It’s both a tremendously beautiful and intense feeling to recognize that the majority of the coming month is days of chag (holiday). While we cherish this time of year, we also have much to do to prepare for it. We spoke to Esty Wolbe, chef par excellence and the queen of food hacks, to share some of her brilliant ideas with us. With her insights, we are hoping to make your time in the kitchen as seamless, productive, and enjoyable as possible!
Kosherdotcom (KDC): How do you avoid a sticky honey mess?
Esty: Sticky honey messes are unavoidable, but I set each place setting with its own honey source. This year, I share my favorite individual vessel idea on Easy Does It. Be sure to check it out! But individual small honey jars or honey sticks work well too. They look beautiful on the table, and everyone serves themselves as messily or neatly as they like. Have some wipes on hand for quick clean-ups
KDC: What do you do with extra challah? It’s the one leftover (aside from salad) that never again sees the light of day!
Esty: Leftover slices make excellent French toast. If you’re left with odds and ends, pop them into the food processor to make soft, fresh breadcrumbs. Add them to your next batch of meatballs to make them super soft. Store them in the freezer until you’re ready to use them. Or cube and toast with olive oil and spices for delicious homemade croutons. If the challah is too sweet for those ideas, or has chocolate or raisins in it, make bread pudding.
KDC: Do you have any simanim hacks you can share with us?
Esty: To my kids’ and many of my guests’ delight, I serve the head of a gummy fish in addition to the head of a real fish. No one turns up their nose at that, and everyone makes the Yehi Ratzon happily.
Other than that, I like to serve each of the simanim individually at each place setting.
KDC: Do you have any tricks for heating up food for the second night of Yom Tov?
Esty: The more surface area exposed to heat, the quicker the food will get hot. For example, a wider pot will heat its contents more quickly than a taller/narrow one. I don’t keep my burners on for the duration of Yom Tov, and my family can’t live without chicken soup, so I heat it in the oven in a full-size steam pan for maximum efficiency. If it looks foolish, but works, it’s not foolish at all.
KDC: Do you have any pretty presentation tips that are practical and affordable?
Esty: Instead of themed dishes at the table, I stick to tried-and-true recipes and offer the simanim as a separate course.
To stretch salmon, I cube, season, and bake, then serve over a large salad or bed of angel hair. It looks beautiful and more grand than serving fillets on a platter.
Add some potatoes to your favorite low-and-slow meat recipe for a built-in side with minimal effort.
A sprinkle of fresh herbs and/or pomegranate seeds can turn a simple dish into a vibrant one.