Ribs (and the absurdity of cooking mass quantities with less than massive cooking equipment)

I think I’ll start this post off with this photo, just for the hilarity of it all:

Rib Overflow

Yeah, well, I thought they’d fit at first. Ha.

Last week, I had quite a lot on the list to cook. Mashed potato pies, for instance — those got done on time and looked rather nice.

Mashed Potato Pies

Then the split pea soup… and here is where things got a little hectic. Firstly, it boiled down a little more than I’d like, although that may have been a consequence of making a soup that took three hours to cook in a pot the size I used (which is, also, the largest one I have) — if I’d had a slightly larger pot, I probably could have added more water. (I also would not have had as silly a picture as the first one I posted in this blog entry.) Still, I ought to be able to thin it out when I reheat it to serve. Of course, I also forgot to take a picture of it until *after* I transferred it to the container it would be frozen in (although at least I remembered to take a picture before it froze, so I suppose that’s something).

Split Pea Soup

And then… well, one way or another it turned into Friday and I still had to make all three types of ribs, the deli roll surprise, and the broccoli-salami mini-quiches. And cook for the Sabbath (although a wonderful friend took pity on me, probably when she saw the panic on my face, and invited us for lunch, so that was a little less to handle). But somehow, I managed to crank everything out.

First, the easy ribs — just seasoned with salt and pepper:

Salt and Pepper Ribs

Then the ones in a “Way Down South” sauce — these were meant to be braised in a pot (hence the silly picture)… which turned into filling up three pans full of spare ribs and sauce:

Way Down South Ribs

I used two full bottles of wine to make all the sauce for just over two dozen of these spare ribs. Here’s a closeup, because it’s worth drooling over:

Way Down South Ribs Closeup

Then there were the honey mustard ribs, whose cooking time got so close to the Sabbath that I could only take a picture a day later, after some refrigeration time. They don’t look as great in the photo, but rest assured, they were lovely coming out of the oven:

Honey Mustard Ribs Closeup

And yes, I made three full pans (just over 2 dozen):

Honey Mustard Ribs

Finally, the deli roll surprise. Inside each one of these lovelies is a whole bunch of pepper steak strips, along with the implied deli meat.

Deli Roll Surprise

Now I still had the mini quiches to prepare… but I also had two whole fresh salmon fillets in the refrigerator that I’d purchased less than a day before, which I didn’t want to have to freeze (freezer space is getting tight now, defrosting’s a pain, and I’d rather use fresh than frozen). And making the salmon takes a lot less time than the quiches. So I went with the fish.

There was salmon in a lemon-pepper garlic sauce (store-bought):

Lemon Pepper Garlic Salmon

And salmon in a honey teriyaki sauce (teriyaki is store-bought):

Honey Teriyaki Salmon

And that’s when it got to be sundown on Friday night, and my time was up. But I got the jump on this week afterwards. On Saturday night, I made the fire popper chicken that was on this week’s cooking list:

Fire Popper Chicken

And then today (Sunday) I made the broccoli-salami mini-quiches.

Broccoli-Salami Mini Quiches

Which basically puts me not only back on track, but even a little ahead. This week’s cooking list includes potato-chicken croquettes in a citrus and green curry sauce, stuffed cabbage, apple kugels, and the fire popper chicken and salmon; the latter two are already done, so that gets me ahead just a little — which is a good thing, as I’m already gearing up from going on my vacation from this endeavor so that I can — wait for it — cook for Rosh HaShanah. That’s right, it never ends. But after this week, I’m done packing things into the freezer (or more accurately, telling my husband to pack things into the freezer). And then we get to play my favorite game — how many foods can I pack into the refrigerator and still have room to defrost everything else?

Stick around and feel free to place your bets….

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Potatoes that are sweet

Thankfully, I got everything done last week that needed to be done. The dark meat, de-boned chicken for the Sweet and Sour Chicken finally defrosted, so I added another two pans to the freezer for that dish:

Sweet and Sour Chicken

I also made a meat sauce for the spaghetti:

Meat Sauce

And then it was time for the sweet potatoes.  First, the pies:

Sweet Potato Pie

Then the soup:

Sweet Potato Soup

The best part about making this soup? I get to lick the pot clean after I pour the soup into a container to be frozen.  🙂 And I remembered to take out the bay leaf! This soup gets blended after it’s cooked — I use an immersion blender — and I have been known, in the past, to mince up the bay leaf in it accidentally.  However, I now know that: 1. If I mince up the bay leaf thoroughly enough, no one will notice, and 2. Even if it is noticeable, the soup is so good that no one will care. (And I know this because in spite of a minced bay leaf, I once had a guest ask for seconds and thirds, so I know it’s not just me!) Fortunately, the issue is moot, as the bay leaf was discarded before blending.

