Happy New Year!

Shana Tov! It's the Jewish New Year! I'm a practicing culinary Jew, meaning I spend more time connecting with my Jewish roots in the kitchen than the synagogue. As a result I tend to do more recipe searching than soul searching during the High Holidays (bad for my place in Olam Ha-Ba, good for my dinner guests).

This Rosh Hashanah was my first in New York, and I had the good fortune to spend a few hours at my Temple: Zabar's. The only reason to kvetsh about this gourmet specialty store is the lines. Otherwise it's a destination shop for any serious foodie. A diverse variety of prepared items includes all those needed to design a meal like bubbe used to make – challah bread, stuffed cabbage, blintzes, matzoh ball soup, knishes and a smoked fish counter fit for King Solomon. I picked up some fresh rugelach, delicious cookies made with a cream cheese dough, to entice my gentile roommate into joining my Jewish dinner. I also bought some gefilte fish balls, poached ground fish served in a jelly broth, to test her faith.

Low on time and money, I decided to make a simple but delicious dish of braised brisket. Luckily, you don't have to be one of the Chosen People to enjoy this satisfying meal. It's one of those G-d like miracles of cooking: throw ingredients in a pot, cook it for a few hours in the oven and out comes tender meat and a sumptuous sauce, tasting like hours of effort. And as an added bonus, your house will smell divine.

My mitzva of this holiday is thus completed:

He'Brew Braised Brisket
(serves 6)

Ingredients:

3 lb 1st cut brisket
3 white onions, cut in 1/2 inch slices
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
A few sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup beef or chicken broth
1 bottle He'Brew brand beer, like Genesis Ale* (you can substitute, but Yahwheh won't like it)
4 large portobello mushrooms, dark gills scraped away and caps 1/4 inch sliced
2 tbs butter
scant 1/4 cup flour

Procedure:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 F
  2. Season brisket with salt and pepper
  3. Place onions, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf in Dutch oven or other heavy baking pan. Place brisket on top, fat side up. Pour the broth and beer into the mix.
  4. Cover the pot tightly with tinfoil, and then place the lid over. Cook brisket in the oven until the meat is fork tender, about 3 1/2 – 4 hours.
  5. Relax, enjoy the aroma, do the crossword! Unless you're a shlimazel, the brisket will cook itself.
  6. Check the meat at the 3 hr mark, and add the mushrooms when the brisket is about 30 min from being done.
  7. When the meat is tender, remove from the pot and let rest, covered. Strain the sauce into a separate pot, and return vegetables to the original cooking vessel.
  8. Make a brown roux to thicken the sauce – melt butter in a pot, then add flour. Cook until the mixture is brown and smells faintly nutty. Slowly add the cooking juices to the roux, whisking until thickened. Season to taste.
  9. Slice the brisket into thin cuts, and add to the pot with the vegetables. Pour the sauce over the top, and you're ready for a Jewish feast!

Cooking notes:
The brisket is even better when made the day ahead and then reheated for serving.
Accompaniments should include a starch, like potato kugel, kasha varnishkes or egg noodles to soak up the wonderful sauce

* He'Brew beer is available at certain stores. For local listing check their website.

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