Apple and Honey-Glazed Brisket. Photo by Naomi Pfefferman

Better brisket than bubbe’s? Eric Greenspan has new recipe


When chef Eric Greenspan was growing up in Fullerton and Calabasas, a fork-tender brisket always graced his family’s Rosh Hashanah dinner table. The recipe came from his grandmother, Goldie, and was prepared by his mother.  His other grandmother, Dora, had a similar recipe.

“It was the onions and the sweet-and-sour, tomato-saucy situation, braised slowly in the oven,” Greenspan said during an interview at Fleishik’s Sandwiches, Nosh & Whiskey, his kosher sandwich shop in the Fairfax neighborhood, which opened in March.

“It’s funny how brisket is always the go-to for Ashkenazi Jews, so it was there for every one of our Jewish holidays.”

This Rosh Hashanah, Greenspan, 42, is paying homage to his grandmother with a new recipe that’s sweet and sour — with a twist. The meat is simmered on the stove with apple sauce instead of ketchup, and apple cider vinegar rather than white vinegar. Honey, a garlic clove, apple juice and plenty of red onions also infuse the dish, which is served with a sprinkling of fresh grated horseradish.

Greenspan never got to help cook Goldie’s brisket as a child. “It was like, ‘Get out of the kitchen,’ ” he recalled with a hearty laugh. But he’s had a soft spot for the Ashkenazi delicacy all his life. “I’m Jewish, so obviously there’s a personal connection,” he said. “Find me a Jew who doesn’t have a personal connection to brisket, and I will question their bar mitzvah.”

As for his new brisket recipe, “I like taking the high-end aesthetic I have from my training and applying it to basically peasant food and making it delicious.”

Greenspan’s culinary pedigree includes graduating from the Le Cordon Bleu Paris, training with celebrated chefs such as Alain Ducasse and opening The Foundry on Melrose to rave reviews in 2007. The restaurant earned multiple awards, including a runner-up title for Los Angeles Magazine’s “Best New Restaurant” category.

Three years later, Greenspan defeated uber-celebrity chef Bobby Flay on “Iron Chef America,” winning, in part, due to his preparation of sautéed beef heart, beets and potato gnocchi. He has since become something of a celebrity himself, having appeared on numerous food competition and reality shows, including “Chopped All-Stars.”

And, he has opened a second restaurant, The Roof on Wilshire, that serves American cuisine.

Along the way, he always has been cooking up new brisket ideas. “I did it so many different ways at The Foundry,” he said. One preparation involved cooking the meat sous vide — inside a vacuum sealed bag — for 36 hours.

Finding a rotisserie when he took over the Fleishik’s space inspired Greenspan’s latest take on how to cook brisket. He coats the beef in olive oil, salt and pepper, then roasts it on a spit for six hours. The brisket becomes the star of a Fleishik’s sandwich that’s enhanced with gribenes (chicken skin cracklings with fried onions), beet horseradish, caramelized onions, raw red onions, horseradish mayonnaise and arugula.

It’s not your grandmother’s brisket — and for that the chef has received some flack. “People say, ‘This isn’t what my bubbe made,’ ” Greenspan said.  “I have to compete with every bubbe in L.A., and that’s a tall order. Like, beating Bobby Flay is easier than beating your bubbe.”

That’s why Goldie’s brisket still graces the table at Greenspan’s High Holy Day meals, which continue to take place at his mother’s and stepmother’s homes. But the chef won’t be cooking the meat this year.

“I usually just get pulled into it at the end and have to fix things,” he said.

Greenspan said brisket “used to be an affordable cut before it became so highly in demand. And frankly, throughout the Diaspora and when Jews first came to America, affordability was the name of the game.” For subsequent generations, nostalgia set in for the dish that Jews remembered and loved from their childhood celebrations.

Greenspan’s new recipe is “an illustration of what we do here at Fleishik’s,” he said. “It’s a nod to tradition and the way we were raised, without being tied down to it.”

APPLE AND HONEY-GLAZED BRISKET

– 4 pounds beef brisket
– 2 cups apple juice
– 1 cup apple sauce
– 1/2 cup cider vinegar
– 2 red onions, thinly sliced
– 1 clove garlic
– 1 cup honey
– 1 tablespoon salt

Heat brisket in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook until browned on all sides. Stir in apple juice, apple sauce, cider vinegar, onions, garlic, honey and salt. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Continue simmering until tender, turning brisket occasionally, 2 1/2 hours to 3 1/2 hours.

Remove brisket and allow it to cool before slicing the meat against the grain. Place brisket slices in a 9-by-13-inch baking pan or large platter and pour gravy on top. Top with the sliced onions. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Remove any excess fat and reheat before serving. Serve with grated horseradish.

Makes six servings.

Photo of Sherry Mendelson Davidowitz and her husband Fred. Photo courtesy of Sherry Mendelson Davidowitz.

Sharing important memories, recipes


My mother-in-law, Sarah, survived Auschwitz, but at age 76, cancer of the pancreas did her in. Being a physician, I was involved, along with my husband, Fred, in her medical care during the final months. One afternoon, Fred and I attended an oncology appointment with Sarah.

