Purim Seuda For a Crowd
Sometimes the meal on Purim is just a cozy one, of you and a few friends, maybe just family. Other times, before you know it, you have a real crowd to feed… what should you make??? I have done it before when a crowd was expected, and the best advice I can give is to make yourself a countdown to Purim and make two things per day. Put them into the freezer as you make them. Then, the night before the seuda, take them all out of the freezer to defrost, and on Purim day all you have to do is reheat and serve. It takes a lot of the stress out of serving a large crowd and you can focus on setting the table, going to megillah reading, sending out your mishloach manot, and greeting the many characters at your door with a smile.
The first two recipes here are ideas that incorporate some kind of "hidden food". There is a custom to serve foods that are covered up on Purim, alluding to the theme in the megillah of “hester Panim” (His face was hidden), the fact that the miracles of Purim were more obscured. Hence the custom of serving “kreplach”, a soft doughy food filled with meat inside, that is boiled up and served inside each person’s bowl of soup. The kreplach recipe I list puts them in a completely different light, tasty and very elegant. This can be used as the opening course for each person; or, if you start your meal with fish, as the second course.
For another hidden food, how about making your own knishes. They are a huge time saver as well as a big crowd pleaser.
Tamar Ansh is an author, freelance recipe developer, and food columnist. Her articles have appeared in Jewish publications worldwide. She has published 4 books so far which include: Splitting the Sea (Targum Press), inspirational stories on finding one’s soul-mate; Let's Say Amen!, an illustrated children's book about the holiness of Amen (Feldheim Publishers); her first cookbook, A Taste of Tradition (Feldheim Publishers) which is both gluten free and kosher for Passover. Her most recent book is called A Taste of Challah (Feldheim Publishers, 2007). It is a photographic guide to baking and shaping beautiful challahs, and includes many other healthy and interesting bread types as well. Visit http://www.TasteofChallah.com to see all her books online, as well as other, not yet published, challah and bread recipes. She will be coming on a short book tour and speaking in two different places in the Tri-State area the week of March 4-9th! See her website for details and locations.
• A package of puff pastry dough, also called “batzek alim merudad”
(“merudad” means ‘already rolled out’. You can use any batzek alim you like; I just find this kind easiest to work with for the kinds of ideas presented here.)
• 1 lb. (½ kilo) ground meat
• 1 medium sized onion, diced small
• 1 egg
• oil for sautéing
• 1 slice challah or bread
• ½ tsp. pepper
Place diced onion in a large pan with about 2-3 Tablespoons of oil and start to saute until light brown. In the meantime, put meat into a bowl and mash it up a bit with a fork; crumple up the bread and add it in. Add the egg, the onion with its oil, and about ½ tsp. pepper.
This meat mixture can now be used for filling your “kreplach” as is, or for a more roasted flavor, add the meat to the oily pan and brown it all over for about 15-20 minutes on a low flame. Remove and let cool.
Cut out diamond shapes from your puff pastry dough and spoon a small teaspoon amount into the center of each one. Fold the dough over, making it into a triangle, and close it by pressing down each open side with the tines of a fork.
Lay these on a cookie sheet lined with baking/parchment paper and freeze until solid. Then transfer them to a good quality freezer bag, and freeze until the morning of use. Lay them out a few hours ahead of the meal onto your fleishigs baking pan, lined with baking paper, and after they’ve defrosted about 2 hours, bake them uncovered at 350 F/ 180 C until they puff up and are lightly golden. The baking time should be about 30 minutes. Ideally they should be baked about 45 minutes to an hour before you want to serve them.
You can serve them with mushroom sauce, with the sauce from the meat roast you make for the main meal, and/or with many sautéed onion rings all over them. It is delicious and elegant, and then there is no need to also make a soup to go along with them.
Cold Cuts Knishes
Before I present this idea, yes, I know, cold cuts and hot dogs are not terribly healthy. They are also high in salt, fat, and other such lovely things. However, for the few times of year I use these ideas, they do have their purpose…and besides, they are only the side dish, not the main meal. And it is Purim, after all, venahafochu…
Cut out a larger square of dough as instructed above. Squirt ketchup and mustard all over it. Line with two colors of your favorite deli cold cuts and roll up, jelly roll style. Freeze on a lined cookie tray until solid, then mark the foil’s outside as to what kind of knishe roll this is and wrap your roll well. Keep frozen until the morning of the seuda. Defrost directly into the lined pan it will be baked in for about 2 hours. Make slices onto the roll before sliding it into the oven. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour until it puffs up (remember, puff pastry it is!!) and is lightly browned on top. Remove from oven, slice along the indentations you made and serve.
