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Meatballs Shabbos Day and other Blech related questions

I know there have been threads about this int he past, but I am not the savviest searcher. Anyone willing to respond/comment would be most welcome.

So my husband has said a big N O to anything that comes from the crock pot for Shabbos day because it tastes already digested and I so totally agree (with the exception of my very awesome Chili, but we are just chili'd out at this point).
I have obtained a blech - the electric plug in type.
No idea how to use it on Shabbos though - do i have to leave everything on it from before Shabbos, and if so, won't it go sour? I was thinking of doing meatballs and rice or potatoes, but don't want everyone to get food poisoning from stuff that's been standing out since 4pm the day before.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

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  1. If you are Ashkenazi and do not follow the Israeli Rabbanut, you can't reheat wet food on the blech on Shabbos. If you wanted to put meatballs with any sort of sauce on the blech, it'd have to be there from before Shabbos starts, and I don't see why this would be any sort of improvement over the crock pot.

    7 Replies
    1. re: GilaB

      I don't think the blech is the right way to serve hot meatballs for lunch.

      A caterer for our shul uses some type of professional warming closet. I don't know what degree the meatballs are set at, but it works.

      I have also noticed that his meatballs are bigger. The real question is what would happen if you left the meatballs in the oven (in a LOT of sauce) at whatever the correct temperature is from before candlighting. Is 180 okay? How about 200?

      1. re: vallevin

        My understanding of the halacha is that on Shabbos you can't open and close an oven that is on. This is why the Sabbath feature of many ovens is that it allows the oven to be on for a while, but turns it off before you are going to open it. I don't think it will let you set it for more than 12 hours, though. We frequently use it for Friday nights.

        As for meatballs, I leave them on the blech all the time, in a decent amount of sauce. I make my meatballs pretty small (about an inch and a quarter in diameter), and they are always tasty, appropriately moist, and hot enough that they are safe.

        1. re: queenscook

          Our oven solution is the opposite, i.e. our electric has two buttons, one to indicate when the oven is actually heating and one, just off an on. Since the issue is not turning on or off the oven, we've been advised that if both buttons are on, we can open the oven, since opening won't cause it to turn off and the element is already heating. We actually do this rarely. Usually, we just keep the oven on until right before candle lighting and then turn it off. Because we have some very heat retentive pots, the food stays hot, even though it usually is at least an hour before we serve.

            1. re: vallevin

              The so-called "unblech," also called a "kedeira blech." I never liked the more standard blech.

          1. re: vallevin

            180-200 degrees is generally the prime targeted oven/warmer temp for most of my Shabbat catering offerings. I second vallevin's meatball suggestion..bigger is better when it come to overnight cooked meatballs. Try adding shredded apple to you your meat mixture a trick i learned many years ago from one of the UES's most phenomenal cooks, a woman I consider a culinary Rebbi of mine. Raisins, craizins, currents, etc... also work wonderfully in helping keeping your meatballs from turning into dried monkey testicles.

            1. re: gotcholent

              That was a difficult analogy to read at 8:30 on a Sunday Morning/New Year's Day/Post 10 year old Girl's Sleepover...but I always appreciate your insights.

          1. I have the same type of blech. It's rather slow in heating food, but nothing dries out. For serving on Friday nights, I heat the food in the oven and turn the oven off right before Shabbat starts. I transfer the food to the blech and leave it there so that it'll stay warm till dinner. This works best when Shabbat starts closer to dinner time. In the winter, I put the food on the blech about an hour or so before dinner.

            For Saturday lunch, I take the food out of the fridge in the morning so that it's not freezing cold. I put the food on about an hour to two hours before lunch, rotating everything every so often.

            The middle of the blech gets the hottest. Dense food (mashed potatoes) takes much longer to heat than food that's lightly packed (rice). It helps to stir the food (if it can be stirred) to heat it evenly.