“Mrs. Davidowitz, tell me, when you were in the camps, were there any toxins in the air where you worked?” Dr. Levin asked. 

He threw out the question, seemingly comfortable discussing the concentration camps. The office, cluttered with books, charts and diplomas, smelled of cleaning solution. My mother-in-law, barely 5 feet tall, sat in an oversized chair across the desk from Dr. Levin.

“Oh no, the munitions factory where I worked was clean, very clean,” Sarah said. She peered at the doctor, hoping he would like her response.

“Did you smell chemicals in the air?” asked the doctor.

“No chemicals,” she said.

“Do you remember names of any materials they used in the factory?” he gently prodded.

“Names, I don’t know.  But there was a guard there, one of the bosses. He let me sleep when I was sick and no one was watching. He was good to me,” she said.

“Uh-huh,” Dr. Levin said.

I was surprised that Sarah spoke kindly toward her captors at that moment. She never said much about the camps, but once in awhile something seeped out. When my husband was 11, he was profoundly disappointed when she refused to allow him to join the Boy Scouts. It was only in later years that Sarah told him the uniforms reminded her of the Hitler Youth organization.

This discussion then, was a surprise. I thought that bitterness would emerge, but Sarah chose to emphasize an act of kindness. Dr. Levin surely saw many reactions to impending death. Maybe this was one of them.

Sarah and I didn’t always see eye-to-eye. When I first met her, I was 33 years old, a professional woman, a physician.  Her son Fred, born in a displaced persons camp in Bamberg, Germany, was the first child of an extended family dismantled by the Holocaust. He was the phoenix that rose from the ashes.

One Friday night back then after Shabbat dinner, we sat around Sarah and Irving’s table with Fred’s three children from his first marriage. Fred was divorced. He and I were seriously dating. I thought, as a successful Jewish doctor, I was a good catch for their son. Sarah and I cleared plates and set out teacups and pastries for coffee and dessert. Sweet smelling cookies enticed the children to sit a bit longer.

“So Sherry, how much do you work?” asked Sarah, eyeing me as she spoke.

“About 40 hours a week. It’s taken time to build up a psychiatric practice. Now it’s going well,” I said.

“Uh-huh. Do you cook?” she asked.

“Yeah, some,” I said.

“How’s your brisket recipe?” she asked. 

“I don’t have one. I don’t like brisket. Too fatty,” I said.

“Oh, I see. Freddie, he loves brisket,” Sarah said.

I hadn’t planned on defending my cooking. Maybe I didn’t make a brisket but if anyone needed help with medical problems, then I was your girl. Sarah shifted her gaze to her grandchildren, who squirmed in their seats waiting for dessert.

“Here you go, bubbelehs. Rainbow cookies,” said Sarah to the children. She handed them a box of multicolored cookies, a traditional favorite among the grandchildren.

Now, nine years later, Sarah sat helplessly in her chair facing Dr. Levin and a terminal cancer diagnosis. I still believed she thought of me as a driven professional woman, capable of husband neglect. Fred and I had married and were raising our three young daughters. We shared the raising of Fred’s older children with his ex-wife.

The next time I saw her, Sarah was home under the care of hospice. It was December, the month of her death. She appeared weak, motionless under the covers. Irving slept in another room away from the IVs and the caretaker. Our oldest daughter, Andrea, having just turned 7, joined me for an overnight with Sarah, along with birds of paradise we picked from our garden.

Bubbe, we brought flowers,” Andrea said. She placed them in Sarah’s shrunken hands.

“Beautiful,” Sarah said. “Thank you, a paradise for me. Andrea, bubbeleh, go to the kitchen. Zayde has rainbow cookies.”

Andrea hurried off, looking for Irving and the cookies. Then Sarah turned to me. She took my hand.

“Thank you for coming with Andrea,” she said.

“I’m happy to be here,” I said.

I didn’t know what else to say. We both knew that her end loomed ahead.

“Ah, me too. So Sherry, do me a favor,” she said. “See that Irving takes care of his health.”

“I will,” I said.

Then she looked me straight in the eye.

“And, I want you should have my brisket recipe. Freddie loves brisket,” Sarah said.

“Thank you, Sarah,” I said, wiping away tears.

Sherry Mendelson Davidowitz is a psychiatrist and writer who has written
for Jewish Women’s Theatre and currently is  writing a memoir.

Of meat and metaphor: An almost-vegetarian makes brisket


I’m not a vegetarian, but since I moved to Los Angeles seven years ago, I’ve been eating less and less meat. Many of my friends are vegetarian or vegan, and cooking in either of those styles avoids a lot of food issues for people. 

But around holidays, the expectation around meat intensifies. As soon as the faintest waft of Passover or Rosh Hashanah is in the air, brisket photos invade Facebook and Instagram: sumptuous, steaming dishes accompanied by, “I did it! My first brisket!” — these humblebrags validated by endless comments of “mmm” and “nom nom nom” (mimicking the sounds of chomping on something delicious). 

