| Man With a Pan |

Proving My Mettle

How I simultaneously helped my wife and had a great time in the kitchen

The Man

Avi Krawiec

Age 27

1 child

Learns part time and does electric work Lakewood, NJ

The Plan

Friday Night: Challah with Homemade Chummus, No-fish Sushi, Chicken Soup, with Super-Fluffy Kneidlach, Sous Vide, Lemon Chicken, Steamed String Beans, Potato Kugel, Chocolate Chip Cookies with Ice Cream

Shabbos Lunch: Liver, Deli Salad, Pickles, Cholent, Potato Kugel, Brownie Ice Cream Crumble

Shalosh Seudos: Chummus Sesame Noodles Fruit and Frozen Grapes

When the idea came up of being a Man with a Pan for Mishpacha, it sounded like it could be a lot of fun — besides giving me a chance to prove my mettle in the kitchen. I began by writing up a menu and a shopping list, and was surprised at how much planning was needed for each meal.

After spending a while looking up recipes online and in cookbooks (including one I like to call Table for Two: A Chassan’s Cookbook), I came up with the following menu:

Friday night: Challah with homemade chummus, sushi, chicken soup with kneidlach, sous vide lemon chicken, steamed string beans, potato kugel, chocolate chip cookies, and storebought ice cream.

Shabbos day: Store-bought liver, deli salad, pickles, cholent, potato kugel, and brownie ice cream crumble.

Shalosh Seudos: Chummus, sesame noodles, frozen grapes and other fruit.

By Thursday night, my wife, Brochi, was getting worried that my nose was still buried in a cookbook and she couldn’t offer any input. To calm her down, I made the chummus and the kneidlach. I was surprised when the kneidlach more than doubled in size, although I probably should have expected that from a recipe titled “Super-Fluffy Kneidlach.”

Luckily, I remembered right before I went to sleep to soak the cholent beans, much to Brochi’s relief.

Starting Slow

The first order of the day on Friday was to get the challah started. I used Rebbetzin Kanievsky’s recipe and divided it by five as best as I could (anyone know how to measure 0.8 Tbsp?). After I spent a few minutes googling to find out if active dry yeast is different from instant dry yeast, our almost-two-year old daughter “helped” pour in all the ingredients and mix the dough.

Leaving that to rise, I moved on to the soup. In went a carrot, a parsnip, a zucchini, garlic, and spices. Oh, and when no one was looking, a pinch of soup mix and a drop of yellow food coloring for that perfect look and taste. The piece of chicken I intended to use was frozen to another piece, which was easily remedied by chiseling them apart with a table knife and a meat hammer.

Then my daughter came to the rescue again. When she saw the pot of soup, she spontaneously said, “Onion,” which reminded me that I had forgotten to put one in.

Returning to the challah, I found that although I had followed the instructions religiously, the dough was too sticky to work with. I tried dusting my hands with flour, and that seemed to do the trick.

After braiding the challos and setting them aside, I decided it was time to start working on the brownie ice cream crumble. I quickly mixed up the brownie base, put it in the oven, and began making the crumb topping. I didn’t have mini chocolate chips, so I tried chopping bigger ones in the food processor. When that failed, I resorted to cutting them in half by hand. Yes, all 89 of them.

I also missed where the instructions said to “mix by hand until crumbs form,” and I used the mixer. I ended up with a mega chocolate chip cookie ball instead of crumbs, but hey, with ice cream sandwiched between brownie and chocolate chip cookie, you can’t go wrong! Then I found that it crumbled really easily into perfect-sized crumbs. Phew. I took the brownie base out of the oven, let it cool a bit, spread a thick layer of ice cream on top of it, topped it with the crumbled cookie, and stuck it in the freezer.

 

A Twist or Two

I used my mother’s recipe for the potato kugel, but added a twist by chopping half the potatoes and grating the other half. That was followed by the cholent, which I’d made many times as a bachur, so that was uneventful.

