For some reason, people regularly assume that I am Jewish. It’s also often assumed that I am a New Yorker. The truth is I am neither. Born and raised in San Jose, California by two protestant parents. (Although I am a quarter German.)
Still, I find that our culinary history is rooted in cultural traditions. All great food owes it’s creation to the chef’s cultural influences. For that reason, I try to make food from as many different cultural backgrounds as possible.
So, with today being Rosh Hashana, the first day of the Jewish new year and the beginning of the high holidays, I wanted to take the opportunity to visit what I feel is one of the most overlooked influences on modern cuisine: Kosher cooking.
As an outsider looking in, I wasn’t exactly sure where to begin. I mean, I knew of certain stereotypical Kosher meals like Matzoh Ball soup, Bagels and Lox, and Challah Bread, but I had no idea what traditions there might be for Rosh Hashana. So I turned to my friends. I asked all of my Jewish friends what their families ate for Rosh Hashana. I also did some of my own research.
What I found out was that, while apples and honey are the traditional food to eat for Rosh Hashana to symbolize having a sweet year, there was no official traditional dinner. Everyone I asked said virtually the same thing, “I don’t remember there being anything traditional except honey and apples… but my mom always made brisket.”
So, brisket it is. It is always one of the cheapest cuts of meat at the supermarket, so it is easy to make at five dollars per person any time of the year. The trouble is, that it is a cheap cut for a reason. It is a tough flavorless cut, that is most commonly brined to make corned beef.
While it is most traditional to boil the brisket on the stove, I decided to braise it in the oven in beef broth and beer to pump up the flavor and keep the roast nice and moist. I used He’Brew Messiah Bold Ale by Scmaltz Brewing Co. to keep the meal kosher, but any nut brown ale will do. Reducing the pan juices into a gravy after removing the brisket really made the meal amazing. When I cook this again I will serve noodles topped with the gravy.
To make this meal as traditional for Rosh Hashanah as possible, though, I made Latkes as a side dish. The crispy onion potato cakes paired amazingly with the apples and honey for a great sweet and savory flavor.
2 Tablespoons chili powder (or 1 Tablespoon cayenne pepper)
2 Tablespoons salt
2 Tablespoons garlic powder
2 Tablespoons onion powder
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 bay leaves, crushed
Brisket and Gravy:
4 pound beef brisket, trimmed
approx. 1 cup beef stock
1 (12 oz.) dark brown beer
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons butter
- Mix the ingredients for the dry rub, adjusting flavors to taste. Rub brisket at least 1 hour prior to cooking and up to the morning of cooking.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Heat olive oil in a dutch oven. When heated brown the brisket on all sides. Once browned, roast the brisket, uncovered, for one hour.
- After the first hour, remove the dutch oven from the oven (be careful! Use hot pads. I can’t count how often I forget to do this and burn myself) and lower the temperature to 300 degrees.
- Add beer and beef stock to the bottom of the Dutch oven. There should be ½ inch of liquid in the bottom, so depending on your particular pot, you may need to increase or decrease the amount of beef stock.
- After allowing the oven to cool to 300 degrees (about 10 minutes) return the Dutch oven to the oven, covered, and braise for 3 more hours.
- After 3 hours, remove the Dutch oven. Remove the brisket and set aside on a plate covered by tin foil. Place the dutch oven on the stove over high heat and bring to a boil. (Again, use hot pads! The Dutch oven handles will remain hot as you reduce the sauce.)
- After the sauce has reduced by half. Add 2 Tablespoons chilled butter 1 Tablespoon at a time to help thicken the gravy.
- After letting the brisket sit for 15 minutes, slice against the grain (the grain is the direction all of those lines in the beef are running) and serve, passing the gravy.
1 pound gold potatoes (2 really large potatoes, or 3 to 4 smaller potatoes)
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup olive oil
thinly sliced apples and honey (optional)
- Coarsely grate the potatoes, transferring them to a large bowl of cold water as grated to keep them from browning. After all the potatoes are grated drain them well in a colander.
- Spread grated potatoes and onion on a paper towel and roll up. Twist towel tightly to wring out as much liquid as possible. Transfer potato mixture to a bowl and stir in egg and salt.
- Heat olive oil pan over medium high heat until hot and shimmering. Working in batches of 4 latkes, spoon about 2 tablespoons potato mixture per latke into the pan, spreading into 3-inch rounds. Fry latkes until golden brown on each side, about 5 minutes.
- Serve with thinly sliced apples and honey for dipping. These are best when a bite of apple, latke and honey are eaten all together.