I have friends who make brisket latkes; I remember the Takosher truck’s brisket taco fondly; and when friends visit me from New York, I often take them to Got Kosher? for sweet or spicy brisket sandwiches.

But why brisket? How did this piece of meat become the legend of holiday tables in non-vegetarian homes and, simultaneously, a darling of the non-Jewish barbecue circuit? As is often the case, the answer draws from the practical and the traditional.

“Brisket is made from the pectoral muscle: it’s tough, and actually not a desirable cut, compared to, say, a filet,” said Anna Hanau, director of communications and outreach at Grow & Behold Kosher Pastured Meats, in an email. “Jews ate it because it was cheap. They then got really good at cooking it, and it became this traditional food, evoking all kinds of memories of Bubbe’s kitchen, etc., etc. It’s expensive now because there is huge demand for it, but it is actually a less-desirable cut, historically.”

Hanau said brisket is “definitely our most popular item,” a best-seller for Passover and year-round. But beyond the seder table, brisket is moonlighting as a star in the non-Jewish food scene — Hanau said it’s “not uncommon to find people standing in hourslong lines for smoked shredded meat.” 

Why is brisket so hot right now, especially as barbecue? Hanau explained graphically (admittedly, I asked) that as brisket smokes for eight to 10 hours or more, “the connective tissues that make it tough break down into these really delicious, unctuous ribbons that marinate the meat. So the popularity of barbecue, and brisket as a meat that can be cooked this way, definitely contributes to brisket’s popularity.” 

Ilya Welfeld, a friend, considers making brisket to be a “bit of a badge of honor.” 

“As a full-time working mother of a brood, we don’t slide smoothly into Shabbos or chag,” she said, referring to holidays meals, in an email. Brisket “seems so legit, so ‘balabusta’ and so big that when I serve it I feel legit as a Jewish woman, mother and caregiver. … Having brisket on the table makes me feel less like an imposter whose cover is ready to be blown any minute.”

“Brisket is Jewish soul food,” said Leah Koenig, author of “Modern Jewish Cooking: Recipes & Customs for Today’s Kitchen” (2015) and a frequent writer about Jewish food, history and culture. “I like to call it the Proustian madeleine of Jewish cooking,” she said in an email that sent me to Google and the discovery that writer Marcel Proust referred to the small French cakes as a symbol of involuntary memory (a memory evoked unexpectedly by a certain taste or experience). 

“Making one’s own brisket, successfully, is like earning a Jewish domestic goddess badge and then prancing proudly around with your newly decorated sash,” said Shannon Sarna, editor of the popular Jewish food blog The Nosher. “It’s a rite of passage for the Jewish cook, male and female alike.” 

Koenig added that the secret to brisket’s appeal is the long cooking time. 

“While the brisket is in the oven, the kitchen — and really the whole house — starts to fill with the heady scent of braised meat, and it brings on this flood of memories,” she said. “Hours, literally hours, before you even get to the table, you’re already swooning.”

Although brisket might seem like a big deal for mostly vegetarians, for regular meat cookers, it is a “kind of ‘set-it-and-forget-it’ foolproof option rather than a great cooking oeuvre,” Hanau said. 

According to Sarna, “it’s really the easiest cut to make because you just need to cook it low and slow with some veggies and liquid. Yet it’s one of the most requested topics on our site at Passover and Rosh Hashanah: How much do I make? Which cut do I buy (second cut!)? How long do I cook it? Brisket continues to befuddle many cooks.”

“Brisket is pretty hard to mess up, which makes it perfect for the busy mom who is running a household and a job and cooking in advance to feed all the various picky kids and their friends,” Hanau continued. 

I don’t have a household to run and kids to herd, but I do have chosen family — my friends who enjoy food, wine and company. So when the East Coast-based Grow & Behold, antibiotics- and hormone-free kosher meat farmers and distributors, offered to send me a brisket, how could I say no? (They have a “Los Angeles Buying Club” through which customers can pick up at Beth Jacob Congregation — growandbehold.com/la — to save on shipping costs, but my box of meat was shipped directly to my house packed in dry ice.)

When I saw the 7.21 pounds of brisket (and various other meats) they’d sent me, I realized there were challenges ahead. An almost vegetarian doesn’t generally have pots big enough in which to cook a brisket, nor does she have a go-to brisket recipe. Ketchup and Coke featured prominently in many online “EASY BRISKET!!!” recipes. But I wanted something more sophisticated than all that processed sugar.

I bought a disposable roast pan and contacted my experts — Hanau, Welfeld, Koenig and Sarna, meat-torneys-at-brisket — to collect their recipes before Frankensteining together my own: salt and pepper, garlic, balsamic vinegar and red wine. I added a bunch of cut potatoes and onions, and cooked it for about nine hours. 

The resulting sauce had a tang that recalled the alcohol that had long since cooked away, with a sweetness that ignited the taste buds. My brisket was a success, yielding dinner for eight, leftovers for guests and a week’s worth of meals for me thereafter. (I still have some in my freezer, for the next time I feel my iron levels drop.)

