The centerpiece of the traditional Passover meal is the brisket, a cut of beef long-cooked for tenderness and full-flavor. After checking out recipes from cooks around the country, I found that in many cases, a bit of sweetening is added to the cooking medium.
The centerpiece of the traditional Passover meal is the brisket, a cut of beef long-cooked for tenderness and full-flavor. After checking out recipes from cooks around the country, I found that in many cases, a bit of sweetening is added to the cooking medium. Honey, for instance, has centuries of experience as an addition to the flavorful stock used as a cooking medium.
Talking to cooks in our Southern states, I’ve found that brown sugar is a favorite in place of honey. Chef Emeril Lagasse got rave reviews on a recipe he developed adding chili sauce, ketchup and “essence,” his own brand of seasoning mix, to the brown sugar.
In some cases, the sweetener might serve a double duty. The citric acid in orange juice works to break down tough fibers in meat during the slow cooking process, tenderizing it even further.
Juice as a tenderizer easily applies itself to other meats as well. Lamb, another seasonal favorite, marries well with pomegranate juice, now available bottled in most supermarkets. Although a bit expensive, a little goes a long way — and after all, it is a holiday. Paired with dry red wine, the juice works its magic on this deeply flavored meat.
Makes 12 servings
Beef stock easily replaces the red wine in this recipe.
4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
4 cups coarsely chopped onions
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons dried thyme
salt, fresh-ground black pepper, to taste
2 cups red wine (optional)
6 pound beef brisket, first cut
3 cups beef stock (add 2 more cups if not using red wine)
1 cup orange juice
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Heat half the oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, reduce heat to medium, and cook until softened. Add the garlic, bay leaves, thyme and salt and pepper, to taste. Cook for a two to three minutes more. Add the red wine (or 2 cups beef stock) to the pan, turn up the heat to high. Cook for five minutes, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Turn the heat to low and simmer gently.
3. Place a large heavy Dutch oven or roasting pan over medium-high heat. Add the remaining oil to warm. Add the brisket; brown on all sides being careful of splattering oil when turning.
4. Add the onion mixture, beef stock, and orange juice to the Dutch oven or roasting pan. Partially cover, using the pot cover or aluminum foil. Bake in the preheated oven for four hours, or until tender.
5. Remove from the oven; set aside to cool at room temperature in the Dutch oven or roasting pan. When cooled, wrap both meat and onion mixture tightly in foil; refrigerate overnight.
6. Before serving time, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
7. Remove onion mixture from the meat. Slice the meat against the grain and place in a baking dish. Skim any fat from the onion mixture; pulse in a food processor or blender until smooth and thick; spoon over the brisket. Cover loosely with aluminum foil; heat throughout, about 30 minutes, until serving time.
RACK OF LAMB WITH POMEGRANATE & RED WINE SAUCE
A “frenched” chop or rack of any type of meat means that part of the bone has been cleaned of any meat leaving a “handle” on the end. When cooking, I always cover the exposed bone with foil so it does not burn in the oven.
1 or 2 racks of lamb (8 chops), “frenched”
1/4 cup olive oil
4 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
salt, pepper, to taste
1 cup red wine
1 cup pomegranate juice
2 tablespoons orange juice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Rub lamb with oil, rosemary, salt, pepper. Place in a roasting pan with remaining oil; roast to 140 degrees internal temperature for medium rare, 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Transfer to a platter; cover loosely with foil.
3. Pour excess fat from pan. Place pan on stove over high heat. Add wine and pomegranate juice. Bring to a boil, stirring to scrape up browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Simmer to reduce liquid by half, 5 to 7 minutes. Reduce the heat to low; stir in butter until melted. Turn off heat.
4. Slice rack into individual chops to serve with pomegranate-wine sauce.
Dessert often baffles new cooks preparing their first Passover meal. Those living far from loved ones to cook with or trying to establish their independence in the kitchen might want to try a flourless cake that substitutes matzo meal for flour.
FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE CAKE
Makes 6 to 8 servings
Egg yolks can be frozen for later use. The cake will sink slightly in the center as it cools.
1/2 cup matzo meal
1/3 cup walnuts
2 large eggs
1-1/4 cups sugar, divided
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup grated apple
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
8 egg whites, at room temperature (reserve yolks for another use)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. You will need a 9-inch ungreased springform pan.
2. Process matzo meal and walnuts together until they reach a fine consistency. Spread onto a rimmed baking sheet; bake for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven; set aside to cool.
3. Whisk together eggs, 3/4 cup sugar and vanilla in a bowl. Stir in matzo-walnut mixture, apple, cocoa and chocolate.
4. Using an electric hand mixture, beat egg whites and salt until frothy. Raise mixer speed to high and beat until soft peaks form. Add the last 1/2 cup sugar, a tablespoon at a time, until stiff peaks form.
5. Stir a small amount of the beaten whites into the batter. Gently fold in remaining egg whites using rubber spatula. Gently scrape the batter into the springform pan, tapping the pan gently against the counter to break up any air bubbles.
6. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center returns clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Run a knife between the cake and the pan, all around, to loosen. Cool for 20 minutes on a wire rack. When cool, slice onto a serving plate and gently remove the sides of the pan.
Linda Bassett is the author of “From Apple Pie to Pad Thai: Neighborhood Cooking North of Boston.” Reach her by e-mail at KitchenCall@aol.com.