| Man With a Pan |

All or Nothing

Illustration by Lea Kron

The Man

Ari Bluzenstein, age 31

Grocery store salesman

Cooking for 3 families at each meal

Brooklyn, NY

I was lucky enough to marry a woman who’s a real balabusta. Her food is delicious, and she makes it seem like Shabbos and Yom Tov meals are created with ease. Still, when my wife challenged me to be a Man with a Pan, I was excited. I envisioned a busy Erev Shabbos and the satisfaction I’d feel after providing my family with healthy and delicious food, even though my experience in the kitchen is limited to the sesame chicken I was famous for when I was a bochur in Israel, 10 years ago.

Since our kids are picky eaters and don’t always appreciate my wife’s delicious food, I decided to see if I could create a Shabbos to my wife’s exacting standards, and at the same time satisfy the kids.

Off and Running

I got started by going through all the cookbooks in our house, but I quickly found myself getting overwhelmed, wanting to cook everything that looked good. I decided I’d simplify the job by preparing a fully heimish, Hungarian-
style Shabbos. I looked up the Satmar Butcher’s store Shabbos menu online and decided to copy it exactly.

Since I had started a new job the previous week, I knew that I wouldn’t have lots of time to devote to cooking.   My plan was to start cooking on Sunday, and make one or two things every day. I started with the one thing I knew even the pickiest member of our family would eat — dessert. His favorite is strawberry sorbet, and I managed to quickly put that together on Sunday night.

Monday night found me in KRM Supermarket, searching high and low for knee bones. I was intent on making galleh from scratch and wanted to invite some friends to sample it. As I put the bones to boil in a large pot of water, I realized that I had forgotten one of the most essential ingredients — garlic. Off to the grocery store I went once again.

The pot simmered overnight, and we woke up in the morning to the most delicious smell. The water and bones had boiled down to a thick broth, and I blended the meat with the garlic, put the liquid into containers, and froze it.

A Hunt for Guests

By midweek, the hunt for Shabbos guests was on. Since I knew that my kids probably wouldn’t appreciate my food, I was determined to have guests for both meals so that my kitchen accomplishments would be appreciated!

I went through my contacts, trying friends and family, but they all had excuses as to why they wouldn’t be able to join us that week. There was no way I was investing all that effort for my food to stay uneaten, so we decided to push off the challenge until the following week, when we could host guests.

Even though we had agreed that I would step out of the kitchen for the remainder of the week, I insisted on making one last thing, much to my wife’s dismay. I ran to the store (I’d already lost track of how many trips to the grocery store I’d made) and bought a package of wide noodles for my son’s favorite sweet lokshen kugel with cinnamon crumb topping.

Attempt Number Two

Week number two found me starting Shabbos prep on Monday, with the help of my 13-year-old son. While he put up the challah dough, I started on the chickpeas. They bubbled gently on the stove while my son and I braided and baked the challah. Then I drained the chickpeas and used a dishtowel to distribute the seasonings evenly.

Tuesday night I decided to tackle the most daunting item on my list — yapchik. After another grocery run, I looked over the recipe, and to my surprise read that the onions and meat needed to be sautéed for two hours. Since it was already 10:30 p.m., I had to shelve that plan, and would have to make up for the lost time the next day.

I didn’t want the day to end without having accomplished anything, so I put up a pot of compote with apples that I found in the fridge. Peeling those apples gave me a renewed sense of appreciation for the hard work that goes into making Pesach — I don’t know how people peel endless amounts of fruits and vegetables without their hands falling off.

The next morning I was ready to get started on the yapchik. I sautéed the onions and meat, and eventually put the pan into the oven to bake. I was finally starting to feel like I was getting the hang of this Shabbos thing! Thursday morning I put up the chicken soup, made kneidlach, and soaked the cholent beans. I bought a rack of flanken for the main course and sprinkled it with Montreal steak seasoning, covered it well, and baked it low and slow all day. I peeled more apples (painstakingly), made an apple cherry pie, and deliberated over which fish to make. I decided it had to be the classic gefilte fish and salmon with kotchonya (jellied fish sauce). But knowing my kids, I knew I’d also have to make baked salmon with the sauce my wife serves every week.

