes about 8 to 11 qts. of stock.
Joni’s Signature Overnight Sweet and Sour Brisket (Meat)
I make a 10 to 12-lb. brisket and cook it overnight in a very low oven — 225 degrees. Tender and delicious.
8 to 11 lb. whole brisket
3 (or more) lbs. onions thinly sliced
1/8 to 1/4 cup minced garlic, less or more to taste
1/2 cup safflower oil, divided
1-1/2 cups dark brown sugar
1 cup white vinegar
1-1/2 to 2 cups ketchup
1 to 2 cups water
NOTE: I use two full steam table pans (doubled) for any large brisket. If the brisket it too big, cut off a large piece from the single end and cook it in a separate roasting pan for fewer hours. Don’t overcrowd the pan or it will spill over in the oven and create a mess.
Slice the onions (a food processor makes quick work of this).
Add half the oil to a large skillet and heat the oil for 10 to 15 seconds, over medium heat. Add half the onions and cook until the onions are golden. Add half the garlic and mix well. Stir until the garlic is translucent and fragrant, about 1 minute. Scrape into the roasting pan and spread over the bottom.
Place the brisket on top and adjust the meat to fit in the pan. Repeat with the rest of the oil and the onions and spread over the top of the meat. Let some fall over the sides.
In a large bowl, whisk the vinegar and sugar until smooth. Add the ketchup and water and whisk until blended. Ladle it over the meat. Make sure to leave at least a half-inch of space. You may not use all the sauce; refrigerate the rest for later use. Cover the brisket tightly with a double sheet of foil (I often lift the rim up a bit to add more height to the pan to avoid spilling over.) and place in a 325-degree oven.
For a very large brisket, 8 to 9 lbs. or more, roast for 1 hour. Reduce heat to 225 degrees and roast overnight for about 8 to10 hours.
For a smaller brisket, up to about 8 lbs., roast at 325 degrees for an hour and lower the heat to 300 degrees. Roast for several hours until the meat falls apart when gently pulled with a fork.
Carefully remove the pan from the oven and carefully lift a corner of the foil away from you to avoid a steam burn.
Test the meat and check the amount of liquid. If the pan needs more liquid, add the sauce from the fridge. If the meat is still tough, return to the oven and cook until the meat falls apart when gently pulled with a fork.
Let the meat cool and slice against the grain or break into pieces. Place in half steamer pans (I double them for stability) and fill with meat and sauce. Cover tightly with foil and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, wrap with 2 to 3 layers of foil and freeze. Can be frozen for 2 to 3 weeks. Thaw for 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator, add about 1/2 cup of water to each pan and heat in a 300-degree oven until heated through. Each pan should be enough to serve 8 to 12 people.
Blonde Brownie Chocolate Chip Bars (Dairy or Pareve)
6 large eggs, separated, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup safflower oil
1/2 cup almond flour
3/4 cup potato starch
1/4 tsp. salt
1 to 1-1/2 cups mini-chocolate chips, or chunks or a mix
OPTIONAL: 1 cup chopped walnuts, pecans or hazelnuts
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 by 13 pan. Set aside.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on low speed until frothy. Increase the speed and beat until very soft peaks form. Slowly add the half cup granulated sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
In another bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, brown sugar, vanilla and oil, until blended and smooth. Add the almonds, potato starch, and salt, and mix until blended. Add the nuts and chips and mix to blend evenly.
Gently fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture and pour into a 9 by 13 pan. Place in the center of the oven and bake for 60 to 70 minutes until golden. Let cool before cutting. Makes 12 to 24 bars. To store, line an airtight container with 2 pieces of plastic wrap crossed in the middle with long ends hanging over all four sides. Place the cut pieces in and cover tightly with the 4 flaps of plastic wrap. Seal the container and freeze for up to three weeks.