Well, Succos is over. My in-laws came, my in-laws went. We had a wonderful time, and although family members aren’t real guests, they were absolutely terrific guests.
I’ve been making mental notes on what worked well and what didn’t. I hope sharing some of my thoughts in this format will prove useful for you, too. After all of the planning, shopping, cooking, freezing, defrosting, serving, and eating, here are my take-aways:
1. The soup course. Both the carrot & rice soup and zucchini potato soup got crazy rave reviews at our table. Ironically, they’re both simple to make. I still think the secret is sauteing vegetables in butter. You really don’t even need more than a tablespoon or two.
2. The turkish salad and roasted pepper dip were also big hits, which was especially rewarding because the pepper dip is a bit of a project and I (naturally) didn’t get to it until erev Shabbos. I doubted it was worth the effort until everyone tasted it. There’s just no substitute for starting a meal with challah and a really good dip.
3. Bavarian apple torte with vanilla ice cream: This was my personal favorite from the 30 dishes I made for Succos. I’ll admit that I chose it because the cookbook said it would freeze well, but WOW, was it fantastic. The apple layer made it the perfect fall treat, and the cream cheese batter made it reminiscent of cheesecake without going full-force on the cheese. It was excellent with the homemade ice cream, though I think I’d cut a bit more sugar from the ice cream next time. Definitely making this again.
1. “Bad” is a bit harsh, but my beloved butternut squash kugel did not freeze as well as I’d hoped. The taste was okay, but I definitely prefer it fresh. The color is also brighter when it’s fresh.
2. Again, “bad” doesn’t seem quite right, but “frustrating” definitely does. I’m talking about the cinnamon maple swirls, and because they were so frustrating, I punished them by not taking any pictures. (That works, right?) The truth is that I was just a victim of my own poor planning. If I had only read the recipe in advance, I would have known about the two hours the dough needed to chill, and the third hour it needed to chill again after rolling with cinnamon and sugar. Because I skipped the read-in-advance thing, I was baking cookies at 1:00 a.m., only to find that just half were pretty enough to serve. The other half? My doting husband took care of them, trying to convince me that they weren’t rejects, they were the best-ever midnight snack.
3. Here’s something I can call “bad”: Forgetting to pencil in a sick day. I had lots of food in the freezer but lots still left to do when I woke up feeling gross three days before Succos. I slept most of the day and felt better the following morning, but it was hard not to fret about about the lost cooking hours. I know my erev Succos would have gone more smoothly if I hadn’t been sick that day…or if I had thought to plan one day with no cooking, just in case. Lesson learned.
1. I made some tiny challahs that became a nice size after rising, and some normal-sized challahs that became huge after rising. What happened is that we went through the small ones quickly and then ended up slicing into the huge ones meal after meal, so that we were left with tons of uneaten sliced challah by the end of the chag. The challah itself was delicious, but I’ll keep them all small next time. (The remedy for too much leftover challah is, of course, a big batch of french toast.)
2. The white lasagna with mushrooms was delicious, but it wasn’t creamy the way I expected it would be. I was looking for that fancy white sauce to make a statement, something to the effect of, “I am amazing! I am eons better than tomato sauce!” … but it didn’t quite happen. I’ll make it again, but this time we’ll have it straight from the oven. Then we’ll see who’s talking.
So those are some of my notes. Although I tried to even out the three sections in this post, the truth is that all the food was well-received and I felt it was worth the effort. A lot of prep, but also a lot of pride. After all, showing off our little bayit ne’eman was really something special.
What worked well for you on Succos? What would you do again? What will you do differently?