Monday, January 3, 2011
Recipe for a Happy New Year
I received the best compliment from my mother on New Year's Day.
My family came over for dinner and I made cholent, a 15-hour stew usually served on the Sabbath that simmered overnight in my crockpot. I saved us from a dinner of pre-cut chicken coated with a seasoning packet that my mother had offered to make. It took longer hunting in the grocery store for some obscure ingredients (like cranberry beans that add a chestnut flavor) than it took to prep the stew before I went out to celebrate New Year's Eve.
I lined the crockpot with some chopped onions and potatoes cut into cubes. I cut up boneless beef short ribs that I bought in Whole Foods (where I found most of the other ingredients for the dish) and laid them on top. Next went in some beef broth, smoked paprika, molasses and an assortment of beans. I stirred the dish once before I went to sleep that night and added a little more water. By 7 a.m. the next morning the meat had completely fallen apart and blended in with the rest of the ingredients creating the perfect tender dish.
It sat in the fridge until I was read to reheat it for dinner. I served it with a side of kasha varnishkes, a childhood favorite of mine that I made from a Joan Nathan recipe I found online.
It was another wonderful dinner that took minimal effort and another successful dinner party at our house. After everyone at the table raved about the dish my mother came up to me and asked, half joking, "Where did you come from?"
I took the question as a compliment and an admission from the woman who rarely cooked. The answer is easy. I spent time pouring over cookbooks and cutting out recipes from cooking magazines. Now if I could only figure out where I am going. I love to cook and make people happy. I dream of going to culinary school and now my husband has put a bug in my ear about one day opening a bed and breakfast in Asbury Park, which seems like the perfect way to combine our love of entertaining and my love of cooking.
The future might not be so easy to figure out just yet. But at least I can be happy that I started out the New Year with a wonderful home cooked meal and a compliment from my mother, who didn't teach me how to cook but taught me a few other things about having fun.