Cooking wasn’t always in the cards for Jamie Geller, now the author of five cookbooks and the founder of Kosher Network International, which encompasses media such as JamieGeller.com, consulting, merchandising and the Fresh Families meal plan. When she was growing up, her parents, who settled in Philadelphia after emigrating from Transylvania in 1964, preferred that Geller and her sister hit the books rather than the kitchen.
“The goal was for women in America to be doctors and lawyers and CEOs,” Geller said. “I never learned how to be a Martha Stewart; I was deficient in so many of those homemaking skills.” She earned a degree in journalism from New York University before beginning her early career as a producer at CNN and later moving on to Food Network and HBO.
“I didn’t know how to cook,” Geller said. But when she had her first child, she recalled, it was time to learn. Managing a busy lifestyle, combined with her lack of training and specialized equipment, shaped Geller’s idea to help make home cooking less daunting for those in a similar position.
“It’s the whole reason why I started writing recipes and writing books,” said Geller, who is now settled in Israel with her husband and six children, but often travels back to New York for work. The need for simplicity has never been clearer.
Geller’s latest cookbook, Brisket 101, which debuted in February, follows through on her aim to keep cooking uncomplicated. The recipes focus on using 10 ingredients or less, with minimal equipment. “The mission is to make your life easier, more joyful,” she says, which proves especially challenging during large gatherings like the High Holy Days celebrations, when cooking stress can reach a whole new level.
For Geller, brisket is the solution. It’s the quintessential holiday meal, she says, that’s not too difficult to master. “It’s synonymous with every single Jewish holiday, even though, from a mainstream perspective, brisket [also] has so much appeal.” Crispy fried shallots and cumin-roasted carrots play strong supporting roles: The shallots add nice texture as a garnish to the beef, and the lemony carrots bring color, freshness and a hint of spiciness to the meal.
Her classic oven-braised brisket, if cooked well, is meant to melt in your mouth. “You don’t need any teeth to eat this beef,” she quips. But you will want to buy a second cut of beef brisket. “[Second cut] has more fat, and it’s more marbleized,” says Geller. “When someone says, ‘I don’t understand—my brisket dried out,’ it’s usually because they probably are cooking a first cut, which is much leaner.”
When it comes to prepping the meat, remember: Rest after you rub and brown before you braise. For those who plan far enough in advance, Geller highly recommends letting the brisket sit for at least a day before eating it. “Let it cool, let all the flavors marry, then slice it when it’s cold so you’ll have gorgeous slices that are perfect for holiday presentation.”
For the braise, the recipe calls for a dry red wine. “You want a wine that you would drink—even better if it’s something that you would serve with the meal,” Geller says. For that, she recommends picks from two respected kosher producers: the 2016 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon Lake County Special Reserve from California or the 2014 Psâgot Cabernet Sauvignon Judean Hills Single Vineyard from Israel.
Below, Wine Spectator shares six recently rated selections of kosher dry reds, plus a few kosher white wines and a bubbly to try out with other dishes on the holiday table.
“There is no major holiday or family celebration that goes by without a brisket,” said Geller. She still takes pride in the fact that it’s the first dish she ever mastered. “Every year, my mom still says to me, ‘I can't believe you made this,’” Geller laughs. “And she’ll say that again this year.”
Reprinted from Jamie Geller’s Brisket 101: 30 of the Best Brisket, Sides, Slaws and Leftover Recipes Copyright © 2018 by Jamie Geller
Classic Oven-Braised Brisket
- One 4- to 5-pound beef brisket, second cut
- Kosher salt
- Freshly cracked pepper
- Olive oil
- 2 medium red onions, sliced
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 2 celery ribs, diced
- 1 head garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 cups good-quality dry red wine
- 1 cup beef broth
- 1 bouquet garni: 6 parsley stems (or 2 teaspoons dried parsley), 3 thyme sprigs (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme), 3 rosemary sprigs (or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary), 2 bay leaves and one 4- to 6-inch strip of lemon zest, tied in a cheese cloth
1. Preheat oven to 300° F.
2. Heat a large Dutch oven, lightly coated with olive oil, over medium-high heat. Pat dry the brisket and generously season both sides with salt and pepper. (If you have time, letting it rest, overnight if possible, enhances the flavor.)
3. Sear the brisket, in the hot oil, until nicely browned and caramelized, about 5 minutes per side.
4. Transfer the brisket to a rimmed baking pan and set aside.
5. Add oil if necessary to lightly coat the bottom of the Dutch oven. Add onions, carrots and celery, season with salt and pepper, and sauté, stirring occasionally until the onions are softened and golden—about 10 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste, and sear the paste until it has darkened and is very fragrant. The paste should be dark red and not black.
6. Add wine and scrape up any browned bits with a spatula. Add the beef broth.
7. Add brisket and any accumulated juices and the bouquet garni. Cover and braise at 300° F for 3 1/2 to 4 hours or until a fork can be inserted into and removed from the center of the brisket with no resistance.
