A few hours before Shabbos comes in, our kitchen is jammin’. Soon, I’ll be dancing in the weeds.
What’s cooking? Well, after shopping in three separate markets for the requisite provisions, we’ve got a few things in the works. A plethora of ingredients and condiments for a pre-Shabbos guac snack and two feasts cover much of the counter surface of the island in the center of the kitchen: herbs and spices galore, a ¼ bottle of Cardova Rioja wine, red and yellow bell peppers, a chili pepper, baby Portobello mushrooms, red and yellow onions, shallots, carrots, red potatoes, asparagus, avocados, limes, a bunch of cilantro, a package of boneless chicken breast, and a package of fatty chunks of shoulder beef.
But first things first: tunes, brews, and guacamole with tortilla chips.
This is how we prep for Shabbos at casa Karpel. We start with a l’chaim, then we boogie.
Very few things can compare to the pleasure of the first cold brew on Friday afternoon. And with Pittsburgh’s Chillent grooving through the speakers, the hips and the feet are already moving. There’s no helping it. There’s no stopping. I’m moving. I’m stomping. I’m chopping onions and cilantro and chili pepper, my eyes wet, my face open with a wide smile. I almost lose the tip of a finger and keep going. These boys bring the funk!
Hearkening back to the way bands traditionally formed, Chillent grew organically out of living-room jam sessions. Common interests, a wide range of tastes, and a love of bass heavy funk results in a mix of groovy interpretations, updated covers, and soulful originals. Fusing funk, rock, jazz, blues, and Yiddish klezmer with a jamband aesthetic, Chillent’s first full-length offering, Jewish Soul Stew, ought to be part of your summer jam.
Simple, deep and chunky funk blues jams jazzed up with harmonica, horns, and sweet melodies roll out one after the other. I’m really digging these tunes. Before I move on and get my hands deep into the mix, I get the thumbs up from my wife and hit the “repeat” open arrows circle symbol because this album is going to rock us right into Shabbos.
Head bobbing, shoulders bopping, feet flopping and I’m back to the cutting board
The flavors of the guacamole have to fire fathoms deep. And although the consistency should be smooth, it shouldn’t be too creamy. You gotta have chunks to chew on with your tortilla chip. The onions and chili pepper are diced, not minced. And the avocadoes are sliced and squared, not smashed. Two limes are more crushed into the mix than they are squeezed. A small dollop of mayonnaise gives a bit of glue for the disparate flavors to run together, and I salt just enough to get everything popping. Before mixing it all together, I drop some Cholula sauce for more heat. Bring these together in a slow mix in the bowl for the flavors to infect each other, blend, and flower into something altogether new and familiar. In this way, I’m with the band.
When the traditional is given a kick, it’s still traditional, but in the new angle are new corners, new sounds, new scents, new flavors. You recognize, your senses perk to the familiar, but your eyes narrow and your lips curl as you revel in the twist on the old to make something fresh.
So it is when I mix Cuban coffee grounds with various herbs and spices into the breading for the schnitzel.
So it is when I pour the Rioja over the chunks of shoulder beef coated in flour and sprinkled with sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder (My wife is allergic to fresh garlic! Gah!), cumin, oregano, thyme, and rosemary over a bed of onions, halved cherry tomatoes, chunks of carrot, cubes of potatoes, and shallots.
So it is when Chillent sounds like they can be the coolest chassidishe wedding band in the land or open a jamband festival featuring bands like Phish, Gov’t Mule, and Blues Traveler.
All the ingredients come together. Breathe them in. They dive deeper than your senses. These pungent aromas seek your neshama, find it, and birth hunger pangs that have little to do with actually eating.
This is why you dance.
The music plays on as we shower and dress.
While the schnitzel warms deep in a pan, the vegetables are roasting under a lightly drizzled coat of olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper, and the chulent bubbles churlishly in the crock pot, funkified to its core.
Savory scents fill the house infused with the unfettered love and joy that goes into prepping and cooking inspired by the smooth jams of Chillent.
I’ll be sure to cook with them on a regular basis.