Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My Tzimmes Brings All the Boys to the Yard

Pronunciation Guide - Tzimmes (tzim-MESS)
Definition -slow cooked stewy-like goodness

My Tzimmes brings all the Boys to the Yard, and they're like
"It's better than yours"
Damn Right! It's better than yours.
I could teach you, but I'd have to charge.

But it's Rosh Hashanah and I'm feeling generous. So the Pumpkin Spice Poppet and I will teach you for the minor cost of your time and the pedagogic teaching that comes with the recipe.

Rosh Hashana this year falls on Shabbat. Shabbat is full of all sorts of rules. They're important. Rosh Hashana has a bunch of rules too. So when you get the "double mitzvah" of a holiday falling on Shabbat you get RulesFest. Although there are some rules that are I think in need of revisiting I am hesitant to tinker with the thing for everyone, because baselines in Judaism are about history and following the rules makes you walk the history.

Your people's past is your present and not just the stuff where everyone hates you. Keeping all the rules can isolate you from the outside world, which I do not approve of, but I do believe you should try to learn all the rules, before you make a decision on what is too much you need to know why it is there. This is one of the reasons organized Judaism is in a bit of a pickle right now. The people who created the movements of Reform, Conservative (Maosorti) and Modern Orthodox all had fully Orthodox educations. They were not reforming or modifying from rebellion but from a position of knowledge and a love of those laws.

But people now haven't really got the whole history of these laws, because frankly learning that much stuff takes a lot of time and most modern Jews outsource the intense studying to the rabbis, which creates a bit of an imbalance because rabbis were supposed to have day jobs and now they can't. They study so you don't have to. It's a lot of pressure. People just do what they say instead of understanding why they are saying it. It's too much power. Some of them crack. Save a rabbi - study Talmud.

I'll bet you're wondering what that has to do with Tzimmes. Everything.

Judaism is about Food and Fire. And Time.

Tzimmes takes care of all three.

4 Large Sweet Potatoes - I use giant Yams. - Peeled and Diced
1 Butternut Squash - Small - Yes it has to be butternut - you can see the squash with Pumpkin Spice in the second picture - It looked smal to me. - Peeled and Diced
4 Granny Smith Apples - I believed that the first time I made this recipe and then I determined that they were incorrect - so I use 5. Peeled, Cored and Diced ( not so fast there pardner - read all the way through first)
Dried, pitted prunes - halved
1/3 cup of water
1/3 cup of Sweet Passover Wine ( I refuse to buy Maneshevitz Passover wine, I'm Jewish but I still have a palate dammit, I use King David when I'm making it for someone other than my family and just tried Port for when I'm making it for home. )
1/3 cup of sugar
1/2 a teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1/2 a teaspoon of ground ginger.

This Tzimmes is important because you're not supposed to light a new flame on Shabbat, but you're not allowed to put out a flame that was left unextinguished after Shabbat starts. You are prohibited from doing "work" which was initially defined as things that were done to build the temple. One day a week, time was suspended and you could not "make" you had to "be" instead.

But of course there were logistics problems with just being - for instance apparently you were also supposed to celebrate with foods. There's a big deal between the Sadducees and the Pharisees about whether or not you were allowed to have a flame at all - since we have warm foods, that's how you know that the Pharisees won. For the record , the preaching that Jesus did in the red word bible indicates that he was on the Pharisees' side of the big arguments so when he was calling them out, it was more like when Democrats tell other Democrats that they're hypocrites because they aren't doing enough.

So yeah, we have warm food on Shabbat, because the Pharisees won, and the way we have it is by working like lunatics before sundown, having everything ready and keeping the ancient equivalent of a hot plate going. Then you put the Tzimmes on it and pretend you're not working to serve the meal. Because feeding people wasn't considered part of building, but you couldn't cook from scratch because that was creating, and the 7th day is a no-creation zone. But Rosh Hashanah is supposed to be an even fancier meal - so this recipe is full on FANCY.

This tzimmes is so beloved by my friends that I have been asked to supply it to several meals I will not be attending - I wasn't bragging. I was being fully and completely honest. My Tzimmes brings all the boys to the yard, and the vegetarians, and the foodies, and people who love sweet potatoes . . .

There are other Tzimmes that are meat based and savory. This is savory/sweet.

So here are some of the tricks - when you go to buy the large sweet potatoes get the really large mutant looking ones about the size of newborn baby heads. Cook them in the microwave at 8 minutes per potato - because they are huge. You'll still have to peel them but they will be the right consistency. I dice them in 1.5 inch chunks because they usually have to be served with a number of other foods that have been slow cooked and I like them to have some heft.

Butternut squash is a killer. I had never cooked one before I started making this Tzimmes. My first time I tried to cut the thing up raw. What did I know. Let me tell you, if you haven't tried this - the next time I want to use something for longsword practice it will be me throwing up butternut squashes and trying to see if I can hit them in motion. Why? Because I don't think the sword will do more than dent it if it's not cooked first. I may make armour out of it.

