Mama Meichulim Would Be Happy
Way back in the olden days of the Local Family, I introduced you to a good family friend, Mama Meichulim. Not one of the many great aunts of mine, from even older olden day, Mama Meichulim wrote cookbooks, or at least a cookbook, in the olden days. Her Mama’s Meichulim: Traditional Jewish Cooking Made Easy helped our Bubbie’s manage their cooking. Mama Meichulim provided not just recipes but advice on how to manage one’s kitchen affairs, and it was the management that appealed to me when I first blogged about her. Her kitchen management had me thinking about her this week. See, we just ate the last whiffs of two organic chickens in a frittata. Mama Meichulim would be proud.
Mama Meichulim knew what we know at the Local Beet, the obstacles to eating better food stem much from issues like lack of time. Even in Mama Meichulim’s day, Bubbie’s did not have all the time they needed to prepare hearty, delicious meals for their bubala’s daily. So, Mama Meichulim recommended they tackle a few eat projects each week. Spend one day making a big old hen, and you could have dinner for nights to come. Man, does this remain true. We can address certain hurdles of eating local by doing things her way. We did.
First, we took advantage of that once a week, one time, good deal offered by Whole Foods. For this week, it was the high quality, organic, local chickens on sale. Instead of making a big, fat hen like Mama M would, we made two skinny fryers. Still, it was a hammish recipe where we pot roasted the chickens with root cellar root vegetables and root cellar potatoes (although don’t tell Mama that our recipe also included traify bacon). The rendered schmatz from the chicken make something like a semi-confit, and leftovers a few days later were more succulent and more delicious for it. We did not, however, end on the second helping.
With all the vegetables gone, we moved on to a new way to handle old chicken. If it was summer, and we had lots of local salad greens and things like that, there would have been big salad for sure. Winter, there’s always indoor grown Illinois rocket and a jar of mayo, and we ate chicken salad. We were still left with meat. Leaving the pot out in the cold helped move things along. The cold brought all that schmaltz to the surface, which I should have saved that for better use but instead fed it to the dog (“helps her coat!”). The cold made the broth gooey, and that made it easy to pick all the last bits of meat from the bones. I ended up with a good pile of odd bits, blanched some spinach, cooked some spaghetti, and fixed the whole thing in an approximation of a recipe from Mama Meichulim’s era, although one she would not have touched as it mixed cream and cheese with our leftover chicken, tetrazinni. It made for a satisfying, heavy lunch the other day. So filling that stuff remained. Enough that it could be stretched with eggs into a “pasta pancake” or frittata for one last meal from our two chickens.
Listen, it is not always easy to put good food on the table. The pressures of work, school, activities cut into our kitchen life. It’s so easy to run to Culvers, especially when kids of all ages can get the Team Scoopie meal (guilty). The way around the ways of the week is to follow Mama Meichulim’s advice. Tackle a few cooking projects a week, and then coax the most out of that project. Pot roast a couple of chickens bought on sale, and you can eat local for at least a week.