It’s time to get serious about cooking for the holiday. At the same time, school is starting, summer is ending and we really want to get those Labor Day barbecues in. And don’t forget primary election day right after Labor Day, and the day school starts and more chaos and scheduling stress.
If the weather is hot, no one wants to have an oven running all day. And, since most people do not cook on the holiday itself, early preparation is a must. But what foods can be prepared ahead of schedule, frozen and reheated to such perfection that no one knows the difference?
The truth is that lots of foods cook, freeze and reheat beautifully. Brisket especially freezes well, as do short ribs and flanken. I’m not a fan of freezing whole chickens, but I make a chicken and braised shallots dish that freezes beautifully because it uses boneless, skinless chicken thighs and breasts and has a rich sauce that covers the chicken to keep it moist.
You can also freeze stuffing casseroles and potato kugels — as long as you add a bit of oil to crisp the kugels when reheating.
Chicken stock freezes beautifully, as does chicken soup, but don’t add the veggies until the time when you will be refrigerating and reheating, as frozen carrots turn very mushy.
I always make beef stock before the holiday and reduce it from about 10 quarts to about 1-2 quarts. Then I freeze it and, when I need to use it, I add about 2 to 4 tablespoons per cup of water. It works perfectly. This method also controls the amount of salt you use as opposed to canned or bottled stocks, which tend to be high in sodium.
When it comes right down to it, you can make many dishes ahead of time and just make salads, veggies, and some potato dishes nearer to the actual holiday date. This year, the peaches have been phenomenal, so I am thinking of ways to incorporate them into my make-ahead dishes. I already have a peach pie in the freezer. It’s my way of bringing the summer into the holiday.
A holiday, even one as important and celebratory as Rosh Hashanah, does not mean that we have to exhaust ourselves in the days leading up to the holiday. We need to plan for do-ahead dishes and then relax and enjoy our family and friends. That is what is most important as we welcome the New Year.
Brisket with Peaches and More (Meat)
This recipe came to me from a friend, and then I saw similar ones in books, blogs, and friends’ tables! Each was a bit different, but all included garlic and peaches — an interesting combination. It incorporates summer’s best with the heat of garlic in the tradition of a holiday brisket. I roasted lots of garlic for this and it was delicious.
3 heads garlic, cloves removed
1 double brisket, 4 to 5 pounds — single will also work
3 large onions, peeled, cut in half, and thinly sliced
2 to 6 carrots, peeled and sliced — as many as you like
4 to 6 cups beef stock, low sodium
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
6 to 7 cups thinly sliced fresh peaches, firm but ripe, about 8-12 slices per peach
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 to 3 fresh or dried bay leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Roast the garlic by placing the cloves and enough canola oil to cover in a small, heavy saucepan. Heat over low heat until the cloves turn golden and are very soft. Stir often to keep the cloves from sticking. When done, remove from heat and let cool.
Heat a large, deep Dutch oven and add 2 Tbsp. of the garlic oil. Sear the brisket on both sides, 5 to 7 minutes per side. Remove to a platter.
Add a bit more garlic oil if needed and add the onions. Cook until golden brown, but not caramelized. Add the carrots and cook another 5 minutes to barely soften the carrots. Add all the cooked garlic cloves and heat through.
Add the beef stock, brown sugar, vinegar, bay leaves, and cinnamon. Stir well to loosen any browned bits. Add four cups of the sliced peaches and mix. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and carefully add the brisket. If the liquid does not cover the meat, add more. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a medium simmer and cook until the brisket is very tender — 3 to 4 hours. Turn the meat often and add more beef stock if needed.
When done, remove the bay leaves and discard. Transfer the brisket to a cutting board and let rest. Press the liquid, with about half carrots and onions and all the peaches —use a spoon to capture them — through a coarse strainer (I used a colander) into a pot.
Bring the liquid to a boil and reduce the heat to simmer. Cook until reduced and syrupy. Taste and add vinegar, brown sugar or stock, salt and pepper. Add the remaining peaches and cook another 5 to 7 minutes to heat the peach slices.
If freezing, let cool and slice the brisket. Place with the sauce in a freezer safe container. To serve, defrost in the refrigerator for two days, reheat in a tightly covered casserole in a 300-degree oven, adding some water if needed. Serves 10+.
Chicken with Peach and Shallot Sauce (Meat)
This freezes beautifully. The sauce will stay in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, so you can make this up to a week ahead, or freeze the sauce in a separate container.
4 to 5 fresh, ripe peaches, thinly sliced, skin removed
3 to 4 Tbsp. Canola oil
1 large onions, diced
10 to 12 shallots, peeled and quartered
4 to 6 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 cups ketchup
1 cup peach preserves
1/4 to 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 to 1/3 cup unsulphured molasses
2 to 3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. dry mustard
1-1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 bunch fresh thyme, tied with 2 to 3 fresh chives
4 to 5 pounds boneless, skinless, chicken thighs, breasts or a mix cut into equal sized pieces. You can also use bone-in thighs or breasts cut in half.
OPTIONAL: Cooked jasmine or other rice for serving
Heat a pot of water to boiling and place a large bowl of ice water in the sink. Add 2 to 3 peaches at a time to the boiling water. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until skin splits. Immediately immerse in the ice water. Repeat until all peaches are in the ice water. The skin should peel quite easily. Slice the peaches into about 8 to 12 slices each and place the slices in a bowl. Set aside.
Heat a large, heavy saucepan and add 3 Tbsp. of canola oil. Add the onions and sauté until golden brown. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Scrape into a bowl and add a bit more oil. Add the shallots and cook until golden, turning often. Add the onions and garlic back to the pan and mix.
Add the rest of the ingredients except the thyme and the chicken. Mix well and then add the bunch of thyme. Cook until bubbly, about 20 minutes, stirring often. Remove the thyme and discard. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
Place the chicken thighs in a bowl and add about 1-1/2 cup of the sauce. Toss to coat evenly. Add more sauce if needed.
Place on the prepared baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, add the peaches around the pan and more sauce if needed. Place back in the oven and continue to cook until internal temperature is 165 degrees.
If you want to freeze this, let it cool and place it in a freezer safe container with little air space. Defrost in the refrigerator two days before serving, then reheat in a 300-degree oven covered tightly with foil. Add some water if needed. When heated, Place on a platter and serve with the sauce and the peaches. If you like, you can serve over rice for a GF dish. Serves 10+.