By Tina Wasserman
Passover might have the four questions that are open for discussion but this Rosh Hashanah has only one, and it is rhetorical: Why is this year different from all other years? For me it is not rushing to get to services, not sitting near many of the people I feel very close to, not looking for those acquaintances that helped shape who I am from those days 35 years ago when I started volunteering and giving back to my community. And, yes, this year I will not be feeding and hugging the hundred people who have touched my life in the best possible way. But the Holy Days are here and we still need to give thanks for many things that occurred this year and still need to pray for a year that is filled with hope and understanding for ourselves and our country. AND we still need to share a festive meal even if it is only with friends on Zoom like you might have done on Passover.
Despite the lack of numbers to feed, there are certain foods that you will miss if you don’t eat them for Rosh Hashanah this year. No eating a baked potato with cottage cheese in your sweatpants! Set the table, wear something you haven’t put on for a while and enjoy some food that you have prepared in advance that you can also freeze portions of for weeks to come.
Here are some of my tips and recipes for classic holiday foods that can be made in advance so that you can leisurely watch your services online and not worry if you are overcooking the kugel.
I wish you all a healthy, contented and sweet New Year!
You probably know that brisket tastes best if you cook it the day before — but did you know that it can still taste great prepared weeks in advance? Just make sure that once you’ve prepared the brisket, you separate the meat from the gravy. Leave the meat whole and place it in a freezer bag or plastic wrap. Freeze the gravy in a separate container.
Tina’s Tidbit: When using a freezer bag, place a straw in a partially closed bag and suck out all the air through the straw until you see the bag collapse around the contents of the bag. While still sucking, pull the straw out and completely seal the bag. This will help to protect the flavor and consistency of all your frozen foods.
When it’s almost time to eat, defrost the meat and the gravy, slice the meat and combine with the gravy before reheating in a microwave. Whatever you do, don’t reheat your brisket in the oven! The oven will make it dry and overcooked.
Strained of all meat and vegetables, chicken soup can be refrigerated for up to one week or frozen.
Tina’s Tidbit: Freeze the meat without skin and bone, and use it to make the best, most flavorful chicken salad you’ve ever had.
Whether you make it as a loaf or rolled into balls, gefilte fish freezes beautifully. Freeze the loaf right in the pan. Freeze shaped balls on a baking sheet, and once frozen, remove and place in a freezer zip-lock bag, then return to freezer. Shortly before you’re ready to eat, defrost it in the refrigerator. I once ate previously frozen gefilte fish 7 months after it was made and it tasted just as good as the first time.
Teiglach is that beautiful tower of crisp dough balls cooked in honeyed syrup that can be tough to get just right. For many of us, when we attempt to make this dish we end up with undercooked dough or overcooked, hard syrup. Here’s a foolproof solution: Bake the teiglach balls in advance and freeze them. When you’re ready to assemble, which can be two to three days before you’re ready to eat, defrost the balls, make the syrup and assemble.
Kreplach are more than just Jewish dumplings. It’s traditional Rosh Hashanah food because it’s sealed, signifying our hopes for being sealed in the Book of Life. Once you’ve prepared your kreplach, freeze them on a parchment lined baking sheet, and then remove kreplach and place in a freezer bag. No need to defrost; simply place frozen kreplach directly into soup and heat until soup is hot and kreplach are warm.
Asparagus season is almost over, so Rosh Hashanah is a great opportunity to get your fix in until next summer. Blanch your asparagus in boiling salted water for two to three minutes until bright green, remove from hot water and place in a bowl of ice water to set the color. Once finished, drain and wrap in paper towel. Refrigerate for up to five days. To eat, either serve cold or reheat in the microwave.
Planning on grilling or oven roasting additional vegetables for your Rosh Hashanah dinner? Make them three to four days in advance and refrigerate them. Serve at room temperature, or heat them up in the microwave before serving.
If your kugel has enough eggs to bind the ingredients, once completely cooked and cooled you can freeze in an airtight container. Defrost slowly in the refrigerator and reheat in a 325-degree oven. If you like your kugels edible, be sure not to reheat them in a microwave!
Here are four recipes that are my bare-bones basic must-haves for Yontiff. You might not consider Teiglach on your list but it is from my youth and I bring it to Adlene Harrison each year because it’s on her list as well!
- 1 4-5 pound fowl or yearling (soup chicken); roaster will do
- 5 quarts water or water to cover
- 1 parsnip, peeled and cut into thirds (optional)
- 1 large onion, peeled but left whole (pierce with a knife a few times)
- 1 turnip, peeled and left whole
- 2 stalks celery with leaves cut into thirds
- 3 or more carrots, peeled and sliced into 1-inch lengths
- Fresh dill, 3 or more sprigs to taste
- Fresh parsley, 3 sprigs or more if parsnip isn’t being used
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Cut the chicken into pieces. Place pieces in a large soup pot and cover with water.
- Bring the water to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes, skimming the top of the liquid of all the brown foam.
- Add the remaining ingredients and cook over low heat until the chicken is quite tender and the vegetables are soft, about 2 to 3 hours.
- Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon. Discard the dill and parsley. Remove the vegetables to nibble on and save the carrot for later use in the soup. Strain the soup so that it is nice and clear.
- Place the soup in a clean pot and add the carrots. Heat until nice and hot. Serve as is or with precooked matzo balls or kreplach.
• Always cut up your chicken before making soup; you expose more of the interior of the meat to the water and will produce a much richer-flavored soup.
• Even if you don’t keep kosher, use kosher chickens or organic chickens to make the soup. I once made this recipe in a friend’s home using a well-known non-kosher chicken. The chicken shrank in half because it had been plumped with water, and the soup tasted like the chicken “ran” through it!
