Ever tried hosting your own Shabbat dinner and felt a touch… overwhelmed? Bethany from The Glamorous Housewife is here to help with her monthly how-to series on Kveller. Read last month’s Shabbat Dinner Guide here.
We are deep into winter and although many of us long for spring, the weather is still cold and comfort food is often what we all crave. Therefore I thought a traditional brisket would be a perfect main dish for this month’s meal. The recipe I use the most is via The Barefoot Contessa because I think it is quite easy and totally foolproof. My favorite part about this dish is it can be made the day ahead and then reheated in the sauce. My only tip is to not use brisket but to substitute with chuck roast. Chuck often has more fat than brisket and fat equals flavor and tenderness, so when you cut into it there should be no resistance and the meat will melt like butter!
The brisket makes the most amazing sauce which you will want to serve in a gravy boat on the side. It is also delicious over mashed potatoes or cauliflower puree. If you have never tried cauliflower puree I highly recommend it. There is something delicate and refined about pureeing cauliflower because it has a light earthy taste with a hint of sweetness which pairs perfectly with the brisket.
To round out the meal I would make a modern version of a Waldorf salad using quinoa and a simple beet salad with an orange vinaigrette. If you have never eaten quinoa before you will find it a revelation. I especially like the way the grains pop in your mouth when you eat it. As for the beet salad, the citrus vinaigrette cuts through the heaviness in the other dishes which is quite refreshing. Plus both beets and oranges are in season right now. If you don’t want to roast your own beats just buy them already cooked through, either in the salad isle or canned. For those of you who keep the laws of Kashrut, omit the blue cheese in the recipe.
After a heavy meal I find most guests are too full to eat a large dessert so I have this menu paired with peanut butter, chocolate and pretzel cookies. This gives your guests a little something sweet to end their meal without overindulging. Plus if you have any children at your table, this will be a huge hit!
Here are my suggestions on your cooking schedule:
1. Go over each recipe and make a grocery list. Don’t forget the challah!
2. Grocery shop.
3. If time you can make the vinaigrette for the beet salad.
4. If you are worried about not having much time on Thursday or Friday, make the dough for the cookies, separate into balls, and then freeze.
1. If you have time, make the brisket. This should be cooked low and slow. You can also use a slow cooker if you have to be at work all day.
2. Make the quinoa, slice the grapes and the celery, blend the dressing and refrigerate each component separately. If you want to dice the apples today be sure to dunk them in lemon-water so they don’t turn brown.
3. If you didn’t make the cookies yesterday, feel free to make them today and keep in an airtight container.
4. If roasting your beets, this can be done today.
5. If time, set your table
1. If you didn’t make your brisket yesterday, today is the day!
2. Go ahead and make your mashed potatoes or pureed cauliflower. I serve mine in a large baking dish that I keep warm in the oven. You can make either dish in the morning, keep in on your kitchen counter (not the refrigerator) and then pop in the oven to keep warm before the guests arrive.
3. Toss together the Waldorf salad with the dressing. This can be made in the morning and refrigerated.
4. Beets are very messy so I suggest wearing disposable gloves unless you want your hands to be stained red! You can slice them ahead of time but keep them separate or they will color anything they touch.
5. Have you made the cookies yet? If not, now is the time.
6. Set the table.
One hour before the guest arrive
1. Have you showered? Are you dressed? If not, go do that now.
2. Once you are all glammed up, put the brisket, cauliflower or potatoes in the oven to warm up. You can also have the sauce in a gravy bowl to be heated as well.
3. Make the salad but keep the beets and the dressing off until you are ready to serve.
4. The cookies should be nicely presented on a platter but hidden away until it is time for dessert.
5. Don’t forget the drinks! I have three glass carafes that I fill with water and keep them on the table. If you are drinking wine make sure it is out on the table ready to go.
6. In my household it is my husband’s job to make sure the challah is on the breadboard and the salt is ready. He also takes care of the Kiddush cup and saucer. This is a perfect way to involve your spouse if they aren’t into cooking.
As the guests arrive
I have found my guests are always looking to help when they first arrive. I set aside little jobs for them to do such as open the wine bottles or toss the salad. My husband is in charge of making sure everyone has something to drink as well as helping me with the last items I have left. I set aside about 30 minutes of conversation before we sit down to the table, which lets everyone settle into the evening. Then it is time for prayers on the wine and bread and finally, we eat!
This menu and timeline should take out all the guesswork for throwing a Shabbat dinner. If you have any questions, be sure to ask them in the comments below and I will be thrilled to answer them. Have a good Shabbat!