Sheila’s Brisket

photo 2I just finished reading Russ & Daughters, a memoir written by Mark Russ Federman, now retired owner of my favorite appetizing store in NYC.  It made me think about Pesach which we spent with our children and family on the East Coast.  This year felt different, with everyone helping, all in their own way of course, there was a rhythm and ease that I had not felt before.  Some shopped, some cooked, some did prep work, some set, some supervised, and some even cleaned.  In his book Mark Federman  talked about family and how important it is to rely on them when you need them to step up, and how that not only requires the patience to teach, but the ability to let go.  Getting ready for Pesach is like running a small family business and I can only say that by the time I left, I felt that while they already knew exactly how to run a Seder, this time they learned what it takes to prepare for one.

My own memories of Pesach include scenes of my mother and Tanta Marisha, cooking together in my aunt’s kitchen. I loved watching them, it made it so much nicer that they had each had a kitchen companion, not to mention  just having another person to ask if the soup is too salty or help decide if you really need another kugel.

Over the course of two days leading up to Yontif, we prepared for 28 guests.  We had more kitchen companions than I can mention, but each one made a significant contribution, and although they were not technically all family members, they acted and felt like family.  I was thrilled to be a part of it, but the best part is knowing how well-prepared the next generation is to tell the story, carry on the traditions, and even make the brisket.  Letting go?  I guess next year Kitniyot may appear on the menu.  I look forward to finding out.

Sheila’s Brisket

Note: I changed this recipe slightly by adding a rub that I massaged into the brisket the day before cooking it, two days before the Seder.

1- 10 pound brisket, both first and second cut.

Rub

10 cloves garlic

2 tsp salt

2 tsp pepper

1 Tb paprika

2 Tb olive oil

Mix ingredients and “massage” into brisket.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

5 large brown onions, thinly sliced.

2 cups good quality Cabernet

2 cups Ketchup

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place brisket in a large roasting pan and cover with sliced onions. Combine wine with ketchup and pour on top. Cover and bake at 325 till tender. About 6 hours.  Slice cold and reheat.  Served 20 when cut with an electric knife!

Enjoy,

Irene

 

French Roast

Growing up in the sixties, food was not analyzed in the same way as it is today.  As long as the meals were fresh and varied, it was considered healthy.  My mother didn’t serve soup or vegetables from a can, and the only food that ever came from a freezer was the result of my mother’s indulgence in response to accusations that she was unfairly depriving me of  T.V. dinners.  Supper always included cooked vegetables, potatoes or rice, some kind of protein, and a salad.  My mother insisted that we needed two things in our diet, milk and meat, not together of course.

I am on information overload and I am not sure how to reverse the trend.  I remember my friend Susan, a native Californian, turning up her nose when being served “fleish” and other heavy European dishes.  She referred to kugels as “brown food”, introduced our family to sprouts, and was my first friend who analyzed what she served in terms of nutritional value.  At the time we just chalked it up to the fact that she was born in L.A.

Today, every meal is fraught with questions and weighty considerations.  Are the carbohydrates whole grain, the vegetables organic, how many carbon footprints are used to raise cattle, is the chicken free-range, etc. .  How can one possibly enjoy a meal that has been dissected to death.  One friend is always assuring us that the recipe is low-calorie, another no longer serves beef, and this morning I was instructed to “go light” on the cheese as I was preparing a cheese omelette.  What is the point of eating a cheese omelette with barely any cheese?

What I miss is the sense of freedom that went hand in hand with being less informed.  I remember the days when we sat down to dinner, digging into a delicious, perfectly done rib steak, served with mashed potatoes and a salad (made with iceberg lettuce), all enjoyed with abandon and guilt-free.  I am not suggesting that we were healthier, or better off as a society,  it’s  just that sometimes all I want is my meat and potatoes, without a side of commentary.

I made this French Roast last week and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

French Roast

3-4 lb. French Roast

3  Tbs of a Brisket rub of your choice ( I used one I bought in Texas)

Flour

5 Tbs Olive Oil

1 large Onion

1 Parsnip

1 Sprig Thyme

1 Bay Leaf

3/4 cup Dry Red Wine

1 Tbs Tomato Paste

Rub French Roast with spice rub, cover with saran, and refrigerate over night.  The next day coat the roast with a small amount of flour.  Pour olive oil into cast iron pan and heat till VERY HOT.  Sear roast on every side till brown.

Place red wine, bay leaf,  thickly sliced onion,  parsnip cut into chunks, Thyme and tomato paste in roasting pan and mix well.  Add French Roast and place, uncovered, in 325 degree oven for about 1 1/2 hours.  Remove and thinly slice meat. Return to roasting pan, cover and cook an additional 2 hours or until meat is very tender.  Add more wine, or water if necessary.

Enjoy,

Irene