Sorry to have been out of touch. It’s been a hard couple of days. March 3 was Purim, which meant we had to begin the preparations for Passover. Aunt Peppy has been quite ill and mom has been a bit out of sorts, so the geographical, generational, transition was not without emotional difficulties.
We had a terrific “Gefilte Fish Chronicles” screening on Sunday generously hosted by Johanna Mendelson and David Forman. People loved it but seemed almost shocked about the quality of the documentary. I don’t know why except that David and I have not produced anything like this before, and I guess all they expect from us is a pretty face—so extraordinary talent is a welcome surprise. Kidding! Anyway, people laughed and cried and that’s all we want.
We met on Monday to begin preparations at Rosalie’s in Caldwell, NJ. Preparations mean we start to clean the chickens for the soup and the Seder meal, to make the stuffing for the cholent, the knaidel (matzah balls) for the soup, the farfel biscuits (usually very boring) and the fry the gribenes (chicken fat and onions fried until the fat melts or crisps with the onions.) I arrived from NY at 8am. Yes, it was early but I was parked in front of the NY apartment so I had to move the car at 7. The chickens had not been delivered to Arnold, the caterer who is supplying the meat and fowl, so we couldn’t start to pluck, but we could clean the vegetables for the soup. Just FYI, and in case you didn’t buy “The Gefilte Fish Chronicles Companion Cookbook” we use leeks, parsnips, turnips, carrots, dill, celery, and onions for the stock—lots of them. We were planning to make about 18 gallons of soup – and that’s a lot of liquid. So we peeled and washed for about two hours and then Honey appeared. There was still no word about the chickens so we decided to make the knaidel and gribenes. Mom arrived in time to supervise and to tell us that David should have come to film the transition.
Mom was correct about the filming because there were no shortages of transition screw-ups. Even though we used the cookbook it was difficult to remember exactly in what order to do things. Like, we realized (mom realized) that you need to mix the dry ingredients into the wet when you’re making the knaidel or they will be hard instead of fluffy – if you had been hit in the head with one of the balls from the first batch it would have killed you. We were reluctant to waste the 40 eggs we used and tried to convince ourselves that, sure they were hard, but still tasty. We did that for about three hours and then dumped them -- but not into the garbage disposal because it would have severely damaged the appliance. It was about this time that Arnold called to say the 17 whole chickens and 20 pounds of thighs (for soup) had arrived frozen so he would have to thaw them and we couldn’t have them until Tuesday. But we were totally knaidel consumed by then, so we agreed it would be OK to wait one day for the soup.
We mixed the second batch of knaidel by adding dry ingredients into liquid and they were fine. As we shaped them, we stuffed them with gribenes, and when they went into the water they rose right to the top. The floating action is a good sign for fluffy. We felt confident about the third batch so we mixed them the right way, refrigerated them for a half hour and then realized we had forgotten the seltzer. But we didn’t have any seltzer so we used cola. Much to our surprise they were terrific. We made a total of 72 and probably need another 50, but now that we know the secret it will be simple and we’ll do it later in the month.
While we waited for the knaidel to get cold we made the stuffing for the cholent. The recipe calls for 6 pounds of Mother’s, Kosher for Passover margarine, three large sliced or chopped onions and as much matzoh meal as the liquid will take to shape a ball. Yes, it is a little heavy on the fat but, when at first we couldn’t find the margarine they wanted to use chicken fat, and I drew the line. Actually, I ran screaming from the room and because they needed my help, they agreed not to go the chicken fat route. The final task was to freeze everything we created and store it until we are ready to use it at the Seder.
I went back to the city tired but satisfied about having completed some tasks. I parked in front of my apartment because I knew I would have to be back in NJ by 8am. When I arrived the next morning back in NJ Honey and Ro were at Arnolds picking up the chicken. There were massive amounts of chicken and they were pretty dirty. Kosher chickens are never clean. I don't know why. Never mind, the chickens had millions of feathers (that’s not clean) and we had to remove them. My mother, Rose The Supervisor, wanted us to pour boiling water over the chickens to make it easier to clean them but we didn’t think it was necessary. Mom’s response to most of what we did was “You girls are in such a hurry.” And it was true, we only wanted to spend 2, as opposed to 10 days with the chicken and soup. Additionally, we decided that there was no need to use the “boil three hours, cover with ketchup, and roast for another 2.” Method. We decided to season them in interesting ways so they would taste good. In Aunt Peppy’s honor we did one with ketchup.
We used the pots the size of Miami (4 of them) cooked the 18 gallons of soup with the vegetables, for about three hours, let it cool in giant containers and froze it. We roasted the 17 chickens for about an hour and a half, let them cool, cut them into pieces and froze them. While I do not want to be thought of as Delores Defrost, we have to freeze everything that can be frozen before we make the gefilte fish and the cholent because we need the pots.
With a significant amount of food prepared, I left Rosalie with only one chicken still needing to cook, and headed back to the city. David knew I had returned because he smelled me all the way from Second Avenue. As my Mom says in the documentary, “it was a good couple of days work and it’s not over yet.” More to come from Gefilte Fish Central. We’re just sayin... Iris