Tips from a Caterer: An Interview with Naomi Nachman
By: Rivky Blumenfeld, Lubicom Staff
With summer coming to a close and Yom Tov fast approaching it can sometimes feel like you’ve barely had a minute to prepare for the month of yomim tovim ahead. This is where buying in bulk and cooking ahead becomes a major game-changer. That’s why I called Naomi Nachman, AKA the Aussie Gourmet,a fantastic cookbook author, culinary educator, media personality, and majorly successful Pesach caterer (check out her cookbook Perfect Flavors) for some advice.
The first thing you should consider when buying in bulk may seem obvious, but for all those nervous nellies out there, it’s worth reminding everyone: you have a freezer! Hopefully. And if not, get one for Yom Tov!
Freezing your food beforehand and defrosting when you need to will change your Yom Tov. It will also change all your future shabbatot and dinners during the week when you’re too exhausted to whip out a four-course meal, and all you need to do is grab something already made in the freezer! So, freezing will pretty much change your entire life. Naomi informed me that you should freeze meats, cabbage, soup, and chicken with sauce. She loves freezing ribs to defrost (in her words: “yum!”) because it becomes concentrated after it’s frozen and it tastes even better than before, which is a big plus.
How long does food last in the freezer? Naomisaid that chicken can last three months and meat a whopping six months! Eggs stay great in the fridge, as all my egg hoarders know. I can’t be the only one with enough egg cartons to start a mini factory!
When it comes to freezer storage, Naomi loves quart containers, zip-lock bags and foil pans with lids for freezing. She puts the quart containers in the doors, and she gave me a major insider tip: don’t block the vents! By blocking the vents in the back (or on top, depending on what type of freezer you have), you run the risk of breaking your freezer! Naomi’s vent is at the top of her freezer, so she keeps that area clear of tins and containers to allow for proper ventilation. Remember to mark everything before you freeze (Naomi says Sharpie is your best friend!) because you can’t label after it’s frozen.
Now that we’ve discussed freezing, let’s move on to the hard part…defrosting. Naomi warns that kugel should always go straight from the freezer to the oven – never defrost! This can all be referenced in her book titled Perfect for Pesach where she has an entire section with freezing tips. And be sure to check out some of Naomi's delicious recipes right here on Kosher.com too!
Fresh fruits and veggies should obviously be bought the week of using them or as close to fresh as possible. This way you won’t find any unpleasant surprises when you open the fridge to make a garden salad and find all the yummy veggies you bought alongside your meats and chickens have spoiled.
But don’t fret! Foods like onions and potatoes can be bought a week in advance, and dry goods have a long shelf life. Flour and baking mixes, when stored in an airtight container or in its unopened package, can last up to a year.
Before you set out to Costco or some other such store, keep in mind that you don’t need an expensive warehouse club membership to take advantage of buying in bulk. (Although Costco is a personal favorite.) I’ll let you in on a not-so-secret tip to buying in bulk: Sales! When I asked Naomi about keeping a lookout for sales when buying in bulk, she responded the way I’m sure many other women would. Personally, she shops when there is a sale, and professionally…she does the same! So, ladies when you see a sale, don’t miss out on the opportunity.
Were you ever in a situation where you had to quickly run to pick up a forgotten item at the grocery before Yom Tov, and could have sworn that the item you were getting was cheaper a few weeks ago? At that point it’s too late, you need the item, and so you get it anyways. Don’t worry, you’re not going crazy. Naomi told me about an occurrence that sometimes happens before Yom Tov: Prices can be hiked up to compensate for the store’s increased expenses! With the influx of customers right before yomim tovim, the stores have to hire new workers, stay open later, and incur other such expenses.
So, by buying beforehand not only will you be more relaxed as Yom Tov approaches at the speed of light, but you will be confident that you got everything at a better price. Naomi suggests that when buying for Rosh Hashana, buy for Succos as well! Add to this buying items that are on sale, and you can feel confident knowing that you are perhaps the most well-prepared person in town.
As Naomi told me: cooking in advance “won’t only save you money, it will save you time, and time is money!”