My mom told me to nuke the squash for 10 minutes and then try. Lesson the second, let it cool for about 15 minutes. I needed to make this on no notice once, and the only place I could find butternut squash was Whole Foods and they only had pre-cut. I've never found pre-cut butternut squash there again, but I was all about prayer at that moment. "Blessed art thou O Lord Our God, Ruler of the Universe who createst pre cut squash - amien" That I should live to see such wonder!

Obviously that Tzimmes was meant to be.

For the apples I actually use a tool that was meant to be used for blooming onions to make the wedges and core the apples. Then I cut the wedges in half. This is not really diced - but frankly diced apples in a slow cooked thing become applesauce.

And finally the pitted prunes. Here's what I didn't know. People won't buy prunes because they think they are for old people and no one, including old people thinks prunes are sexy. So I'm desperately looking for dried pitted prunes and thanks to the wonders of technology I call my mother from my cell phone when reaching near hysteria in the supermarket. She tells me that they're calling them sun dried plums now and they are in the area where they keep the raisins.

Wow - the more you know.

Thanks Mom. Of course she wanted to know what I was cooking that needed prunes. I told her I'd bring some up for next Passover. It was a hit. You know something is good when your mom likes it and she didn't give you the recipe herself.

So it's three years later and now I can sometimes find prunes that are actually called prunes.

Ok, so you have all your vegetative matter in a giant bowl - it needs to be giant because it's a lot of stuff.

I use medical gloves when I'm handling food, they're disposable, they prevent cross contamination and you can still feel what you're working with. I recommend this for the next step.

The recipe tells you to mix things in the large bowl - HA! You'll break your spoon. Mix it with your hands pulling through with your fingers while sliding them down the sides of the bowl and bringing them up from the bottom. Then keep moving things in the bowl around the same way you would do meatballs. When everything looks evenly distributed stop.

Now you take the sugar, nutmeg, and ginger and mix that together in a bowl. Sprinkle the mixture over your giant bowl of stuff and then do a little of the meatball mixing thing again.

Now I will go into the politics and history of kosher wine at some other time. Suffice it to say that it's cool and I sort of understand. It's a sacrament and you don't really want to drink a sacrament made by people who were trying to kill you. However the rules grew into something else, and that is a something else I find runs counter to what I believe Judaism is supposed to do. It's a rant of sorts and won't be indulged here.

Very much like I will not ask people to believe in my religion as long as they stop trying to get me to believe in theirs, I will not ask my co-religionists to compromise their understanding of the law to accomodate mine. So I will not sneak non-kosher wine into a Tzimmes I make for other people. Not even if I think they are righteous selfish pricks that are trying to bully people with how observant they are.

However, I damn well will use port instead of sweet passover wine in mine.

Taylor Fladgate makes a kosher Ruby Porto Cordovero. It's the first real kosher port.
I say with no irony at all - "Thank you God for making a world with such port in it!"

You pour the water and the wine over the things in the bowl and then you can try mixing with a spoon or tossing it like a really massive salad until all of the things are coated with the liquid and the sugar and the spice pretty evenly or you can do the meatball mix style again.

You'll be able to see when it looks right. Or your Poppet will let you know after the inspection.

Then you are supposed to place it in a pan. Yeah, right. You place it in two pans. Cover it tightly with tin foil and a lid if you have one.

Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cool.

To serve reheat, then empty into a serving dish. Don't serve it out of the pan you cooked it in, the movement of the tzimmes into the serving dish squeezes the juice out of the fruit.

The alternative method it to take the whole shmagegee ( that's a technical term, folks) and put it in your electric crock pot. It will fill up a whole one of those suckers. Cook on medium for an hour and then turn it to low. Leave it there overnight. Come back from synagogue the next day, serve it for the festive meal that you pretend is getting there magically.

I love this recipe because it has the things you would use for fall, it has echos of American Thanksgiving, it echos and is appropriate for Passover - which is another "New Year" in the ritual calender (I'll explain that later too) and it allows me to fulfill an important part of being in a community which is sharing food and meals for the holidays.

So to bring this back to Food Fire and Time: a tzimmes lets you eat like kings without violating shabbat by prepping the food, lighting the fire and keeping through time.

I know you want it
The thing that makes me
What the boys go crazy for
They lose their minds
Cause I use good wines
I think it's time.

la la la la la la
Warm it up
la la la la la
The table's waiting

My Tzimmes brings all the Boys to the Yard, and they're like
"It's better than yours"
Damn Right! It's better than yours.
I could teach you, but I'd have to charge.


Jessie said...


I am not jew, I can make too?

God you're so educational

Drinne said...

Totally make too!

Tzimmes is not discriminatory. Besides when we drink hot chocolate we're drinking a religious libation of Aztek priests - who are probably all spinning in their graves or volcanos because we dilute it with sugar and milk - Heresy!! - Tzimmes isn't as religious as hot chocolate : )

It's Eastern European in origin. Just like Gefilte Fish - it solves a Rules Puzzle for Shabbat.

Enjoy it when you make it - share some with the Marlboro Man.

The Steampunk Marchioness said...

Rockin' tzimmes, Drinne. Can't wait to try the recipe.
Sacred time, sacred tzimmes.

Romeo said...

I think I've found my new site to wile away the hours, Mrs. Drinne.