Knives and Fire XVII (Week 5)
More beef plus veal.
We began with our final kashrut lecture – this one was on the laws of cooking and Jews vs. non-Jews. Many Jewish laws, both Torah and, as in this case, Rabbinic, have one overriding reason – the separation of nations, both to preserve national identity and to prevent intermarriage. Sharing food is an intimacy. Sharing cooking is more so.
There are three kinds of “bishul” (cooking) – bread (any of the five grains – wheat, spelt, oats, rye and barley – ground to flour, and then baked), cooking (everything else) and milk, which isn’t cooking but is a special case.
Bread proved a special challenge because requiring it to be made by Jews (pas yisroel, Jewish bread) made a hardship. People could not find bread they could eat. So, they created the category “pas palter” – baker’s bread. This is bread baked by anyone, but using kosher equipment and ingredients. Such bread may be eaten if pas yisroel is not available.
The next category did not allow for such leniency, although it does have leniencies. This is bishul yisroel vs. bishul akum (other.) Not all foods count for this – only foods usually served cooked that might be used on a royal table during a state occasion (royal foods.) So, baked potatoes, yes; potato chips, no. Carrots, no because they are often served raw.
But for Ashkenazi Jews, the solution is simple – have a Jewish person turn on the flames – light the ovens and the burners. Once this is done, there is Jewish involvement and all is well. For S’phardi Jews who follow the stricter (in this case) Beit Yosef, it’s harder – an observant Jew must physically cook the food (or at least the meat) by putting it in the oven or on the grill, and turning it if necessary.
Then we have milk. Here, we’re worried that the dairy farmer mixed milk from a non-kosher animal with the regular milk (given how hard it is to milk horses and pigs, I’m not sure why this would happen, but okay, fine.) If he’s Jewish, we’re not worried; if he has supervision, we’re not worried. If there are no non-kosher animals, we’re also not so worried, although supervision is still necessary. This supervised milk is called “cholov yisrael” and it should be preferable. However, most large dairy farms are also supervised by the USDA, who also don’t permit mixing in non-kosher milk. And it was ruled in the fifties that such Cholov stam, produced on kosher equipment, was permitted. It’s better to use cholov yisrael, and those who hold by that regard dishes used for cholov stam to be non-kosher, and so those of us who are cholov stam need to know this.
After this, we had more discussion of beef – methods of cooking, basically. If the meat is tender, any method would work, but dry heat is preferred. If the meat is tough or cured, moist-heat or combination (browning first and then cooking in liquid – braising or stewing) is best. Since most kosher cuts are tougher, wet cooking is important, as are other methods of tenderizing – pounding, marinating, or cutting correctly (across the grain.
With dry heat, especially roasting, temperature is important – the larger the piece of meat, the lower the temperature, although for a large piece of meat, it’s good to start at a high temp to caramelize the outside before dropping down to a lower one. This cooks the large cuts more evenly and reduces moisture loss.
Chef also cut up another chuck – in this case, the chuck/shank of a veal. So, it was significantly smaller – the beef chuck coming from an animal over 4 times the size of the veal – and more tender because it is much young, and the flesh was white because it was milk-fed. The meat of animals allowed to graze turns red overnight. Poor thing. We took the tenderest parts and cut them, in a shallow diagonal, across the grain. We took these cutlets and put them between sheets of plastic wrap and pounded them gently.
After that, we made several kinds of veal dishes – veal marsala (with wine, demi-glace and mushrooms), veal piccata, with lemon and chicken stock, and veal francese, which floured and egged before being cooked. I made piccata, and it was yummy.
The method for the first two were about the same – the meat is very lightly floured and cooked in a hot pan with a very little fat until it was browned on both sides but still pink. The meat is then put aside, and items are added – onions, shallots, garlic, mushrooms – and cooked until done, and then the pan is deglazed with wine (off the stove, of course) and then there’s stock and/or demi-glaze, and maybe lemon juice. This is all reduced until it’s nappé and the meat added back, and cooked in the sauce until done. Then place the meat attractively on the plate, add the mushrooms (or lemon slice – both piccata and francese had a lemon slice in the sauce)and pour the sauce over everything. Maybe put on a bed of noodles.
The francese ws the same, but it was dipped into eggs *after* the flour. He also did one traditionally breaded – flour, egg, breadcrumbs,and one with sliced almonds (flour, egg, almonds.) He said that could be done with ground almonds and potato starch – so it could be used for Pesach.