As you might know, we keep kosher, which is often a challenge when you're traveling. When we road-trip from home, I can pre-cook some healthy, protein-based food and just load it in the back of the car. But when you fly out somewhere and then road-trip, you don't have that option, unless you want to shlep a lot of kitchen stuff with you (we don't), eat only easy-to-get kosher junkfood (we don't) or spend a fortune on pre-packaged takeout and take that with you (we really, really don't).
We've been having fresh, kosher, delicious, hot fish every night of our vacation. How? Manifold Cooking. Take it away, Joshua....
Twenty years ago, a co-worker introduced me to a book that would change how I travel.
I love long driving trips. But when you keep kosher, it can be hard to get a hot meal on the road,especially when you're travelling outside of New York.
Enter, Manifold Destiny. "The one, the only, guide to cooking on your car engine."
It turns out that for many cars, the exhaust manifold - which can reach temperatures of up to 800 degrees - is easily accessible. If so, it makes an ideal cooking surface for fish, chicken, or even beef. Since then, I've used this technique any number of times on long trips.
If you know a lot about engines, you're probably thinking - cool! If you don't, you're probably wondering if this is safe. After all, isn't the exhaust manifold where, you know, the poisonous carbon monoxide comes out of the engine? Well, yes it is. But remember, it's not where it exits the car. The manifold exists to guide that noxious gas through the exhaust system and out the tailpipe. If the exhaust manifold is leaking, you've got bigger problems than dining on apples and potato chips tonight.
So, how do you safely cook on a car engine, which is exposed to all sorts of pollutants that your oven never sees?
Simple - take the food out of the packaging, and wrap it a few times in foil. The foil serves two purposes - it keeps the food clean, but it also seals in the juices, keeping it from drying out. That means that if you're cooking fish or chicken, it's also impossible for it to get overdone, even if you keep it on the manifold for a couple of hours.
|Wrap it in a few pieces of foil.|
Then you pull off one last, exceptionally long, piece of foil, and wrap the food width-wise in that. Turn all that extra foil into very, very long handles, at least 18 inches long. You'll need them.
Place the food on the manifold, and then wrap the foil around something else in the engine to secure it. Remember, you're driving, so unless you do that, there's an excellent chance the food will just slide off the engine and onto some stretch of highway. You need to be careful about what you attach the food to. In our rented Chevrolet Captiva, we used the coolant pipe. It's well-secured, and can take the mild force from attaching the food.
Absolutely, under no circumstances, should you attach it to the accelerator linkage. If you don't know what that is, find an engine diagram for your car on the Net, and look for it. If you pull that loose by mistake, you could destroy your engine. Even a hot meal isn't worth that.
|The final product: flaky, moist perfect salmon|
If you pick up some fresh vegetables, you can pack those in too, for a complete meal. Any solid food that doesn't require water to cook will work.
So go, buy some Empire chicken or that nice salmon filet, and enjoy a nice, hot dinner on the road. You'll never travel the same way again!
-------------------------------------------------------------------[Post-Script from Susie: For my kosher-keeping readers, I wanted to just write a few instructions on buying kosher fish without a hechsher. Please note: I am not a rabbi. I'll just say that again: I am NOT a rabbi! As with all things halachic, please, pretty please, consult your local Orthodox rabbi. Ok? Ok.
- Select kosher fish. If you're not sure or don't recognize it, don't buy it. We stick with safe, recognizable choices, like salmon, halibut, or haddock.
- The fish must not be sitting in the same receptacle as non-kosher fish or shellfish. Today, I wanted to buy salmon, but it was on the same icebed as the catfish. I told the supermarket clerk that my husband was severely allergic to catfish and he went in the back and got me some salmon that had never been in the case at all.
- The fish must have some skin attached to it.
- After you buy it, take a knife and scrape any area where the fish might have been cut with a non-kosher knife. If it's a fillet, that means the edges. If it's a steak, that means the edges and the surface of the fish.
- Rinse the fish very well with water.