|Cooking Ahead of Time for the Holidays|
by Guest Columnist & KosherEye Friend Hadassah Milner
As I write this I am still in lazy, hazy days of summer mode. The kids are all looking forward to going back to school (I can dream) and I know I must turn my thoughts to the upcoming holidays. I wanted to work out just how many meals I would need to serve over the month of Tishrei – what with Rosh Hashanah, the meals before and after Yom Kippur, and Sukkot. But that tally would be overwhelming, so I stopped.
When you are busy and you don’t have time immediately before the holidays to cook you need to plan ahead. There are many dishes that can be frozen and defrosted in time for the holiday meal with no one knowing that they came from the freezer. You have a spare hour or two here and there? Use it wisely.
The first important thing to do is to plan your meals. This way you do not end up cooking too much or too little. Don’t forget to allow yourself to use leftovers occasionally – for example, using leftover chicken for a light chicken salad.
Gefilte fish – this freezes well. Whether you boil it or bake it or make it from scratch – make a large batch and send to the freezer. Defrost 24 hours before serving.
Chicken Soup – we all know that we cannot have any holiday meals without this staple. Make a large pot one Sunday when you are waiting for the laundry to finish. This chicken soup (and the matzah balls) freezes well, just add a cup of water when boiling it back up from the freezer, otherwise it may taste too salty.
Personally I don’t like preparing chicken ahead of time – somehow I find that it doesn’t taste as good from the freezer. However, I do sometimes prepare dishes to be cooked – I pour my marinade over the raw chicken and freeze it, and remove it from the freezer and just cook it 30 – 45 minutes longer than the recipe calls for. Also, if you are making breaded cutlets, you can prepare them (dip in egg and breadcrumbs) and freeze on parchment paper in Ziplocs to be popped out of the freezer so you can quickly fry them up – no muss, no fuss.
When I am planning on serving a brisket or a roast, and as we all know they take forever and a day to cook, I will cook it till it is three quarters done. If you cook it all the way, and then freeze, and then reheat it has the possibility of getting dried out. I will remove it from the freezer the day before I plan to serve it. The day I serve it, I will cook it the final 1/4, or if my oven isn’t at that high heat, I will pop it in before shul and just leave it there until lunch.
We go through a lot of potatoes over the holidays. Most of the time in the form of potato kugel and roast potatoes. My friend Sharon shared her Simple Potato Kugel recipe with me years ago – it’s so easy, so delicious and also works well for Pesach. Whenever I make this, I triple or quadruple the recipe and freeze. Also, in the side dish vein, my Cranberry Cobbler is divine when fresh and hot, room temperature, or even reheated from the freezer.
I go through pounds and pounds of onions. Almost every dish I cook calls for at least one sliced or diced onion. When I have a free 30 minutes, I go into a slice and dice frenzy. Ziploc baggies are your friend. Chop up the onions and separate into baggies, and freeze. This way you can just remove a baggie from the freezer and add to your recipe. Sometimes, I will brown some onions and freeze them this way too.
One important tip to remember is to label everything you put in the freezer. My Sharpie gets almost as much use as my favorite chopping knife. It’s an even bigger help if you can also label the container with which meal it will be served. Just another quick step to make your life easier.
If you are serving some dairy meals – pasta dishes like Baked Ziti or Lasagna freeze extremely well – cooked or not.
The important thing to remember is to plan ahead, take a deep breath and remember that it will all get done!
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