I found myself thinking about the role of tradition in determining our palate’s proclivities, and of an old joke my mother used to tell me about the Jewish mother who would prepare a roast by slicing off the ends of the meat before putting it in the pan. One day her daughter asked why, and she said, “That is our family tradition — my mother always did it.” During the next holiday, the grandmother came to visit. “Grandma,” the girl asked, “why is it our tradition to cut off the ends of the roast?” And Grandma said, “Because the roast didn’t fit in the pan.” 

I love this story — not just because the brisket didn’t fit in my pan, either — but also because it speaks lovingly to our tendency to create value around the things that, often randomly, happen to us in our lives. We assign meaning to things because of their emotional weight, their connection to the people we care about. 

Those of us who make brisket — whether once or on every holiday — do so because members of previous generations did. It probably started as pragmatism, an affordable way to feed children; but brisket evolved into a shout-out to the past and a nod to the opulent and luxurious present, in which a huge cut of kosher meat is expensive but provides great nostalgic flavor. Today, we do it for our families, born and chosen, as our parents did it for the people they loved. And each of us provides her or his own interpretation of “why.” 

Brisket-stuffed cabbage


Like many other traditional Ashkenazi Jewish foods I didn’t really grow up eating stuffed cabbage. Italian meatballs and sauce on Sundays? Absolutely. But the stuffed cabbage my grandmother would make to serve perhaps at Rosh Hashanah or another holiday meal was a dish that was terrifying for me as a child. And so I never really ate it.

Fast forward about 25 years: I was given the The 2nd Ave Deli Cookbook and decided to try out their recipe for stuffed cabbage. Barely having eaten the dish, never mind cooking it myself, I actually found it surprisingly easy. Since then, it has been the only recipe for this dish I have made, and the basis for the recipe below.

But as cooks will do, I wanted to give my own spin to the recipe. So recently I decided to experiment with the classic dish, and instead of stuffing it with ground meat and rice, I opted for some super tender, pulled brisket that I cooked in a similar sweet and sour sauce.I will freely admit: this was not the quickest recipe I have ever made. It requires a hefty time commitment, since you need to cook the brisket for 3-4 hours, and then cook the stuffed cabbage all together another few hours. Despite the time, the taste was worth the effort.

I know some of you are going to say there is too much sugar in this recipe: you are welcome and even encouraged to use whatever variation of a sweet and sour sauce you like. I also don’t advocate eating or making this kind of recipe every week; this is a “special occasion” sort of dish.

If stuffing cabbage leaves and rolling them up sounds daunting, check out Chanie Apflebaum’s step-by-step photos for Passover-friendly stuffed cabbage. Not a meat lover? Try out our recipe for a traditional but vegetarian stuffed cabbage or Amy Kritzer’s recipe for vegetarian stuffed cabbage with creamy beet sauce.

Brisket-stuffed cabbage

For the brisket:

  • 2 lb brisket, trimmed of any excessive fat
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 medium-large onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 ½ cups plain tomato sauce
  • 2 ½ cups water
  • 1 cup red wine
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • ½ orange, chopped with peel, pits removed
  • ½ lemon, chopped with peel, pits removed
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Pinch red pepper flakes

 

1 large green cabbage

For the stuffing:

  • 3 cups cooked, shredded brisket
  • 1 ½ cups brisket sauce
  • ¾ cups uncooked white rice
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper

 

For the tomato sauce:

  • 2 cups plain tomato sauce
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • ½ orange, chopped with peel, pits removed
  • ½ lemon, chopped with peel, pits removed
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups chopped cabbage

 

To make the brisket (which I recommend doing a day ahead of time):

Heat a few Tbsp olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat. Rub brisket with salt, pepper and ground cinnamon. Brown brisket on each side until caramelized, around 5-7 minutes each side. Remove brisket and place on plate for later.

Reduce heat to medium. Add onions and garlic to pot and cook until translucent. Add tomato sauce, water, wine, sugars, vinegar, orange, lemon, cinnamon stick and red pepper. Bring to a boil.

Place brisket back into pot, cover and reduce heat to low medium. Cook for 3 ½-4 hours, until brisket is fork tender.

When brisket is finished cooking and has cooled 20-30 minutes, remove from pot and place on a cutting board. Using two forks or a fork and a knife, gently shred all the brisket. Pour sauce through a fine mesh sieve to remove cinnamon stick, orange and lemon. Add 1 ½ cups sauce to the brisket. Place in a container until ready for the next steps.

To make and assemble the stuffed cabbage:

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Prepare a baking tray drizzled with a little olive oil. While the water is boiling, cut the core out of the cabbage using a paring knife. Lift the core out, which will leave a hole in the middle. Take a large fork or knife and stick straight into the middle of the cabbage. Plunge the cabbage carefully into the boiling water for 30 seconds-1 minute, until the outer leaves soften and begin to fall off. Remove the leaves and place on the baking sheet until ready to use.

Repeat until you have removed around 75% of the leaves. Set the remaining cabbage aside. With a paring knife, trim off the tough part of the outer spines of the cabbage. Finely chop the remaining cabbage leaves and set aside.

