Bungalow cooking at its finest – Mishpacha Magazine

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Illustration by Lea Kron

Men

Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow and Raphael Katz

Kitchen for 3 families

Monticello, NY

MBrother-in-law Raphael Katz doesn’t live too far from me, but pretty much the only time we spend Shabbos together is during the summers at Pine Knoll in Monticello. Our wives decided it would be a good idea if we collaborated on Man with a Pan. We both tentatively agreed, but never really committed.

One day, my wife announced, “This Thursday, I’m going to town and you’re doing Shabbat!” So the challenge was on.

I learned about the rules and my daughters shared what they thought was most important: “You won’t be lame with a pan.” My wife shared two more rules. One of them will be mentioned at the end of this article. The other was that I had to write an article detailing our experience.

It wasn’t a major issue, as I’ve posted articles before. Raphaël, however, who is more experienced in the kitchen, lamented that he was paired with me, “a man with a pen”, instead of someone with better cooking skills.

Begin

The first step was to develop ready-to-use excuses if Shabbat meals weren’t up to par. I complained that I felt bad. Raphael complained that one of his toddler twins kept him up all Wednesday night.

Afterwards Raphael and I had a meeting where we came up with a tentative menu and divided the cooking tasks.

Gefilte fish was on my list. It was easy to prepare following the instructions on the package. It got indulgent when I used freshly ground pepper instead of plain pepper. We decided that for this Shabbat we would serve salmon alongside the gefilte fish. However, the raw fish was delivered to our bungalow colony very close to Shabbat. Also, instead of a few slices of salmon, a whole side was delivered. Another brother-in-law, Chaim Yeshaya Katz, offered to cook it using a fish-only charcoal grill. Raphael seasoned the salmon and Chaim Yeshaya cooked it.

The chicken soup was entrusted to me. I knew what vegetables my wife usually uses for soup because I mostly shop for my family. I bought the same vegetables, omitting the parsnip for personal preference. I bought a turnip anyway. I discovered that some extended family members had never seen a turnip before! (No, it’s not a type of radish.) I also bought turkey necks instead of chicken because I knew from previous shopping experience that my wife preferred them.

I was pretty sure my wife used chicken soup mix to flavor her soup. Otherwise, how can you make chicken soup taste like chicken soup? I just didn’t know how much to add. Trying the direct approach, I asked my wife. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it only adds salt!

My mother-in-law advised me to add too little salt rather than adding too much, because salt can always be added but cannot be taken away. I added salt and intended to add more before Shabbos. However, the cooking pot mysteriously disappeared from my bungalow on Friday morning. I totally forgot to add the extra salt until it was served Friday night, at which point I said out loud, “Oy, I forgot to add the rest of the salt.”

My mother-in-law added, “The soup was warming up in my cabin today. I tasted it and it was perfect! Praise from a mother-in-law! It was worth this whole project!

Main dishes

Raphaël was given the task of preparing the main dishes for the seudah on Friday evening. He chose to serve the London grill. It was delicious but looked so raw it could have mooed. My brother-in-law says I don’t like good food. He explained that it was cooked overnight using the sous vide method, then seasoned with salt and pepper and seared to perfection.

He also interviewed family members who would be joining us for Shabbat meals, asking them if they preferred barbecue chicken or breaded chicken. In the end he decided to please everyone and make both, but we had no breadcrumbs. My wife offered him cornflakes instead. Using a hammer and a ziplock bag, he converted the cornflakes into crumbs.

What makes the Man with a Pan articles so interesting are the mistakes made by inexperienced cooks. Perhaps the biggest fiasco happened with the potato kugel, which was awarded to me. One of my daughters volunteered to help. The problem we encountered is the difference between “tsp” and “tbsp”. The latter is three times larger than the first, but the salt was added with a small spoon!

The mistake was discovered after the kugel was already half-baked and had formed a crust. Without alternative, we removed the kugel from the oven, added the missing salt and mixed everything again. We then put the mold back in the oven to finish cooking. Although we were worried about how it would be received, the potato kugel was a hit! Family members liked the extra crust mixed into the body of the kugel. This may start a new trend!

