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 and stepmother.

“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.”


– 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.

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.