Begin matching the cabbage leaves with similar sized leaves, so all the leaves are in pairs. Place them on top of one another on a plate and get ready to start stuffing.

In a medium bowl mix together pulled brisket, rice, onion, eggs, garlic, salt and pepper. Using about ¾ cup of the mix, make an oval meatball of the mixture and place at bottom of the cabbage leaf. Fold one side over the mix and then begin rolling very tightly along the spine. Fold up remaining end and tuck inside the cabbage roll. Repeat until you have used all the leaves and filling.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To make the sauce: In another large bowl, combine tomato sauce, onion, orange, lemon, sugars, vinegar, water, salt, pepper, cinnamon and chopped cabbage.

Place some of the sauce on the bottom of a deep baking dish. Gently lay each stuffed cabbage roll on top. Cover with remaining sauce.

Cover stuffed cabbage with tin foil and bake 2 ½-3 hours, until sauce has reduced and thickened.

Recipes to please the crowd and de-stress the chef


Passover may be the mother of all kitchen yontifs — but stay cool, and don’t stress. Here are some of my favorite recipes from last Passover that you will love this Passover and all year.

Last year, 99 percent of what I made for Passover wasn’t actually Passover recipes. Of course they were kosher for Passover, but they didn’t require any major Passover ingredient tweaks. These recipes were developed with Passover in mind and have become staples in my year-round repertoire because they were super easy and got the most oohs and aahs.

SALMON CAKES WITH TROPICAL FRUIT SALSA

Croquettes are cute and elegant for your starter course. They’re also wonderfully light and refreshing. The tropical salsa is a combination of fresh pineapple, mango, red onion, jalapeno, cilantro and lime juice — the perfect complement to the richness of the salmon. The balance of sweet and savory flavors instantly pleases the palate. This is a starter with zing!

SALMON CAKES:

1 (2-pound) side of salmon, skin on
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup diced red onion
2 tablespoons matzah meal
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 tablespoons olive oil


SALSA:

1 cup diced pineapple
1/2 cup diced mango
1/2 cup diced red onion
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped Juice of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

To prepare salmon cakes, preheat oven to 350 F.

On a lightly greased large baking sheet, bake salmon skin side down for 25 to 30 minutes or until cooked all the way through. Let cool completely.

Once salmon is cooled, gently flake away from the skin and break into large chunks. Place in a large bowl. Combine with eggs, red onion, matzah meal, salt and pepper. Stir to mix well.

Scoop about 1/3 cup at a time into your hands and form into a round patty about 1/4 inch thick. Place on a large plate or cookie sheet pan and repeat with remaining mixture until you have formed 10 cakes. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, for salsa, in a medium bowl combine pineapple, mango, red onion, cilantro, jalapeno, lime juice and salt. Mix well and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry a few cakes at a time for about 5 to 8 minutes per side or until golden brown and crispy. Drain on a paper-towel-lined plate while frying remaining cakes.

To serve, top each cake with a few tablespoons of salsa.

Makes 10 salmon cakes.

ZUCCHINI AND RED BELL PEPPER SAUTE

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 medium zucchini, sliced into ribbons using a vegetable peeler
4 cloves garlic, minced

4 roasted red bell peppers, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add zucchini ribbons and saute a few minutes until slightly softened. Add garlic and saute 3 minutes more. Add roasted bell peppers and saute a few minutes more, until heated through.

Stir in paprika and salt.

Makes 8 servings.

POMEGRANATE BRAISED BRISKET

1 (4-pound) first cut beef brisket
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium onions, peeled and cut into eighths

6 cloves garlic, smashed
2 cups pomegranate juice
2 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons honey
3 bay leaves

1 small bunch fresh thyme

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Season brisket with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large roasting pan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sear brisket about 4 minutes per side or until browned. Remove and set aside.

Add remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil to roasting pan; saute onions and garlic for 5 minutes over medium-low heat until softened. Return brisket to pan and add pomegranate juice, chicken broth, honey, bay leaves and thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Transfer to preheated oven and roast for 2 hours.

Turn brisket over and continue roasting for 1 to 1  1/2 more hours or until tender. Let brisket rest for 10 minutes before thinly slicing against the grain. Strain liquid and serve on the side.

Makes 8 servings.

‘Power’ Brisket: Adding Barbecue Flavor for Pesach


For the recipe, click here.

My friend called from New York the other day. He wanted to get my recipe for smoked barbecue brisket so that he could make it for Passover.

“I’m really tired of bad brisket,” he said wearily.

I think he really meant dry brisket. Face it, brisket is among the toughest cuts of beef, but one that, if properly prepared, pays off mightily.

The barbecue brisket I usually make is one that cooks for more than 12 hours, usually 16. That’s the low-and-slow method. I know my buddy has neither the patience nor the experience to tackle this. So, I gave him a shortcut: The “power method.”

The power method is to raise the temperature from the traditional 220 F to 325 F (and no higher, please) during the entire cooking time. The brisket comes out tender and full of flavor. There is, however, one trade-off: little to no bark — the crunchy exterior on the meat.