            1. Normally I would agree about the crock pot, but I just couldn't resist buying one of those 3 section crock pots from Bed Bath and Beyond, and I used it this past Shabbos. It seems not to get as hot on the low setting as the crock pot I normally use for chulent. I put soup in it that was mostly cooked. It was one of those minestrone soups that comes in those long packages from Kedem, but I also cooked up lots of meat bones for an hour before adding the soup and a lot of fresh onions and carrots. I was afraid that all the barley and split peas in the soup would get way over cooked and be more like chulent, but i was very pleasantly surprised. it was just right.
              I think the difference may be that these 3-pot appliances have a small open spout to be used as a spoon rest. People rail against this feature because it let's in outside air (check out Amazon.com) but I think it keeps the food in the pot from overcooking.

              1. I have a friend who manually spliced a dimmer onto his crockpot cord. He then used a candy thermometer to find the correct setting so that his crockpot sits at 170 degrees. He can now hold his food at 170 degrees without overcooking anything.

                1 Reply
                1. re: avitrek

                  Some crockpots have a warning not to use an extension cord. I am wondering if a dimmer switch would be a safety issue.

                  When I was growing up, everyone had a Shabbos hotplate. There was no on-and-off switch, and no knob to adjust the temperature. They cannot have been that hot as they were left on all night and all day.

                  While you could take a regular hotplate, and cover the knob to prevent someone from adjusting it on Shabbos, I don't know what the low setting would be.

                2. Are you and your husband referring to dishes containing potatoes when you describe the "already digested" taste? I can't stand the taste of russets overnight either. However, I've found that most non potato dishes (and even one with red potatoes) do just fine. Since you are satisfied with the chili, you might try some other non potato dishes. We 've had great success with what we call" The stuff: We always have vegan lunch and we use kosher vegan crumbles, onion, green pepper, garlic and canned diced tomatoes. We usually saute the onion, pepper and garlic, but in a pinch I've omitted the step and it doesn't really hurt. We cook rice separately before Shabbat and serve the "stuff over it." Thick lentil soup works well. I also have a recipe for a pinto bean and pasta dish that works well. The pasta sort of disintegrates, but in this case it's meant to. I think you could very well cook meatballs in a sauce on the crock pot, especially if like ours it automatically switches to warm.

                  On the other hand, we have a "platta" (plug in warming tray that also works well if the food in the pot is hot when you put it on and you have the temperature turned up, everything should be fine. This has always worked for us, but we are not dealing with meat, just beans, vegetables and seitan (vegan meat substitute.) I'd be cautious about white potatoes. I think it's the high sugar content that makes them taste funny and it may make them more susceptible to spoiling. On one memorable occasion, we attempted to cook some overnight in a slow oven. Result: Vodka!!

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: lburrell

                    Which brand of vegan crumbles do you use? Are they as good as the Morningstar Farms brand? I'd love some truly parve ones to use for shabbos, but nothing I've tried has been as good.

                    1. re: queenscook

                      We use Yves brand. I think its Canadian. I like them better than Morningstar Farms. We don't buy from Morningstar any longer. Not just the DE issues, but the company was so cavalier about our complaint when they stopped certifying the Chick'n strips that I decided not to give them any more of my money.

                      1. re: lburrell

                        Are they separate crumbles like the Morningstar Farms stuff, or does it come more like a package of moist ground beef? I've generally found the moist ground beef types to be hard to break up into the smaller pieces I would use for chili and similar recipes.

                        1. re: queenscook

                          They are more like moist ground beef but they break up just fine. I know what you mean, though. The ones that come in a tube are harder to break up. These are packaged flat, and look sort of like a giant hamburger patty when you open the package. They crumble very readily. A standard go-to meal when we can't think of anything else is pasta with a tomato sauce and the crumbles. Whole thing can be finished in about 20 minutes. Great comfort food.

                          1. re: lburrell

                            OK, I'll give it a shot. I did try the one in the tube, and it didn't work at all.