Finally, I also made a couple of squash kugels:

Squash Kugel

This, along with the sweet potato recipes, have also managed to use up most of my container of soymilk. That leaves me two cups that I will be using early this week to make the mashed potato pies and the mini broccoli-salami quiches. Also this week, I’ll be making the deli roll surprise, split pea soup, and the ribs, which have been taking up significant freezer space that is now in serious demand.  Normally I’d also make the potato kugels this week, but the last time I made some and froze it, several months ago, it didn’t go over very well, and I don’t want to chance it now. So I may just make that fresh shortly before the holiday.

So that’s one week down, and four and a half to go!

Who am I calling chicken?

Well, I started cooking — mostly with poultry. If it was on one of the menus and could be made using chicken breasts, I made it.

First was the kishka-stuffed chicken:

Kishka-stuffed chicken

I made it this time with kishka that hadn’t been frozen and stockpiled in my freezer — and I need to remember to make it that way again. The kishka was so pliable I felt like I was using play-dough. It is, as you might surmise, inside every one of those pieces of chicken in the pan. The chicken is coated with apricot jam and cornflake crumbs, and drizzled with honey.

Then came a pot roast — I did say mostly poultry, not entirely:

Pot Roast

This is one of the easiest recipes I have, courtesy of my mother-in-law, courtesy of her sister-in-law (my aunt-in-law?). Coat the cut of beef to be braised with tomato sauce, cranberry sauce (both canned), and onion soup mix.

After that I made the cherry chicken puffs.

Cherry Chicken Puffs

Inside each of these triangle pastries is cubed chicken, canned pitted cherries, and mushrooms. It goes with this spicy cherry sauce:

Spicy Cherry Sauce

And finally, I made half the Sweet and Sour Chicken I need to make. The other half will be made with deboned dark meat chicken, which sadly had not defrosted in time for me to cook. But the rest of it was with white meat, and looks like this:

Sweet and Sour Chicken (white meat)

New innovation for this year: adding pineapple chunks. The sauce is not homemade — I did say I would be efficient (and besides, this dish is getting served at the ribs meal… and while I’d like to have a poultry option for those who won’t eat red meat, I don’t want to steal the attention from the best part of the meal).

Up next: Sweet potatoes!  (And a couple of other things.)

Week #1: Cooking Plan

Well, I’m halfway into week 1 of cooking and have gotten… one thing done. But my excuse is that one of my kids didn’t start his first full day of school until today… and it’s much easier to get things done when I only have one child running around to tend to, who still naps.

But it occurred to me I haven’t actually posted yet about what it is that I’ll be making this week, so here goes:

  • Kishka-stuffed chicken
  • Cherry chicken puffs
  • Sauce for the cherry chicken puffs
  • Meat sauce for the spaghetti
  • Pot roast
  • Sweet & sour chicken
  • Squash kugel
  • Sweet potato pies
  • Sweet potato soup

I should probably explain a bit about my cooking plan methodology here (doesn’t that sound so academic?).  When cooking on a scale like this, efficiency is key — so I make all the food that uses chicken cutlets in the same week, for instance, over one or two days, so I can get everything at once (it’s cheaper that way, too). Or all the food that’s going to be frozen that uses soymilk, so I can use up most (or hopefully all) of the half-gallon soymilk container I purchased. (I know, I could drink it, but I’d much rather drink actual cow’s milk.) Or all the sweet potato recipes.  It’s a lot easier to prepare the food that way, too — I just keep peeling sweet potatoes until I’m done and then do what I like with them. Also, I generally look for recipes that look impressive but take no more than a half-hour to prepare when cooking on a normal scale (say, 4-8 people). My ideal preparation time is 15 minutes. Obviously, that time will increase when cooking for 20 people, but that’s precisely the point. I do have a few dishes that take significantly longer to make — the stuffed cabbage is one; the turducken will certainly be another — and I’d rather save my time to make those.  I don’t care how long a dish takes to cook — it could be in the oven for half a day and that’s fine; it’s the preparation time that really makes a difference this far in advance.

I also should probably note, since I’ll be posting some before-and-after pictures of various dishes, that I’m cooking for family, not foodies. I know the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but again — on this scale, efficiency is key. This especially makes a difference when selecting produce among foods that are more infested with bugs versus those that are not, or are easy to clean. Bug checking takes time, and until I have an arsenal of servants (or teenagers) to do it all for me, I’m going to go with the easy way out (and use the “wrong” kind of mushrooms, for instance), even if it means my food won’t quite make it into five-star cuisine territory.  I’m also not going to be concerned if not all portions of what I make are the same size, since I’m cooking for adults and children with very different appetites.

Anyway, expect a flurry of posts over the next three weeks as I get all the food that’s to be frozen done and stashed away. Are you getting hungry yet? 🙂