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7 Tips for Prep Ahead Shabbat Meals/Recipes


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Dear Jamie,

I was hoping that you might want to focus on Shabbat meals – specifically, those that can be prepared in advance and rapidly warmed for Shabbat. I plan for Shabbat from the beginning of the week, and don’t have time to prep on Fridays. (PS – I love the cookbooks.)


Hi Michael,

This is such a great question. Cooking for Shabbat is a challenge because you want your food to taste fresh, not be dried out or killed by the blech/hot plate/warming drawer/warm oven – whatever method you use. Even the best of the best recipes are not all suited for serving on Shabbat when you consider the need to cook in advance, throw it in the fridge, and then rewarm under unconventional circumstances.

Here are a few tips (my own, cherished, personal guidelines) that will help. Follow these, and you’ll be so proud of your Shabbat food.

(*Quick Note: there are many halachos involved with heating and reheating foods on Shabbat and differences between Shabbat Night (which enables you to place foods with liquids directly on a blech/hot plate or in a warming drawer prior to the onset of Shabbat) and Shabbat Day (which prohibits the rewarming of foods in liquids and in many cases requires the need for a 2nd tier/added layer between your food and heat source). For more detailed explanation of some of the basic laws please refer to this post from Rabbi Lawrence)

Beer Braised Brisket

1. Brisket: there are few cuts of meat that can handle the back and forth of oven, fridge (even freezer), hot plate. The brisket is one baby that not only can do it, but is better for it. It’s best to prepare it, refrigerate it overnight and slice it cold the next day. Submerge it in the gravy and re-warm; or return to the fridge or freezer until you are ready to re-warm and serve. Enjoy these Brisket recipes:

Beer Braised Brisket
Garlic Honey Brisket 
Pomegranate Braised Brisket
Brisket in Wine Sauce

For more brisket recipes click here.


Sweet and Sour Meatballs

2. Red Meat: Like the brisket, any cuts of meat that are completely submerged in liquid and that become softer the longer you cook them are great for Shabbat night. I have a great recipe for Asian Steak that uses 1-inch thick bone-in chuck steaks – not an expensive cut of meat by any means – and the longer they cook, the softer and more tender the meat becomes. It also freezes beautifully. Flanken and pot roast recipes are two more good examples of great make-ahead cuts. Meatballs (cocktail or entrée sized) are another wonderful prep-ahead & freeze choice. Make sure they’re completely submerged in their sauce and you’re good. But be sure to let them defrost (if frozen) before rewarming them in a heavy bottomed pan over the lowest heat, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Here are some great prep-ahead red meat recipes:

Sweet and Sour Meatballs
Cocktail Meatballs
Coffee Glazed Pot Roast with Caramelized Onions 

For more Meatball recipes click here.
For more Pot Roast recipes click here.

Chicken Thighs with Roasted Winter Fruit

3. Chicken: two keys to making terrific chicken for Shabbat:
1) don’t overcook it. If it’s already dried out, you can’t save it. Most everyone overcooks chicken, especially the white meat.

So here’s the deal: a 3lb. chicken in 1/8ths should take about an hour to cook at 375 F uncovered. The white meat – anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour depending on the size; the dark meat pieces – about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes tops. A few tricks here: place the white meat pieces in a different baking pan so you can remove them earlier. Cook them for the majority of the time upside down; turn them right side up for the last 10 to 15 minutes to evenly brown the skin.

2) When you rewarm the chicken: allow it to come to room temperature first, and then don’t over-dry it when rewarming. If you use a warming drawer, don’t put it in prematurely. If you use a blech/hot plate, place the chicken on a second tier (always on a 2nd tier Shabbat day) so it doesn’t burn or get too much heat. Remember, you’re just warming it, not cooking. If you’re too “chicken” to try this with white meat, you could use only dark meat chicken for Shabbat; it has an added layer of (fat) juicy protection. When working with cutlets, follow the same tips as above. You have the option of serving these at room temp, if you like. Sure-fire Shabbat chicken recipes you’ll enjoy (provided you follow the tips above!):

Chicken Thighs with Roasted Winter Fruit 
Chicken with Apples
Speedy Coq au Vin
Honey Chicken
Date Glazed Roast Chicken 

For more chicken recipes click here.