                  2. I'm told I make a pretty good meatball - at least my family likes them. But they are nowhere near as good as some of the meatballs I have had at catered Shabbos afternoon kiddushim or simchas. They are obviously kept in a heating cabinet or oven all night long, yet they are perfectly done. Would any of the caterers/chefs out there like to volunteer a meatball recipe and technique for those just hard enough, meaty, just the right amount of seasoning and spice (without any dominant taste or marked consistency of filler) meatballs (not the sweet and sour variety)?

                    18 Replies
                    1. re: Arinoam

                      It's been a while, but I'd like to second this request for a meatball recipe. I'm a pretty good cook, yet I've tasted meatballs at Shabbos kiddushes that are just delicious, better than what I make at home, with a wonderfull texture. I'm sure they're using some kind of filler, but it's not detectable.
                      I'd love to make something like that as an extra meat for Thanksgiving.

                      1. re: helou

                        If you are willing to consider a vegan option (always a good idea for a dinner with assorted guests), I can give you a killer one that is particularly suited to being prepared in advance and cooked in a sauce for quite a while.

                        1. re: lburrell

                          I would love the recipe.

                          And... I have a package of seitan in the fridge, any ideas?

                          1. re: cheesecake17

                            Here's a link to the recipe on the blogsite. Her stuff is amazing. While you're there, you can go to her home page and search for stuff to do with your seitan. It depends on what form it's in: chunks, strips? light (more chickeny), dark (more "beefy")? Let me know and I can give a few suggestions or references. Most forms will stir fry very well, but strips are better for this, while the chunks are great in meatless stews.


                            1. re: lburrell

                              It's in one big chunk, westsoy brand. Seems darker to me. I usually buy the strips and stir fry or make pepper steak. I was kind of hoping for a more "restaurant type" dish. Kind of like the seitan cutlets with nut crust...something like that.

                              I have the Candle Cafe cookbook, but the recipes have staggering amounts of olive oil. Trying to avoid that!

                              1. re: cheesecake17

                                Depending on what the recipe is, you can often just use a spray oil, or even bake things that are supposed to be fried in oil, if they are going to go into a sauce. I don't think the chunks you have would work for the seitan cutlets, but I've been making them lately with my own easy-to-make seitan. (There are so many easy and inexpensive ways to make seitan that i rarely buy it any more.) For your chunks,, I'd suggest a French or Flemish style beef stew with either red wine, onion, mushroom, and onions or beer and onions. (it's possible to do these without alcohol if you prefer. The French one benefits from a little tomato paste. Use the broth in the Westsoy package, some red wine and some vegetable broth. Many good website (try Fat Free Vegan Kitchen and Bryanna's Vegetarian Feast, will have recipes for this if you don't want to wing it. The recipe and method for seitan cutlets is also easy to find. if you have trouble, post again and I'll send some links and sources.

                                1. re: lburrell

                                  I'm going to find the candle cafe cookbook and try to make the piccata recipe. The seitan looks like it can be cut into medallions. If not, I'll try a stew type dish. Thanks

                                  1. re: lburrell

                                    What about seitan shepards pie? Any experiences?

                                    1. re: cheesecake17

                                      I've made a lot of these, but my favorite shepard's pie for Shabbat is a crock-pot lentil version. BTW, don't think you have to start with wheat flour and go through hours of agony to make your own seitan. You can find many recipes for easy to make seitan on vegan websites and in some of the newer cook books. Why the Candle Cafe version starts with wheat flour rather than vial wheat gluten, I don't know.

                                      1. re: lburrell

                                        I've made seitan using vital wheat gluten a few times. It's easier to buy it, pop it in the fridge and take it out when I need it. But I do see the appeal of preparing it

                                        1. re: cheesecake17

                                          Especially appealing now that I have recipes that take about 15 minutes in prep and can then be placed in oven or crockpot for no fail initial cooking. Also, I've found that the homemade will keep for quite a while in the broth it's cooked in if you have a nice tight container. On the other hand, we always keep the tofurky Italian sausage and the Yves crumbles on hand for dependable quick cooking. There is a great vegan latkes recipe in the new VegTimes!!