I can almost guarantee that you won’t have any leftover of this one. It is so simple, but it tastes amazing and EVERYONE, young and old, male or female, drunk or sober is going to really enjoy them!
Meat Knishes and / or Potato Knishes:
Cut a large square of the dough and lay it out onto a lightly floured surface. If it is thick, roll it out a bit with a rolling pin. Be careful NOT to roll it too thin, or it will leak when it is being rolled up again.
Squirt a few swirls of ketchup along most of the middle of the dough. Line the center of the dough with the ground meat mixture from the kreplach (1 lb. ground meat, one diced and sauted onion, crumpled slice of bread, 1 egg, ½ tsp. pepper.). Roll this up jelly roll style and lay on a lined cookie sheet for freezing.
For Potato knishes, boil up about 6-8 potatoes, this will make enough for 2 large knish rolls or 3 smaller ones. When they are soft, drain then of all water, and mash while still hot. Add salt and pepper to taste. In a separate pan, sauté 1-2 medium onions with ¼ cup oil until browned. Add this to the potato mixture and mix well.
Cut a large square of dough and fill its center with potatoes as mentioned above or with the meat. Roll, jelly roll style and make slight cuts on top of it for you to be able to slice it after it's baked. Freeze these kinds of knish rolls uncovered until solid, then wrap in foil, mark foil as to what kind of knishes they are, and leave in the freezer until the day of the seuda. Bake at 350 F/ 180 C for about 40 minutes to an hour until they are puffy and golden on top. Serve immediately. The potato knishes also go great with sauces of any kind, especially mushroom sauce. (You can cheat this one time and use mushroom soup mix. Heat up the water and add a few Tablespoons of mix to it and stir until it is saucey consistency and then serve. Or, for a more tasty and professional appearance, simply sauté lots of onions and fresh or canned mushroom slices, then add them to this instant sauce.)
Pepper Short Ribs
4-5 lbs. (2-3 kilo) short ribs or flanken
6 green peppers, sliced
1 – 2 large onions, diced
3 T. sugar
1-2 T. potato starch
1 cup dry or semi-dry white wine
1/4 cup water
Saute the green pepper with a bit of the olive oil in a covered pot until they are soft, about 15 minutes. Remove the peppers from the pot and place them in a covered container. Refrigerate until later use.
In a large pot, add more olive oil and begin to sauté the meat until it is browned slightly on one side; turn the meat pieces over and sauté them on the other side as well. Remove them to a plate while you sauté the onions.
Once the onions are sautéed, add the meat pieces back in. Add in the water and the wine. Cover the pot, turn the flame down to simmer and allow it to cook gently for 8 hours or so, checking and basting it occasionally. I cannot begin to describe how wonderful your home will smell while this dish is simmering on the stovetop. The aroma it emits is out of this world.
In a small bowl, mix together the potato starch, a bit more water, the sugar, and a bit more wine if the juices in the pot have diminished greatly. Remove the meat pieces from the pot and into the reserved juices that are still hot add this mixture and stir. It should begin to thicken. Add the meat back in as well as the reserved cooked green peppers. Simmer it all together for another half hour or so. If the sauce becomes too thick, add some more wine. Serves great alone or alongside boiled and cubed potatoes.
Salisbury Steaks in Mushroom Sauce
3½ pounds (1½ kilo) ground chicken or ground meat or a mixture
1 small raw potato, shredded
1 medium onion, diced
½ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon parsley flakes
3 tablespoon oil
1 small can sliced mushrooms, with the water
3 - 5 tablespoons potato starch
3 tablespoons water
2-3 cups semi-dry white wine
2-3 cups chicken soup
In a bowl, mix together the chicken/meat, eggs, potato, and onion. This recipe will work no matter what kind of meat you use, but I personally feel it tastes best with a mixture of ground red meat and ground chicken and/or turkey. Add the spices and mix it together with your hands. Wet your hands and form 10 large or 15 small patties.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a frying pan over a medium-high flame. Brown the patties for about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove them to a plate and set aside.
Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan and reduce the heat to a medium flame. Stir in the mushrooms. Mix some of the potato starch into the (cold) water in a small bowl; add it slowly to the simmering mushrooms. Stir the sauce immediately so it won’t form lumps. Add in the wine and soup and stir again. The sauce should start to thicken. If it doesn’t thicken enough, remove a bit of the liquid to a small bowl, add in the rest of the potato starch to that liquid, and return it to the pan.
Turn the heat down to a very small flame. Return the meat-patty “steaks” to the sauce and let it simmer, covered, for another 30-35 minutes. Serve over mashed potatoes.