Nothing Wasted, Everything Gained

 

I was brought up as a bag rinser and elastic saver.  The kitchen faucet perpetually had a plastic bag turned inside out drying and waiting for its next employ.

One of the outstanding values that I learned in my mother’s kitchen is not to throw food out.  We were brought up with a saying that there was nothing left but the squawk.  Even waxed paper was reused and certainly trimmings of flesh, fish or fowl all found their way into the meat grinder and changed into delicious morsels.

Being called thrifty used to be considered a complement.  I wonder now how my kitchen habits would measure up?

I know I don’t have the same systems in place partially because there is so much convenience available.  There is simply not the same need to be as resourceful. 

But I must say I was delighted to find fresh chicken livers in the supermarket this week with labelled instructions on how to kasher them. 

Growing up, on Friday night our table had fried chopped chicken livers, topped with gribenes (chicken skin cracklings) served with challa.  Although I don’t intend to make shmaltz (rendered chicken fat), I am excited to serve chopped liver and caramelized onion.

Remember when chickens from the butcher had a little package stuffed in their cavity containing the heart, liver and gizzard?  These were the treasures that our grandmothers transformed into our favourites.  How did we go from relishing chicken feet fricassee to serving only chicken fingers?

Kashering meat and fowl used to be the responsibility of the homemaker.  Some of us even have memories of certain boards and basins reserved for such a purpose.  The whole chicken was then broken down and became the source of a number of delectable dishes.  Now, the koshering process is done for us.  Packages of chicken are offered, separated into singular parts not calling into play the homemakers ingenuity.  But when it comes to livers, a delicious, inexpensive source of protein, rich in iron, I commit to the koshering practice so that I can offer my family their own culinary memories of chicken livers on the Shabbos table. 

Shabbat shalom from My Kosher Kitchen,

Nancy Weisbrod, Director of Culinary Education, Kashruth Council of Canada

Where its ATS*

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Last night we held the first class in our 8 week Foundations Series.  A dynamic and engaged group gathered together to learn Cooking Basics theory and the ever practical, Anatomy of a Soup. 

There are three distinguishing characteristics to a soup; 1) flavour, 2) body, and 3) texture.  We prepared four varieties to show the delicious differences.  We spoke about a variety of methods to achieve these results, as well as the subtle signature of the garnish.

Each participant was excited to put the lesson into practice.  But I think the seismic moment came when we began to discuss the practice of ‘mise en place’ (to put in place).  This was the second teaching I received at the Cordon Bleu after the mantra of “Clean up as you go along”.  The idea is that you don’t begin cooking until you have procured your ingredients, selected your equipment and produced your time plan.  The aim is efficient and resourceful preparedness.  If the kitchen is harried, so to the cook.

This teaching definitely has merit from a culinary perspective.  Yet when we realize that creating a kosher kitchen allows us to demonstrate treasured Jewish values, it takes this lesson to a whole new level.  Nothing is wasted in a kosher kitchen.  Relationships are strengthened and tradition transmitted in a kosher kitchen.  Respect and gratitude are fostered in a kosher kitchen. 

Appreciating this, we perceive a greater opportunity.  We want to develop the attitude of ATS; peaceful calm and confident execution yielding dependable and delicious results.

In the spirit of nothing wasted, I encourage you to develop a seamless practice for turning leftover Challa into crunchy croutes, a garnish that gives contrasting texture to Onion Bisque.

Looking forward to next week’s class where we study Nutritional ABC’s and Great Grains.

Have a great cooking week and wishing you Good Shabbos,

Nancy Weisbrod, Director of Culinary Education, Kashruth Council of Canada

*Assess (what is my time, space, energy and resources), Think (set my culinary goals) and Strategize (make a plan).

My Cooking Partner

I have a secret weapon.  I have a cooking partner.  Before last Pesach we got together and cooked up a storm.  It was highly efficient, very cost effective, and downright fun.  We decided to team up again for Sukkos and had a couple of very enjoyable, and productive cooking sessions.  It was hard work, but we prevailed.

Our freezers were stocked with soups, challahs, and main dishes to take us through the holiday.  We each had it roughly planned out with dishes a little more special for hosting and a few homey-style family meals.  

In my opinion, our tour de force was the chicken fricassee that I discussed last blog.  We made pots of it, enough to serve 40, two large aluminum trays for each of us.  I used one tray the first day and had the second one tucked away in the freezer expecting to take it out for Simchas Torah lunch.  That, served with challa, to sop up the gravy, is not very glamorous, but a family favourite and a deliciously messy way to make it to the holiday finish line.

Sunday afternoon right before Yomtov, I learned that a family in our community had suffered a tremendous loss.  Realizing how many hours of manpower my friend and I had devoted to shopping, cooking and planning, it slowly dawned on me that this family would not have had a moment to prepare.

I’d like to say that I ran down to the freezer without a moment’s hesitation.  But to be honest, I was plagued with doubt.  Do I show up unannounced?  Perhaps I would be an unwelcome intrusion, which was the last thing they needed.  What if the food wasn’t to their liking?  I struggled for a few moments, but then, especially with my cooking partner’s encouragement, decided to head out.

I thought the plus of having a cooking partner was to double my productivity.  Little did I realize that the true benefits lay beyond our tables.

I would like to leave you with the recipe for Curried Butternut Squash Apple Soup referred to in an earlier blog.  It’s soup-er for sharing.

 Shabbat shalom,

Nancy Weisbrod, Director of Culinary Education, Kashruth Council of Canada