                                          1. re: lburrell

                                            It's really just me who eats the seitan, but I'm going to try making it one of these days.

                                            I got the new veg times yesterday and am looking forward to a lot of the recipes

                                            1. re: cheesecake17

                                              Do you have a slow cooker? A bread machine? Depending on what tools you have I can post some quick and easy methods. Also, we always serve a vegan option at our Friday night open table dinners. The omnivores are usually extremely impressed with our setan dishes. Don't be afraid to share!!

                                              1. re: lburrell

                                                A slow cooker. Haven't opened the box yet, but I have one. Eventually I want to use it for cholent, but we are always invited out. Till then I'm keeping it parve.

                                                My goal is to use it for vegan/ vegetarian Thursday night dinners. Is always such a rush- I'm out of the house at 9:30 and I don't come home till 5.

                                                1. re: cheesecake17

                                                  I suggest you keep it parve and invest in one, or two of the great vegan cook books out there. Both The Vegan Slow Cooker by Katy Hester and Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson have super quick and easy seitan recipes that cook in the slow cooker. The result is a little softer than you get by oven roasting, but you can later pan fry the seitan cutlets before using in recipes. This firms them up. I make mine at night and let them cook on low until the morning. Then let them cool and store them in the cooking broth. (Which works very well in recipes. Robertson also has a great Vegan Cholent recipe. Most of the recipes call for shorter cooking time than Shabbat requires, but I've had good results using them at 1:00 or 2:00 on Shabbat. it may help that my slow cooker can be set to automatically switch to warm (no longer on warm than 4 hours is recommended, but I've never run into trouble using the warm setting longer.) Our lunches are always vegan (even though my husband loves meat) and we never miss the flesh!!

                                  2. re: cheesecake17

                                    Just checked: The Candle Cafe cookbook is where I find my method for the cutlets. I use the Piccata recipe and use less olive oil. I also use crumbs, not flour for the dredging. I love it and so do my guests. I don't worry if I don't have capers and i use the kosher Imagine No-chik broth.

                            2. re: helou

                              I'm not sure how you are making your meatballs, but they should always have some kind of filler, it makes them soft. For say 1lb of ground beef:
                              soak 2 slices of bread in water (crusty bread like rye etc is best) and wring out. add one egg to beef, and wet bread, a large handful of raisins...seasoning for meatballs going into tomato sauce could be chopped parsley, salt, pepper, and oregano. make meatballs the sice of tennis balls and have them cook in the sauce.

                              1. re: fara

                                It's sort of what I do, but I use less filler - maybe one slice of bread per pound. I'll use more.
                                I also sometimes use matzo meal and water (1/4 cup of each) for filler, but I think bread is probably a better idea.

                          2. IT'S NOT FILLER. Filler implies that you are trying to fool your guests by stretching the good stuff. What you are trying to do is produce a perfect meatball. If you use pure meat the meatballs will be hard as a rock. you need to LIGHTEN THEM UP.

                            I like to do this with a combination of tabouli and grated onions. Pre-soaked tabouli is better than rice or bread, it's smaller than rice so it spreads through the meat and retains it's fluffy impact, bread often doesn't. Remember, old-time cooks had on hand what they had. You can choose an ingredient for it's useful properties.

                            Grated onions work magic. Fluff and flavor. But a lot of work to grate. Meatballs are a lot more work than steak. You can also mince the onion very fine and brown it before adding to the meat. Un-browned Minced onion often will not cook through.

                            I get the best results by shaping the meatballs, then oven-roasting them spread out on something like a cookie sheet. this gives some browning and lets the excess fat run off.

                            I don't attempt this for lunch on shabbat, because I don't reheat liquids (sauce) and if I'm going to the trouble of making meatballs I don't want them to taste like cholent. Caterers must have better temperature control in those warming pans.