Raphael’s list included a salt and pepper kugel. It was perfectly prepared without error (show-off). I decided to add a sweet lokshen kugel to the menu, since my mother, a H, still used to make sweet kugels. However, I discovered the cooked lokshen in the fridge on Friday afternoon and realized that I had forgotten to prepare the kugel! My wife emphatically stated that our family does not cook for Shabbat on Friday afternoons, so the lokshen was reserved for the following week for soup.

The final touch

Raphaël likes to prepare his cholent without potatoes (which seems sacrilegious). He is adamant that the potatoes devastate the cholent by absorbing all the good flavor, but reluctantly agreed to add a lone potato for my son, whose favorite part of the cholent is the potato. The flavor was perfected by adding fresh garlic, meat, meat and more meat. Most eaters didn’t even notice the missing potatoes.

Since it was my father-in-law’s birthday, it was decided that I would bake a cake for the occasion. I had a great chocolate cake recipe that I used 25 years ago in my yeshiva. I followed the instructions but encountered a problem while cooking. The oven in my bungalow does not regulate the temperature correctly. It has two settings: hot and not so hot. I decided to bake the cake in my mother-in-law’s bungalow, only to find the oven was on and set to 400 degrees. The recipe called for baking at 350. I decided to bake the cake at 400 and subtract some time. Fortunately, the cake turned out well.

The task of decorating the cake was left to another girl. (Can’t expect me to do that too!) The idea was to stack two 9 inch round cakes and bake a birthday cake with homemade frosting. But when my daughter flipped the pan, the cake was still warm and quickly fell apart. She made the executive decision to make mini trifle cups containing chocolate cake crumbs, chocolate mousse, and cream. We served it as dessert on Shabbat. (Chaim Yeshaya of smoked salmon fame came Friday night to sample dessert and was turned away. I don’t know if he’s forgiven us yet.)

Final overview

Overall the experience was very positive. I have one major question, however. My wife insists that Man with a Pan participants must leave the kitchen as clean as it was when they started. I don’t believe that’s actually one of the rules and would like confirmation one way or the other. Do attendees typically submit a list of cleaning products they’ve used with the menu? Maybe there should be a separate feature for Man with the Mop or Man with Spic and Span.

The woman’s grip

It was the perfect week for Man with a Pan! In the bungalow, we usually share Shabbat cooking in three ways, and two of us went into town for a Thursday night wedding to return upstate Friday afternoon. It was a relief to know that Shabbos would be taken care of by our husbands.

The food was delicious, as we expected. Maybe it was all the kavanah that went into the chicken soup, but it was super tasty. The London sous vide grill was perfectly done and the two varieties of chicken were both delicious. We have to try the new potato kugel method again, because the crispy pieces were a nice surprise.

The dessert was a real hit. Chocolate cake is a family favorite, but made into mousse cups…even better!

The plan
Friday night:

Challah made by a woman

Store-bought dips

Gefilte Fish + Grilled Salmon

Breaded Chicken + Barbecue Chicken

Broil of London

Grilled vegetables

Potato Kugel

Lokshen Kugel

peach pie

No dessert (we were too full)

Shabbat lunch

Brioche

Leftover dips

Cesar salad

Grocery

Cholent with Kishka

Mousse cups with chocolate cake crumbs

Yeshivah chocolate cake

This is a soft and moist chocolate cake recipe that I used to bake at yeshiva. It makes a Bundt and a 9 inch (23 cm) round pan or a 15 inch (38 cm) long loaf cake. My wife cooks professionally and uses this recipe for all of her chocolate cake bases. So there it is, it’s a trade secret!

  • 4 eggs
  • 1½ cup oil
  • 2½ cups sugar
  • 4 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 cup premium cocoa powder

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).

Mix eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla. Add remaining ingredients. Pour batter into greased Bundt pan and 9-inch (23 cm) round pan or long loaf pan.

Bake for about an hour until a toothpick comes out clean with crumbs.

(Originally featured in Family Table, issue 811)

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