8. Carefully remove brisket to a cutting board and let rest for 20 minutes. Cover loosely with foil if you will be serving immediately.
9. Strain vegetables and bouquet garni and discard. Pour the braising liquid into a saucepan and reduce over medium heat to concentrate the flavors and/or until the liquid coats the back of a spoon. Skim any fat that pools at the top, if desired. Adjust seasoning once you have reached desired consistency.
10. Slice brisket against the grain and arrange on a platter. Drizzle with sauce and serve any extra sauce in a gravy boat on the side. Garnish with crispy shallots, if desired (recipe below). Serves 8 to 10.
Cumin-Roasted Lemon Carrots
- 2 pounds baby carrots with tops; trim greens off an inch above the carrot
- 2–3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- Kosher salt
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- Juice from 1/2 small lemon
1. Preheat oven to 400° F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Toss the carrots with olive oil, cumin, salt and pepper and place in the lined baking pan. Don’t overcrowd the carrots or they won’t brown evenly.
3. Roast the carrots about 15 to 20 minutes until they are a light, toasty brown but still show their gorgeous color. You should be able to pierce the carrot with a fork and have a little resistance.
4. Brighten with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice just before serving. Serves 4.
- 4 large shallots, peeled and sliced very thinly on a mandolin or with a knife
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Freshly cracked pepper
1. Line baking sheet with paper towels.
2. Place a 10-inch sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add about 1/2 inch of olive oil. Cook the shallots very slowly until they turn golden-brown. Be patient; this could take 15 minutes. Transfer the shallots to the lined baking sheet and season with salt and pepper.
3. Store the shallots in a container with a tight-fitting lid at room temperature for up to three days.
4. Save the tasty oil in the refrigerator for sautéing or drizzling on matzo.
10 Recommended Kosher Wines
Dry Red Wines
COVENANT Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2015
Beautifully crafted, rich and layered, with tiers of lively wild berry, blackberry, anise, sage and cedar notes, ending with a juicy aftertaste that keeps the flavors fresh and lively. Kosher. Drink now through 2030. 400 cases imported. From California.
RECANATI Special Reserve Galilee 2014
Full-bodied, featuring refined layers of dried cherry, currant and graphite, laced with sandalwood and mineral details. Well-structured, with full, supple tannins framing the hints of herb, milk chocolate and anise on the finish. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Carignan and Marselan. Kosher. Drink now through 2023. 50 cases imported. From Israel.
COVENANT ISRAEL Blue C Israel 2016
Black currant, red plum and blackberry notes are marked by earth, licorice, floral and herb undertones in this fresh, full-bodied red. Firm, integrated tannins structure the elegant, spice-tinged finish. Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Viognier. Kosher. Drink now through 2023. 1,100 cases imported. From Israel.
LE MACIE DI M. PELLEGRINI Chianti Classico Terra di Seta Assai Gran Selezione 2012
This red leans toward the austere side, with mulled cherry and plum fruit shaded by spice, leather and bitter almond notes. Firm and dry on the finish. Kosher. Drink now through 2024. 70 cases imported. From Italy.
TABOR Cabernet Sauvignon Galilee Limited Edition 2012
Lithe and concentrated, with a layered core of currant, grilled herb and plum compote. Licorice, graphite and toasty elements give depth through the firm, crisp finish. Kosher. Drink now through 2020. 300 cases imported. From Israel.
TABOR Shiraz Galilee Adama 2012
Dried raspberry and cherry notes have a tart edge, with moderate, plush tannins. Licorice undertones linger through to the clean finish. Kosher. Drink now. 970 cases imported. From Israel.
White and Sparkling Wines
DOMAINE DU CASTEL Haute-Judée C Blanc du Castel 2016
Decadently spiced, with nutmeg and clove notes, featuring solid acidity that accentuates the apple cobbler and lemon flavors. Hints of herb and mineral detail the long finish. Chardonnay. Kosher. Drink now through 2021. 520 cases imported. From Israel.
RECANATI Roussanne-Marsanne Galilee Special Reserve 2016
A creamy and plump white, elegant and fresh, showing a lightly herbaceous edge to the pureed peach, heather and mango flavors, underscored by mineral details. Refined acidity binds everything together, with honeyed accents through the spicy finish. Kosher. Drink now through 2019. 30 cases imported. From Israel.
HAGAFEN Riesling Coombsville Wieruszowski Vineyard 2017
Ripe pear, peach and Key lime flavors are lip-smacking in this white, with a tangy, candied edge that lingers on the finish. Kosher. Drink now. 500 cases imported. From California.
PAVOLINO Extra Dry Prosecco NV
This balanced Prosecco is light-footed and fresh, with textbook notes of white peach, stone, almond blossom and grated ginger. Kosher. Drink now. 2,000 cases imported. From Italy.