Make holidays better: Prepare in advance

This is the time of year that you will probably have to host at least one of the many holiday meals.

Rosh Hashanah lunch or dinner, pre- or post-Yom Kippur meal, Sukkot outdoor supper — these are all good reasons to build a repertoire of make-ahead dishes so that these occasions don’t throw you into a last-minute panic.

Baked, braised or simmered dishes are perfect for a make-in-advance menu that can be frozen and reheated. 

And best of all, this affords the opportunity for the cook to be a worriless, guilt-free guest at her own table.

I make my Tomato Onion Brisket a few weeks before the holiday feast, and while there have been times I’ve made it one day in advance, my family insists it tastes better when I make it and freeze it.

A sweet noodle kugel is a great dish to serve at a Yom Kippur break-the-fast or at Sukkot, while a savory one is perfect alongside the brisket.

Sweet Cheese Noodle Kugel | Serves 8-10

16 oz. wide egg noodles
4 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 lb. cottage cheese
2 cups sour cream
5 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 cup crushed cornflakes
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4-1/2 cup sugar
Cook noodles in boiling water according to package direction.
Drain and rinse with cold water. In a large bowl, mix the noodles with the melted butter, cheese, sour cream, eggs, sugar and vanilla.
Pour into a greased 9×13-inch pan. In a separate bowl, mix the cornflakes, cinnamon and sugar. Sprinkle the cornflake mixture on top of the noodle mixture.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour or until the top is brown. Let cool and wrap tightly in a layer of plastic wrap and then aluminum foil. Freeze. 
Reheat before serving by removing wraps and baking in a 350-degree oven about 20 minutes.

Savory Mushroom Noodle Kugel |  Serves 8

1 large onion, chopped
1 lb. mushrooms, coarsely chopped
3 Tbs. margarine
3 eggs
12 oz. fine egg noodles, cooked and drained
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13-inch pan.
Brown the onions and mushrooms in the margarine. Cool for 15 minutes. Beat the eggs very well and stir in the noodles, onions, mushrooms and margarine. Bake 40-45 minutes or until golden brown on top.
Let cool. Cover tightly with a layer of plastic wrap and then aluminum foil. Freeze.
Before serving remove foil and plastic and reheat in a 350-degree oven about 20 minutes.

Tomato and Onion Braised Brisket | Serves 10

1 piece brisket, 4 to 5 lbs.
Salt and pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 large onions, thinly sliced
2 cups coarsely chopped tomatoes
Trim almost all of the excess fat from brisket and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Make a paste of the oregano, thyme, garlic and olive oil. Spread over both sides of brisket. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place brisket in a roasting pan. Cover with onions and then with tomatoes. Cover pan tightly with heavy-duty foil.
Bake 3 1/2 to 4 hours, basting every hour with accumulated juices. Remove brisket and tomato mixture to a platter. Degrease pan juices and pour into a freezer-safe bowl or jar. Cover tightly and freeze. When cool, slice brisket and wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place in freezer bags. Make sure bags are tightly sealed and air is removed from bags. Night before serving thaw sauce and brisket in refrigerator. Reheat just before serving.

Louise Fiszer is a Palo Alto cooking teacher, author and the co-author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking.” Her columns alternate with those of Rebecca Ets-Hokin. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to [email protected].