Thursday night, the cholent was looming overwhelmingly over me, and so many other things on my list were still undone. I’d discovered that no one actually has a recipe for cholent. It’s just “a little of this and a little of that.” Realizing that I needed help, I called my mom and asked her for some cholent-making hacks. She came through with some helpful tips, and with a prayer on my lips, I put the cholent into the oven to bake all night.

It was way after midnight when I realized that whatever mess I had made was now mine to clean up. Let’s just say that part wasn’t fun — I honestly don’t know how the women do this every week. I went to bed after 3 a.m.!

Final Roundup

Friday morning dawned bright and early, and despite my exhaustion, I knew I had to get to the finish line. I was planning to make a few dips, but a food processor fiasco involving tomato dip in places it didn’t belong meant I ended up making only one. I cooked up a package of soup noodles and heated up the frozen galleh. It needs to be reheated and then refrigerated so that it can turn into the Jello-like consistency that is enjoyed by chassidish men everywhere. (I’m afraid if you’re not chassidish and male, you won’t get it.) I mixed up the sauce for the salmon and stuck it into the oven, then quickly put together some hot apple cider. The kitchen had to be cleaned up again (!) and I barely had enough time to jump into the shower before it was time for candle lighting.

Baruch Hashem, Shabbos passed in a blur of good company (two couples with kids at each meal!) and great food. The food all tasted delicious, and our guests were full of compliments. Even the kids managed to taste some of the food, and the cholent had an authentic, heimishe flavor.

I’m proud of my accomplishments, but I think that for the future, Shabbos and Yom Tov cooking will remain my wife’s job. While I can help with some of the dishes, I definitely won’t be attempting an entire Shabbos again anytime soon!

The Wife’s Take

Everyone was very pleasantly surprised at how Ari managed to pull off making an entire Shabbos from scratch. The food tasted delicious, and all of our guests were extremely impressed. The meat was soft and tender, the kneidlach were fluffy, the cholent was delicious, and the apple cherry pie really hit the spot. The only thing that you couldn’t get me to taste was the galleh — sorry, but I’ll leave that to the males. The feedback we got, however, was that it was “sick”!

Truth be told, I didn’t enjoy having my territory taken over, so I don’t think we’ll be having a repeat of Man with a Pan anytime soon. But now that I know that Ari knows how to cook, maybe I’ll rope him into making supper every once in a while. He even cleans up after himself! That’s a win-win situation!

The Plan
Friday Night:

Homemade Challah

Baked Salmon

Chicken Soup with Kneidlach, Noodles, and Chickpeas



Lokshen Kugel with Cinnamon Crumb Topping

Apple Cherry Pie


Hot Apple Cider

Shabbos Lunch:

Homemade Challah

Tomato Dip

Gefilte Fish and Salmon with Jellied Sauce

Eggs (cooked in the cholent) and Sautéed Liver



Strawberry Sorbet with Pomegranate Arils


Sweet Lokshen Kugel with Crumb Topping
  • 16 oz (450 g) wide egg noodles, cooked according to pkg instructions
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla sugar
  • ½ cup oil
  • 6 eggs
  • pinch salt
  • ½ cup ground nuts
  • ½ cup bread crumbs
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).

Mix all the crumb ingredients. Drain cooked noodles and mix with the rest of the ingredients.

Spray 3 loaf pans (or 1 9x13-inch pan) with cooking spray. Sprinkle a layer of crumbs on the bottom. Cover with the noodle mixture and then add another layer of crumbs.

Bake for 45–60 minutes, until the top is golden brown and crispy.


(Originally featured in Family Table, Issue 824)

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