The reason, as you’ll see when you study the recipe, is that for a good portion of the cooking time, you’re actually steaming the meat. Nothing inherently wrong with this, but that’s what is happening. (I have a method for getting bark on this recipe. You can e-mail me for it at barbqubano@gmail.com.)

The final product more closely resembles the traditional Passover brisket than it does, say, a brisket done for a party at my house. The value you add by smoking the meat for a couple of hours is a distinctive flavor that does not depend wholly on seasoning or marinating.

To be clear, while the cooking involves as little as four hours, the process can take up to six or seven. Still, it’s a lot less than the 12 to 16 hours you could spend and might not have on any given day.

The person who shared this with me is a barbecue champion, Myron Mixon of Jack’s Old South in Georgia. Mixon basically makes a living competing across the country. He applies “power” to his championship brisket and ribs.

I give Mixon credit for everything here if it comes out right, and I take all the blame if it doesn’t, because I have adjusted his recipe to my taste and the notion that your smoker/cooker is not a professional version.

I’m going to give you the basics here and you can find the entire recipe online at jewishjournal.com.

First, buy a brisket of about 15 to 20 pounds. However, it can be any size and you can adjust accordingly. You’ll also need an injector, the kind that has the plunger.

Your heat source and cooker — grill or smoker — and the wood you use is completely up to you, but I encourage you not to use mesquite to smoke. I like a mix of oak and a little apple or just hickory.

I have used many different smokers, and they all work if they’re large enough. I would not recommend smoking the brisket on a wok, because the heat and smoke easily escape. A stove-top smoker can work well, but make sure it’s one with a dome lid. (I like the one from Nordicware that resembles a Weber kettle.) Beware, however, that smoking indoors can result in a lot of smoke — indoors.

No matter what cooker you select, you are going to use an indirect heat method. This means putting the meat in a place that is not directly over heat. Usually, this means the meat goes on one side of the grill, while on the other side is the fire.

If you have a gas grill, follow the instructions it has for using a smoker box and wood chips. If you like barbecue sauce, serve it on the side. I’m not big on it with brisket, but this recipe will produce enough jus to use as a dipping sauce.

You don’t have to be a barbecue master to make this work, but you do have to pay attention to each step and be careful with the temperature. The recipe is easier to execute if you do it over two days.

Day 1 will involve about a half hour of preparation injecting the brisket with a bouillon concoction, and then you put it in a giant brining bag and into the refrigerator for at least four hours. Day 2, you cook. Preparation time is about an hour, cooking is about four and the time to let the brisket rest is about two hours.

So, if you think you’re up to the challenge, click here for the recipe.  Let me know how it turns out.

Alejandro Benes is a barbecue aficionado and a partner in Southern California’s Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill restaurant group. Benes recently prepared his brisket for 80 of his “closest” friends at an East Coast party.

Family Table: Recipes from our families to yours


Our favorite memories of the High Holy Days often come from food — especially the food we ate growing up at our family tables. Some of the following recipes have been handed down through the generations, others are borrowed from friends, neighbors, friends of friends. All have stories of origin, and most draw on the Rosh Hashanah tradition of sweetness, in hopes for a sweet New Year. However they got on our tables, they are here to stay for generations to come. Our writers share some of their favorites.
Carrot Pudding
by Jane Ulman, Contributing Editor

Carrot Pudding
“Carrot pudding was in the family when I got there,” my mother said.
Norma Waxenberg Brecher was first introduced to carrot pudding in 1947 as a new bride. It was a staple in my father’s large family, with Grandma May or Great-Aunts Millicent or Adeline serving it at every holiday gathering. “We never made it for anything else,” my mom recalls.
It was also a staple of the Jewish community in the Tri-Cities (Davenport, Iowa, and Rock Island and Moline, Ill.) and always a favorite at the annual Temple Emanuel Sisterhood Interfaith Dinner.
My sister, Ellen, and I have continued the tradition. And like our mother, we always double the recipe. After all, as mom says, “There’s no sense in making a single carrot pudding.”

3/4 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups grated carrots
1 tablespoon cold water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Cream together vegetable shortening and brown sugar. Add carrots, water, lemon juice and well-beaten egg yolks (save whites).
Sift together flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder into a separate bowl. Add to mixture.
Beat egg whites and fold into mixture.
Grease ring mold or bundt pan (must have hole in middle) well with vegetable shortening. Bake at 325 degrees about 1 hour in pan of hot water. For double recipe, bake about 1 1/2 hours.
Makes eight servings.

Patata Chops
by Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Orlee Raymond, my daughter, says she first encountered patata chops when her mother-in-law, Rachel, and Rachel’s mother, Rivkah — both of whom were born in India and made aliyah — came from Israel for her wedding to Dani.
“The first thing they did was to sit me down and tell me that I had to learn how to make it because it was Dani’s absolute favorite. They sat on both sides of me trying to teach me how to make it and I wound up crying,” she says.
Eventually Orlee learned how to make it, but it was a really involved process — it can take a day or a half a day, even for experienced patata-chop makers like Rachel, who lives in Ashdod and who can make 100 chops in one sitting.
“For our recent family party she made 50 one day and 50 the next because it was so important to Dani,” Orlee says.
She makes it for every family occasion — including the High Holy Days.
“When she knows that we are coming to Israel, she starts freezing them in advance,” she says.