Asian Shiitake Mushroom Soup

4. Soups, Soups, & Soups – are a fantastic make-ahead course. I actually make soup only 3 to 4 times a year. I cook about 30 quarts of each of my family’s favorites and freeze them in individual 2-quart containers (and even a few 1-quart containers.) That way, I can take out whatever amount I need, depending on the amount of company I’m expecting. Also consider chilled soups for Shabbat day. They last nicely in the fridge and they’re ready to serve. Keep in mind that chilled soups are not only fruity and not just for the summer. Try these traditional and chilled soups:

Mango Strawberry Soup 
Classic Chicken Soup
Asian Shiitake Mushroom Soup 

For more soup recipes click here.

California Avocado Salad

5. Salads. I am always my own sous-chef – if I can’t commandeer Hubby. I wash, check, and cut my lettuce in advance and keep it in a salad spinner/crisper so it’s ready to go. In fact, I cut all my veggies and store them in the fridge in separate containers for easy salad assembly just before serving. (Hey, all the restaurant chefs have sous chefs. Why shouldn’t we?) And I usually double, triple (and even) quadruple my dressing recipes, so I have a big batch on hand for a few weeks’ time. I keep that in yet another container so I can assemble a fresh salad and dress it quickly just before serving. No soggy salads for us! Most leafy green salads are a one way ticket once dressed; you can’t go back. Check out these recipes:

Pomegranate, Orange, Papaya and Kiwi Green Salad 
Strawberry and Mango Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette 
Spinach Salad with Japanese Ginger Dressing 

Then there are those salads that just get better with age – the ones that benefit from marinating in their dressing to allow all the flavors to marry nicely. They can be made 1-2 days in advance. Just remember to slice in avocados if called for just before serving. One more hint: most salads are best served at room temperature, unless otherwise specified in the recipes. This allows all the flavors to emerge. Try these make-ahead winning salad recipes:

Israeli Cabbage Salad 
California Avocado Salad
Cucumber and Black Bean Salsa Salad

For more salad recipes click here.

Sweet Kugel

6. Sides
: I find any potato sides are absolutely best made as close to serving as possible. They benefit from the crispy finish generated by oven cooking vs hot plate re-warming.

The exception is potato kugel, which can handle both prep ahead and fridge time. But I never, ever freeze a potato kugel (though I know people who vehemently insist that it’s ok. We’ve never gone to the mat over this one). If at all possible, allow roasted potato dishes to crisp up again in the oven before placing in a warming drawer or on a hot plate to keep warm. (Of course, this only works on Shabbat night and is the main reason I serve those types of dishes Shabbat night.) But even here watch that you’re potato dishes don’t dry out. I save the kugels for Shabbat day. Kugels are so popular because they re-warm very nicely – and aside from potato kugels (am I drilling in my POV here?) — freeze quite nicely as well. Noodle kugels, Challah kugels, and vegetable kugels (broc, spinach, zucchini, butternut squash, etc.) all fare well in both the fridge and freezer. Maybe that’s the reason kugel is such a Shabbat-y food – I mean, when’s the last time you made a kugel to serve on a Tuesday night? Try these make-ahead kugel recipes:

Salt and Pepper Kugel with Roasted Garlic 
Broccoli Kugel 
Sweet Kugel with Dried Fruit
Potato Kugel Cups 

For 67 more kugel recipes and ideas click here.

Baby French String Beans with Slivered Almonds

And when it comes to veggies, green beans are my fave Shabbat choice. They hold up best from fridge to blech. Again, just make sure not to overcook them initially. In fact, I usually prep them a drop under – until barely tender with still a bit of a crisp bite – and then rewarm them on the blech on a tier (whether serving them night or day). If you use a warming drawer, don’t put them in prematurely. Get ’em warm and keep ‘em green; not piping hot, soft and soggy. Try my favorite green bean recipes:

Green Beans with Three Onion Sauté
Baby French Green Beans with Slivered Almonds
Green Beans with Walnut and Green Olive Tapenade

For more green bean recipes click here.

