To start the weeklong Jewish holiday of Passover, families gather for a special meal, the Seder, at which the food is often as traditional and familiar as the prayers, songs and symbolic elements on the Seder plate that commemorate the ancient Hebrews' exodus from Egypt.
"Beef brisket was the centerpiece of almost every Passover in my family," said Jessica Applestone, co-owner, with her husband, Joshua, of Fleisher's Grass-Fed and Organic Meats in Kingston, N.Y., which supplies meat to some of the top restaurants in New York City and the Hudson Valley. Although the shop is not kosher, Joshua is a third-generation butcher whose great-grandfather, Wolf Fleisher, owned a beloved kosher butcher shop in Brooklyn with his sons Jack and Joseph. This heritage inspired Joshua, a one-time vegan, and Jessica, a former vegetarian, to become purveyors who offer thoughtfully raised, hormone- and antibiotic-free meat. To encourage others to be environmentally conscious in selecting meat, the two have written a book with co-author Alexandra Zissu, The Butcher's Guide to Well-Raised Meat: How to Buy, Cut, and Cook Great Beef, Lamb, Pork, Poultry, and More, which will be published in June 2011.
"Brisket is always either braised or smoked, and once you understand that, you can go in whatever direction you want, depending on the flavor profile you're looking for," said Applestone, who likes to adhere to a ratio of 2 parts acid (tomatoes, vinegar, wine, beer or cider) to 3 parts stock or water when composing a braising liquid for brisket. "A nice Jewish brisket tends to be sweet and sour." To that end, she has shared the following recipe, suitable for a Passover Seder. Serve with matzo, a bitter greens salad, some parve coconut cookies and one or more of the recently rated kosher wines below.
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 5-pound beef brisket
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 6 to 8 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced (about 4 to 5 cups)
• 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
• 2 cups red wine
• 4 cups beef broth or chicken or veal stock
• 1 1/2 cups apple cider
• 2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
• 5 semi-ripe plantains, peeled and cut into thirds
• 1/3 cup finely chopped parsley (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 300° F. In a Dutch oven or other large, oven-proof pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Season the meat on both sides with salt. Sear the meat on both sides in the hot oil until browned, about 5 minutes per side. Remove the meat to a platter and season on both sides with black pepper.
2. Add the onions to the hot pot and stir well with a wooden spoon to evenly coat the onions with oil and to dislodge any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Season the onions well with salt and pepper, and continue to cook over medium heat until they are soft, fragrant and lightly browned, about 7 to 10 minutes.
3. Increase the heat to high and stir in the vinegar. Cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated and the sharp vinegar smell has subsided, about 5 to 7 minutes. When the onions are sizzling hard, stir in the wine and cook until the liquid has reduced by half. Stir in the broth or stock and the cider and bring to a boil. Add the sweet potatoes and plantains and return to a boil.
4. Return the brisket to the pot. Note: If your pot isn't large enough to hold all of the meat, vegetables and liquid, transfer some of the liquid, onions, sweet potatoes and plantains to a separate, heavy-bottomed pot, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook on the stovetop for about 90 minutes, until the plantains and potatoes are extremely tender.
5. Cover the pot with an oven-proof lid or aluminum foil and transfer to the oven. Cook until the meat is very tender, about 4 hours. Remove from the oven and let the meat cool to room temperature in the liquid, then separate the liquid from the meat and vegetables and chill the liquid so that the fat rises to the top. Skim the fat, cover the meat and vegetables with the liquid and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
6. To serve, heat the meat, vegetables and liquid together in a 350° F oven until the liquid is bubbling. Serve the meat in thin slices with the vegetables alongside, braising liquid drizzled over and chopped parsley on top as a garnish. Serves 8 to 10.
14 RECOMMENDED KOSHER WINES FROM ISRAEL
The following are highlights from new-release kosher wines that we have reviewed this year, chosen for their quality and/or price. WineSpectator.com members can view additional kosher wines in our Wine Ratings Search.
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