8 red potatoes
2 tablespoons oil
1 onion diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 hot chili pepper, chopped
1 pound ground beef
1 small bunch cilantro, washed and chopped
1 teaspoon garam masala
salt and pepper
2 eggs, beaten
breadcrumbs, as needed
oil, as needed

Boil potatoes until soft, about 45 minutes.
While potatoes are boiling, sauté onion until translucent. Add garlic, chili pepper and ground meat, cook together until meat is browned. Drain off excess fat. Add garam masala to mixture and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Remove potatoes from heat, peel and mash while still hot. Add 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, salt and pepper and oil. Mix well until dough is formed (it should not be sticky). Let dough cool for about l5 minutes.
Reserve beaten eggs and breadcrumbs in separate bowls for dredging.
When potatoes are cooled and meat is ready, form potato dough into small ball. Take each ball into palm of your hand and with your fingers form it into basket. Take a spoonful of meat and put in the center of the basket and then roll the potato mixture around the meat so that the meat does not show.
Coat each chop in beaten egg and then roll in breadcrumbs. Sauté chops in oil until brown and crispy.
Makes about 20 servings.

Bukharian Rice
by Dikla Kadosh, Contributing Writer

In my house, the food is prepared by two strapping young Israeli men — my boyfriend and his brother — so it makes sense that the following recipe does not come from my own mother’s Rosh Hashanah table, but rather from their mom’s.
Irit Mashiah lives in Holon, Israel, and is an incredible cook. Her passion for good food (and the need to feed four growing boys) has led her over the years to gather recipes from the many different cultures around her: Turkish, Kurdish, Persian, Yemenite, Israeli and Bukharian. Irit got this rice dish from a Bukharian friend who played basketball with her.
Bukharian Jews are from Central Asia. Their name derives from the ancient Uzbek city of Bukhara, where there once was a thriving Jewish community. Cut off from the rest of the Jewish world for more than 2,000 years, they developed their own distinct culture. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the vast majority has moved to the United States and Israel.
Having tasted this delicious dish at her friend’s home, Irit asked for the recipe and has been serving Bukharian Rice at the start of the New Year for six years now.
“As soon as I put this dish down on the table, it’s snatched right up,” she said in Hebrew. “No one ever gets a second helping of Bukharian rice. You get one shot, and that’s it.”

Meat meets lemon — brisket gone wild!


One day last month, my husband returned from Trader Joe’s carrying a large slab of brisket.

“I invited our neighbors for dinner,” he announced, “and they’re kosher.” I can cook, but my only attempt at a nice bubbie-style brisket took two days and was a memorable disaster. I’m sure it was digestible, it just wasn’t chewable. I have suffered brisket-phobia ever since.

I had about five hours to get something suitably special on the table. So, I abandoned all my brisket preconceptions, took a deep breath and thought, “Do what you love, do what you know.”

The result was extraordinary.

What I know is how to combine the cooking techniques of my family–Swedish (non-Jewish) Americans given to light but hearty flavors — with all the Mediterranean flavors that have become part of any serious California cook’s repertoire: olives, olive oil, fennel and preserved lemons.

Preserved lemons and brisket? Yes, those salty tart gems are crucial to this dish. I use homemade, but you’ll need three to four weeks advanced preparation for my recipe (Paula Wolfert offers a one-week version in her book, “Couscous and Other Good Food From Morocco”). You can also buy preserved lemons at specialty Middle Eastern markets and at Surfas in Culver City.

Couscous and a little green salad with oranges are all you’ll need to complete the meal. For our dessert, I stuffed halved nectarines with a mixture of crumbled store-bought amaretti cookies, chopped almonds and honey.

The honey makes this an ideal Rosh Hashanah meal. And the amaretti cookies were, of course, kosher and pareve. Amazing how fast a Swedish American can catch on to these things.

Brisket with Fennel and Olives

1 3-pound brisket (I use a point cut)
2 large fennel bulbs, cored, trimmed and very thinly sliced. Include any nice fronds.
1 very large Vidalia, Walla Walla or other sweet onion, sliced into 1/4-inch rings
1 cup mixed green and black olives (Greek, kalamata, etc.)
3 preserved lemons, diced, and a couple tablespoons of their juice
1/2 cup water or a mixture of water and dry white wine
Extra virgin olive oil
Chopped Italian parsley

Choose your heaviest dutch oven, or use enameled cast iron. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. On the stovetop, bring the pan to a medium high heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil, and brown the brisket on both sides, not more than five to seven minutes in total. Remove the meat, and toss the fennel and onions in the pan, adding a little olive oil if necessary. Put the lid on and let them sweat a little. When the vegetables soften, stir in half the olives and one of the diced lemons. Nestle the meat in the mixture and add the 1/2 cup of liquid. Cover tightly, and bake for three to three and a half hours. Add the rest of the lemons, their juice and the olives, return to oven 30 minutes or so.

