The Holidays Are Coming

This is my mother's gefilte fish, and what mine should look like. We will see...
This is my mother’s gefilte fish, and what mine should look like. We will see…

I know what you are thinking – Christmas isn’t coming for months on end, and Thanksgiving is none too soon, either. Well, that is true, but the Jewish holidays, specifically Rosh Hashana starts in a mere two and a half weeks. Family is coming (lots of ’em) and while I throw a hell of a dinner party, typically holidays are not my thing. Except Thanksgiving. I’ve perfected that one.

The mere idea of making a brisket throws me into a tailspin, and matzo balls? Forget it. I don’t even like them, yet I need to learn how to make them, and fast. So, I have assembled the “best of” recipes from both my mother and mother-in-law. As I was freaking out, I actually read over the brisket recipe. It has three ingredients other than the meat. Three. I can’t screw that one up, can I?

I have now done what all obsessively organized, and slightly intimidated people do: I’ve made a spreadsheet. Indeed, the first page has a menu for both nights (and even a few new items to make an appearance with the leftovers the third night), along with the dinner guests coming each night. The second has a shopping list with things divided into sections – things I need to get on the mainland, stuff I can procure in Key West, things to make, etc.

It all seems so much more manageable with a good list. I am sure I have forgotten to list at least twelve things I need, and will be frantically rushing at the last minute (and sending FKGuy on many a trip to the grocery store), but the short term plan seems easy enough. This weekend I will be attempting the brisket and chicken soup, neither of which I have made before. (I know what you are thinking: you are Jewish. How is it possible that you have never made chicken soup? Haven’t you ever been sick before? These are all valid questions, but I will tell you that I do love a good chicken soup, my mother and mother-in-law both make excellent versions, and when I am sick I am in no mood to cook, so I simply get some soup from my mother’s freezer. Yes, she almost always has some in there.) Also on the agenda for the weekend are the sweet and sour meatballs (which I have made quite often) and a chocolate pecan bourbon cake (so if the brisket sucks, at least dessert will be good.)

Yes, I know the brisket will be fine. That is not really what I am worried about. It is the gefilte fish. That stuff that comes in a jar is vile, but my mom makes a darn good version (which bears very little resemblance to a traditional gefilte fish, except in the fact that they are both fish and served cold.) So it is the salmon and halibut terrine that I will be making (and calling “gefilte fish”).

Wish me luck. (And feel free to share your brisket tips or gefilte fish horror stories in the comments below.)