• An alternative to clear soup is to remove the vegetables and herbs from the broth and then re-combine the vegetables with the broth in a blender until the mixture is opaque and creamy.
There’s a famous Yiddish song that says, “Monday a potato, Tuesday a potato… and for Shabbat a potato Kugel!” Whole books with variations have been written about Kugel as well. As they should since a Kugel, or pudding, was an inexpensive way to bulk up an ingredient like potatoes or carrots to fill up a family. If your grandmother fried her onions first, do so. If mushrooms and carrots were added in your family’s Kugel, go ahead. This is a delicious, proportionately correct Potato Kugel for you to enhance to your liking.
- 6-8 large potatoes, raw
- 3 eggs, beaten well
- 1 tablespoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- ½ cup matzo or cracker meal
- 1 medium onion, grated
- ¼ cup oil or rendered chicken fat
- Wash and grate the raw potatoes by hand or in a processor fitted with the grating disc; there is no need to peel potatoes. Place potatoes in a strainer, rinse with cold water and drain well.
- Grate the onion as you did the potatoes. If you are using a processor, change to the cutting blade, add ¼ of the grated potatoes to the onion and pulse on and off to make a coarse paste. Add to the grated raw potatoes in a large bowl.
- Add the eggs and the remaining ingredients including the ¼ cup oil or chicken fat.
- Oil a 2-quart casserole, and pour potato mixture into the prepared pan. Drizzle an additional tablespoon of oil over the top of the mixture and lightly spread with your hand to distribute the oil.
- Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 45 minutes or until top is crisp and golden.
• Potatoes absorb a great deal of salt, so more salt than you would normally need must be added to make your Kugel taste right.
• The reason potatoes discolor is the oxidation of the potato starch in the tuber. If the potato is rinsed well and drained, your Kugel will not be gray on the inside.
• Never grate your onion with your potato because when you drain the mixture you will lose a great deal of the onion flavor.
Classic Pot Roast
The title says it all! This is the basic way to make a rich-tasting pot roast whose gravy just begs for that mound of mashed potatoes, potato kugel or Kasha Varnishkes to soak up the gravy. Besides, this is the way my mother always made it! Enjoy!
- 1 4-5 pound piece of brisket or chuck roast
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 2 large onions
- 1 teaspoon of salt or to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste (about ¼ to ½ teaspoon)
- 1 teaspoon or more garlic powder (or 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh garlic)
- Slice the onions in half lengthwise and then slice each half into thin strips.
- Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven for 30 seconds. Add the sliced onion and sauté over moderately hot heat until the onions are very dark but not yet burnt.
- Wash off the meat and pat dry. Add to the large pot and sear on all sides. (Searing adds flavor to the gravy and helps prevent the meat from drying out.)
- Sprinkle the meat with the salt, pepper and garlic powder and add enough water to almost cover the meat.
- Cover the pot and bring the liquid to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cook the meat until the gravy has reduced — it will be thin but will be richly flavored — and the meat is tender. Check for seasonings. Remove the meat and cool the meat and the gravy separately.
- An einbrenne of 2 tablespoons melted margarine to which 2 tablespoons of flour has been added and browned may be added to the gravy if a thicker gravy is desired.
- Slice the meat when it is cool. If you have the time, chill the meat before slicing because cold meat is easier to cut, and then return the meat slices to the gravy to be reheated and served.
• Pot roast got its name from the fact that it was cooked long and low in a pot and not in the oven. Brisket was not always the meat of choice because it was expensive, but slow cooking makes even the toughest meat tender, especially if you slice it against the grain.
• Although I rarely give you a recipe with garlic powder as an ingredient, this recipe calls for it so that the garlic flavor permeates the dish without adding a bitter, burnt garlic flavor.
• The rich color and taste of the gravy are directly proportional to the length of time the onions are cooked. If you make a pot roast and deem it “tasteless,” there’s a good chance that you were in a rush and didn’t take the time to brown the onions sufficiently and the final product was bland.
• This dish, like most meat dishes, tastes 10 times better the next day, not to mention the fact that the meat is much easier to slice cold.
• Potatoes and carrots could be added to the gravy during cooking if you like.
I remember signs in bakery windows before the High Holidays that implored patrons to place their orders for Teiglach early. Sitting around the table after all the guests left and pulling at the sticky balls of dough was so much fun and stays in my memory today.
- 3 eggs
- 3 tablespoons oil
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2½ cups flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ginger
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 pound wildflower honey (any honey is OK but wildflower is the best)
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon ginger
- 1 piece of orange zest, 2 inches long, ½ inch wide
- 1 cup toasted hazelnuts
- ½ cup candied cherries or raisins
- Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
- In a small bowl combine the eggs, oil, water and vanilla and beat with a fork or whisk until light and combined. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt, ginger and baking powder.
- Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir with a fork until well combined. Knead with your hands for a few minutes until dough is smooth and shiny. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes.
- Roll out small balls of dough into long ½-inch-wide snakes and cut into 1⁄3-inch pieces. Roll dough pieces briefly in your hands to make balls and place them on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely or freeze until later use.
- When you are ready to complete recipe, combine the honey, sugar, orange zest and ginger in a heavy 3-quart saucepan and bring slowly to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add the teiglach balls, nuts and cherries or raisins to the honey mixture and stir to coat well. Place in a pie plate or individual tart tins mounded to form a pyramid.
• Balls of dough may be frozen after they cool and defrosted when you are ready to assemble.
• Always stir hot sugar syrup with a wooden spoon or heatproof silicon spatula. Metal will get too hot to handle and a plastic spatula will melt.
• This is not the year to pick at the tower of teiglach with your fingertips while sharing with others. Consider putting small servings in mini-muffin papers or cupcake papers so everyone can have a taste but not share germs.