When ready to serve, remove meat and slice across the grain. Serve on a pla
tter surrounded with the vegetables and drizzle the pan juices over all. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Preserved Lemons
Kosher salt
Lemons to preserve, as thin skinned as possible
Additional lemons for juice

Cut the lemons in quarters from the tip to the stem end without cutting all the way through. Pack the quarters with salt, rubbing it in and close them back up. Place tightly together in a crock or wide mouthed glass jar. Cover with fresh lemon juice and seal tightly, leaving it in a cool dry place for 3-4 weeks. Check every few days to be sure the lemon juice still covers the lemons completely, and top it off if you need to. When ready, remove anything objectionable from the top of the lemon juice and refrigerate.

Stuffed Nectarines a la Chez Panisse
4 ripe nectarines
1 cup pareve amaretti cookies, crumbled
1/2 cup chopped almonds
3 tablespoon (approx.) honey.
Kosher dessert wine (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking pan with cooking parchment or lightly oil.

Halve nectarines and remove pits. Mix almonds and amaretti cookies together, add honey to moisten mixture. Stuff into cavity of each nectarine, place in pan and drizzle with a little dessert wine, if desired.

Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes or so, then slip the fruits out of their skins before serving. These are good warm or cold.

Brisket for the Soul


Exploring the stack of old Jewish cookbooks and family recipes my mother brought to me when she visited from Atlanta, I found a note. On the top of a small white paper, in her handwriting, were the words Rosh Hashanah, and then the list; Apple Charlie, Challah, Kugel, Green Bean Salad, Brisket. I asked her if this meal plan was from last year, but she said no.

"That must have been from many, many years ago," she said while standing in my California kitchen with afternoon sun lighting half her face. That must have been why, when I read it, I tasted decades of family holiday meals and decided we should buy a brisket and make it together.

She chose a nice 4-pound cut, and since the ingredients for my mother’s brisket are basic staples, salt, pepper, olive oil, garlic, onions and good wine, we lost no time shopping around. But since it cooks entirely on top of the stove, gently, over hours, it gave us lots of time to watch over a deep, bubbling, burgundy sauce, while absorbing rich scents, filling my tiny kitchen, taking us back all those years, then filling us up right where we were. And when, after an overnight of cooling, my mother showed my how to slice (carefully against the grain) and reheat (layering the tender meat) back in the gravy, framing it with softened orange carrots — I took a picture of our creation, right in the pot, because it was beautiful.

When I looked up different brisket recipes, I found all kinds of creative approaches; one using a spicy apple butter sauce, one cooking the meat in molasses sweetened navy beans, and one adding a blanket of cooked prunes. But all of them had a key element in common: time. Each requires at least an overnight of marinade and anywhere from three to six hours of low-heat cooking to soften and season the meat. For Mom’s brisket, the techniques are straightforward, the ingredients few, but if the definition of soul food is cooking simple foods, nice and slow, then a Rosh Hashanah brisket must be good for the soul.

Kaethe’s Stovetop Brisket

The seasonings and gravy for this recipe are light enough to gracefully enhance the flavor of the meat. But if you like more spice, add salt and pepper to suit your tastes and enjoy!

4-pound beef brisket

1 1/4 teaspoon salt (to taste)

1/4 teaspoon pepper (to taste)

4 large garlic cloves, sliced thin

1 large onion, sliced thin

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup dry red wine

5 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon paprika

3 large carrots

Rinse brisket in cold water and place in large dish with sides. Thinly slice garlic coves and onion and arrange under and over meat. In small bowl, combine and whisk salt, pepper, 3 tablespoons olive oil and wine. Pour over meat. Cover and refrigerate overnight, turning meat once.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in heavy, deep, wide skillet over medium heat. After scraping off — but saving — onions and garlic, place brisket in pan, searing each side until slightly brown, about four to five minutes. Place meat aside on platter. Pour marinade into pan, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, return meat to pan, scatter onions and garlic above and below, and spoon liquid over top of brisket. Sprinkle top with 1/4 teaspoon of paprika. Cover and reduce heat to low, simmering approximately three hours, turning after halfway through and sprinkling other side with 1/4 teaspoon of paprika. Add whole carrots during last hour. Test with knife. Meat should be soft but firm enough not to shred.

Turn off heat. Let cool slightly, then remove from marinade.

Place meat in large dish, cover and refrigerate overnight for ease of slicing. Strain gravy to separate onion, garlic slices and whole carrots from liquid. Then store each in refrigerator overnight.

Skim fat off top layer of marinade and pour into deep, wide skillet. Mash onions and garlic with spoon and add to marinade. Heat on medium low. Test for salt or pepper preferences. Cut brisket in 1/4-inch slices against the grain and layer into marinade with carrots. Cover and rewarm approximately 30 minutes or just until gravy starts to bubble. Do not overcook. Serve brisket slices on platter with some gravy spooned over and remainder on the side.

Serves 10.

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