A Look at an Efficient Cooking Session

As a challenge, I decided to see if I could prepare two Shabbat (sabbath) meals in an hour, not including cooking time.

My menu:

  • Roast chicken with garlic, lemon juice, and oregano
  • Potatoes in the pressure cooker
  • Roast vegetables: Turnip, onion, garlic, beet, sweet potato, yellow pepper, rosemary.
  • Cholent (a stew in the crockpot)
  • Techina (sesame paste dressing).
  • Cake, challah and soup from the freezer. I try to separate baking from cooking when I can, because they use different ingredients and tools.
  • Salad, made by my kids closer to the meals.

The Friday night and Saturday mid-day meals are more or less the same, except that I planned to serve soup Friday night and cholent at lunch.

Cooking efficiently requires advanced preparation. I had washed the celery the day before, and defrosted the chicken in the refrigerator. Now I put the the chicken in the sink and set the lemons on the  counter, so they would be at room temperature. Foods at room temperature are easier to work with, and some say warm lemons yield more juice.

The chicken was still partially frozen so I decided to do that later.

IMG_9438Time for the vegetables: This is my kitchen table where I sit to work whenever I can. I decided to peel the beets, but just scrub the turnips (not pictured) and sweet potato. The colander is ready to take the vegetables to the sink for rinsing. When I sat down to work I realized I would also need a knife and cutting board. After I set the vegetables in the pan, I drizzled olive oil over them and ran to my roof patio to get some rosemary.

IMG_9436For the techina and chicken, I needed lemon juice and garlic. I chopped several cloves of garlic in the food processor, which was clean and dry on the counter. There’s nothing like finding your food processor full of cake batter residue  just when you are about to start a cooking session. I set  aside the garlic for the chicken in a small bowl. I added juice from half a lemon to the garlic remaining in the food processor. Then I added sesame past, cumin and enough water to make a thick dressing. I ran the machine, scraped out the dressing, and put in the refrigerator. That was the end of the food processor’s work for the day so I put the parts in the dishwasher with no worry.

IMG_9427Here is a picture of my cholent in the crockpot including onion, barley, celery, and turnip. Carrots, potatoes and a piece of chicken are added as they are prepared.

The chicken was still a little frozen, but I cleaned it and set it into the pan. I squeezed the rest of the lemons and added the garlic from the bowl, oregano and some water on the chicken. I covered it and left it to marinate while it finished defrosting, and roasted the vegetables. My oven is not quite big enough to do both at once. At any rate, I find chicken is crisper when roasted without vegetables.

I finished within the hour, including cleanup, a couple of phone calls, the trip for the rosemary and a scramble to find a knife. Misplacing items is one of my biggest barriers to efficiency. My husband scrubbed and quartered the potatoes, which took another ten minutes. Cleanup involved disposing of the peels on the newspaper, cleaning the knife, juicer, and cutting board, and wiping off the sink and counter.

I was able to work quickly because I had clean kitchen surfaces and no small children at home or other distractions.

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