Next up was sushi. Since Brochi and I don’t like fish, I sliced a cucumber into thin strips for the filling. As the rice was bubbling in the rice cooker, I made the rice vinegar. I wanted it to look nice, so I experimented with making a double sushi roll I had once seen a picture of, and it actually worked quite well.

Somewhere in the middle of all this, I baked the challos. They came out of the oven a bit fl at, but there wasn’t much to do about that.

Time was starting to run out, so I quickly made the marinade for the chicken and tossed it in. Then I steamed the string beans in the rice cooker and tossed them with olive oil and basil.

 

Picking Up Pace

Looking at the clock, I started to feel the heat (Literally. It was 78 degrees in the kitchen). I checked my menu to see what still had to be made, and all that was left were the sesame noodles. Not having been able to find the recipe I wanted, I improvised as best I could. Getting back to the chicken, I had just enough time for it to finish cooking before Shabbos, so I quickly made a paste of crushed garlic, oil, and spices and sliced the lemons. I put the chicken into a pot of water with the sous vide — if you don’t know what that is, ask your sister-in-law — and set the timer.

Meanwhile, I remembered that I had some balls of cookie dough stashed away in the freezer. I unearthed them, stuck them into the oven, then wrapped them in foil straight from the oven and left them on the Crock-Pot to keep them warm for Friday night’s dessert.

After a few finishing touches and a big cleanup, we were ready for Shabbos.

 

How It Went Over

The results: The Friday night meal was delectable. We bit into our flattish challah with some trepidation, but it only had a slight yeasty taste, which was masked by the delicious chummus. The sushi looked nice, the soup turned out well, and the kneidlach were super-fluffy.

To showcase all my efforts, I made sure to plate the main course nicely. The chicken was a bit lemony, but it was still very refreshing and went well with the slight crunch of the string beans and the fresh kugel. The warm, slightly under-baked cookies were heavenly with a scoop of ice cream.

The Shabbos day meal was very good overall, with nothing spectacular or botched. I patchked a bit with plating, adding oil, paprika, and pine nuts in the center of the chummus bowl and a piece of matzah to the liver plate. The brownie ice cream crumble tasted really good, and it actually looked like the picture in the cookbook.

At Shalosh Seudos I learned that while improvising sometimes works, at other times it doesn’t; the sesame noodles were less than amazing, but we still had our challah (with delicious chummus) and fruit.

All in all, it was a lot of fun, as well as a lot of work, and the experience definitely made me appreciate everyone who constantly plans, arranges, cooks, and serves both daily meals as well as multicourse meals every Shabbos and Yom Tov. A great big shout-out to them! And let’s not forget — I now hold the title of Man with a Pan.

 

The Wife’s View

It was really cool when I got an email from Mishpacha in response to my Man with a Pan inquiry. I told Avi about it and he was excited to get on board. So how was it? I renamed Avi the “Man with the PLAN” because from the beginning of the week he was busy with lists, cookbooks, and good ol’ Google. But once it came to Thursday night, I started getting nervous. I saw him looking for recipes, but, according to the rules, I couldn’t tell him where to look.

I loved being able to relax on Friday. All I had to do was set the table and taste some of the kugel and sushi! Finally it was Shabbos, and the food was delicious! Not to mention plated beautifully. Although that wasn’t part of the challenge, plating is one of Avi’s areas of expertise in the kitchen (along with baking chocolate chip cookies). He even artfully arranged a little piece of matzah on top of the liver, which I found really cute. All in all, it was a phenomenal Shabbos (challah fl op aside). The hardest part of the whole thing was not being able to give him any advice!

 

My Mother’s Potato Kugel
  • 5 large potatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 13 cup oil
  • 3 eggs
  • small piece of peeled zucchini
  • 1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Blend onion, oil, eggs, zucchini, and salt in the food processor. Add half of potatoes and chop. Grate in the remaining potatoes.

Pour into a greased pan and bake for one hour. Lower the oven heat and bake at 350°F (175°C) for another hour.

(Originally featured in Family Table, Issue 695)

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