EVENT: Passover Seder
VENUE: BGSK’s Extended Households
PARTY SIZE: 9; 37 (plus Elijah, obviously)
TYPE: Long, Drawn-Out Culturally Significant Dinner
MENU: Matzoh Ball Soup; Brisket; Potato Kugel with Sauteed Shallots; Nutty Passover Puffs
My Aunt Jennifer is responsible for most of my formative memories of brisket, and most of my positive experiences with passover. The highlights of the family meal were always the many chairs added year after year to make up for the many new additions to the table (remember Thanksgiving?); my undefeated record with the afikomen; Cousin Holly’s Chocolate Chip Macaroons; and my aunt’s brisket, which we would all be hankering for after two hours of bitter herbs, hard-boiled eggs, and plagues.
Passover has always been one of my favorite Jewish holidays, but in college, I couldn’t always make it back to CT to Aunt Jenn’s. My junior year, I was stuck at school and decided to host a seder of my own. My friend Jamie procured the prayer books and plenty of matzoh. Jillian made her mother’s potatoes. And I provided the brisket.
It felt a little strange to deviate from my aunt’s famous dish, but I managed to fill the buffet table with a respectable, if not, entirely perfect, slab of soft, slow-cooked meat.
This year, I’m looking forward to the real thing, and will be playing a supporting roll by making two vegetable sides (anyone have any ideas?). But as part of the lead-up to the holiday, I had to take another crack at this brisket.
Cara’s also been testing out some of her family favorites for the blog, though it’s been a while since it was last hosted at her mom’s, rather than her uncle’s (this means the opportunity to eat her mom’s brisket, which she hasn’t had since her pre-vegetarian days). Back when her friends hosted seders at college, the dining hall kindly provided lots of inedible food, so she didn’t have to worry about cooking but was free to concentrate on wishing she were eating Phoebe’s brisket and Jillian’s potatoes instead.
This year, she’s been working on a not-too-bland kugel, as well as flour-free desserts: this post’s nutty meringue puffs, a chocolate almond cake, maybe a lemon mousse, and Passover-friendly brownies. Who knows, maybe she’ll return to old favorites: Holly’s Chocolate Chip Macaroons, “Free” Chocolate Cookies, Airy Chocolate Mousse, or even Brutti Ma Buoni.
From our kitchens, where we’re eating second helpings for Elijah, to yours,
Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Makes 12 servings
6 lbs brisket
8 garlic cloves, cut lengthwise into 4 pieces
1 quart beef stock
2 large onions, sliced
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
Preheat the oven to 500°F.
Using a paring knife, cut small incisions in the meat and shove the pieces of garlic into them. Do this until the meat is stuffed with garlic all over. Place the brisket in a rimmed baking dish (preferably metal) and brown it in the oven, about 10 minutes per side.
Remove the meat, and pour in the beef stock (NOTE: if you are using a pyrex dish, wait a few minutes for the pan to acclimate to room temperature so it does not shatter. For more on this, see my disaster here). Turn the oven down to 350 degrees, cover the dish with foil, and cook in the oven for 1 hour.
In the meantime, saute the onions in 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-low heat until soft and caramelized, about 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove the meat from the oven, and add the remaining ingredients to the pan. Using a fork, whisk them all together with the beef stock. When the onions have finished cooking, arrange them on top of the meat. Cover the pan again with foil, and return it to the oven for 2-3 hours.
NOTE: if you want to be able to cut the brisket into slices, take it out at 2 hours, or even a little before. If you want it to be falling apart, more along the lines of a pulled brisket, keep it in for the full 3.
Remove the meat from the oven, and transfer it to a cutting board. Slice the brisket against the grain into thick slices. Return the meat to the sauce and serve, or store in the fridge over night–the brisket can be made a day or two in advance.
2 shallots, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons neutral oil
2 medium baking potatoes (about 20 oz)
1 small onion
1 egg yolk
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup boiling water
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Put an 8-inch square pan in to preheat.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are quite brown and crispy, about 10 minutes. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and remove from the heat.
Grate the potatoes and onion into a bowl. Add the egg, yolk, 1 teaspoon salt, olive oil, boiling water. Scrape the shallots into the mix and toss everything together.
Take the pan out of the oven carefully. Pour in the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and use a brush to spread it around. Pour the kugel batter in and spread it out evenly. Return to the oven.
Bake for 20 minutes, then lower the heat to 375°F and bake for another 30. If you want, you can then preheat the broiler and toaste the kugel underneath it for a few minutes until brown and crusty. Let cool slightly before cutting into squares and serving.
Fold in the nuts and chocolate chips. Drop mounds the size of two tablespoons several inches apart on a baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until just firm and crackly on top. Remove to a plate to cool completely.