Caramel Pear Lattice Pie

7. Desserts: the ultimate make-ahead dish. Of course, any freezer desserts are perfect to prep ahead, in fact, designed so. Cakes, muffins, cookies all do well in a cake plate or covered container for a few days, or even in the freezer and then defrosted. The trick is not to lock in moisture. So let any baked goods cool completely before covering or packaging and freezing. I use freezer bags, not foil. Another tip: when you pull it out of the freezer – if the bag has condensation inside, take the goods out of the bag and allow to defrost before placing in a new, clean, dry bag or covered cake plate. Try these great dessert recipes:

Caramel Pear Lattice Pie
Carrot Apple Mini Cupcakes with non-dairy Cream Cheese Icing
One Bowl Amazing Chocolate Cake
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Mousse Pie

For more dessert recipes click here.

So now you’re all set! With these recipes you should be able to start cooking for the next 10 (or at least 7) Shabbatot.

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About Jamie Geller


Jamie Geller is the only best-selling cookbook author who wants to get you out of the kitchen – not because she doesn’t love food – but because she has tons to do. As “The Bride Who Knew Nothing” Jamie found her niche specializing in fast, fresh, family recipes. Now the "Queen of Kosher" (CBS) and the "Jewish Rachael Ray" (New York Times), she's the creative force behind JoyofKosher.com and "Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller" magazine . Jamie and her hubby live in Israel with their five busy kids who give her plenty of reasons to get out of the kitchen - quickly. Check out her new book, "Joy of Kosher: Fast, Fresh Family Recipes."




15 Responses to 7 Tips for Prep Ahead Shabbat Meals/Recipes

  1. Everything looks so delicious!!!
    Another chicken tip for Friday nights: 1 whole chicken cut into 8 pieces, cover with the following sauce: 1/2 cup of mayo, some curry powder, 1 cup of honey, 1 cup of chutney (any will do)and a squeeze of lemon juice. Make sure that there is enough sauce to submerge the chicken. I cook it on medium heat in the oven for about 45 minutes covered and then 45 minutes uncovered (turn to brown). It can sit on any warmer for hours and still be just perfectly delicious.

  2. As a wife of over 39 years, mother of 4 and public school teacher (no short Fridays) for most of those, I did most of my cooking on Thursday night. Soups, especially thick and hearty ones like lentil or split pea, can be made anytime and frozen (or refrigerate up to 5 or 6 days). Make them thick so they take up less room in the freezer, then thin them when you reheat with water from the kumkum. Likewise your sides – rice, bulghur, barley, etc. can be made in advance, just remember to add a little water when you reheat so it doesn’t stick to the pan. Eventually, I also came to rely on the crock pot, the perfect vehicle for cholent. I make a crockpot vegetarian chili that is better than most cholents when guests are expected. I also will serve a lot of cold dishes for shabbat lunch, not enough room on the warming tray (and I don’t have a fancy new-fangled oven with the shabbos setting – if I leave the oven on, the whole house gets cold because of the location!) Desserts tend to be fruit-based, eg asst fresh fruit, baked apple, compote, etc. but if it has to be cake, brownies, blondies and quick breads eg Zucchini or pumpkin keep well.
    Keep up the good work, Jamie!

  3. I’d love to see a post specifically for Shabbat lunch. That’s the trouble maker, much more than dinner.

    • avatar says: kayla

      My family struggled with the shabbat day meal for a while because we are not cholent eaters, the formula that works for us, is kind of the picnic food concept:loads of fresh veggies salads such as pasta or potato salasdand a nice green leafy as well as cold breaded and grilled chicken cutlets, pickled chicken or turkey roast. the nice bonus is that we dont feeling like yurking from caloric overload

      • LOL! After the chulent I can’t keep my eyes open – Hubby and I “fight” about who gets the first nap (if he doesn’t fall asleep on the couch first!)

  4. Hi im looking for some quick and easy recipes

  5. All great ideas for put-away, prepare-ahead stuff. I love that California salad for warmer weather. Beautiful and refreshing looking.

  6. avatar says: Aaron

    Now that you are in Eretz Isra’el, could you do some of those awesome Israeli salad/side dishes such as are served at almost every Israeli restaurant before the main dish comes out?
    I would love to do more of those for Shabbat.I know you did some in your Winter 2012 issue but I didnt see any of the chickpea salads, etc.


    • as I was reading your comment I was getting ready to reply that in our winter issue we had more than 12 Israeli salads but it’s awesome that you know that! SO – which chickpea one(s) are you interested in…?

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