The Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown on September 16 – just a week away. Many families, including my own, are beginning to make their holiday plans and prepare for festive holiday meals. I have written about how my family celebrates Rosh Hashanah and some of our favorite holiday foods before. But I thought this year it might be helpful if I gather together several of my holiday recipes in one post and — get this — put it up it before the holiday so that anyone looking for Rosh Hashanah recipes might find them in time to use them.
Some say that Rosh Hashanah is a holiday of circles. Indeed, the word “rosh” in Hebrew means “head,” and Rosh Hashanah “the head of the year.” Because of that, Rosh Hashanah foods are often round. For example, during the rest of the year, we make our traditional Sabbath bread, challah, in a braided shape. But for Rosh Hashanah, we bake our challah into a round, spiral shape to symbolize the circle of one year ending and another beginning.
It is also traditional to dip the round challah into honey to express our wish that the new year be a sweet one for us and our friends. In fact, many Rosh Hashanah foods are sweet for this reason. One of the easiest Rosh Hashanah foods — and a kid favorite — is slices of apple dipped in honey. We begin our Rosh Hashanah dinner this way every year.
For many Jews, it’s not a holiday meal without brisket. The key to cooking brisket is two-fold: first, cook the meat in liquid for a long time — a technique known as braising — and second, prepare it the day before you want to serve it. Brisket is a tough, cheap cut of meat — that’s why Jewish immigrants were able to afford it when they first came to this country. To make a tough cut of meat tender, braising is the right approach. Cooking the brisket the day before you plan to serve it allows you to cool and then reheat the sauce. When the sauce is cooled in the refrigerator, the fat congeals at the top, thereby allowing you to remove it and serve a flavorful, but not greasy sauce to accompany your meat. Also, brisket is much easier to slice when it is cold.
This method will produce a tender, delicious brisket in a rich gravy that will give no one indigestion. This is truly a brisket to win over the brisket naysayers out there. It even worked on the friend who claimed to hate brisket. Feel free to vary the sauce according to your family’s tastes. What is important here is the method: Long, slow braise in liquid the day before and reheating with the sauce prior to serving.
Braised Brisket with Gravy
Whole beef brisket (3-4 lbs.)
2 TB vegetable oil
1 large onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 TB ketchup
3 1/2 cups beef stock or broth
1 1/2 cups fruity red wine
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Heat the oil in a large, deep, oven-safe Dutch oven that has a tight-fitting lid. Add the brisket and brown it on all sides — just a few minutes per side. Remove the meat and set it aside.
To the Dutch oven, add the onions and garlic. Stir, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium-low heat until the onions are softened, about ten minutes. Add the ketchup, beef broth, and wine and stir to combine. Return the meat to the Dutch oven and cover.
Transfer to Dutch oven to the preheated oven. Cook the meat in the oven, turning it every hour or so, for two and a half to three hours. Refrigerate the meat and sauce separately.
Prior to serving, skim any congealed fat off the top of the sauce. Trim the fat off of the top of the brisket and slice it against the grain. Then, place the slices in a deep baking dish. Pour the de-fatted sauce over the meat, cover with foil and reheat in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour.
A traditional holiday side dish is Carrot Tzimmes, a sweet, honey-scented dish in which carrots are cut into rounds to resemble gold coins — eating these carrot “coins” on Rosh Hashanah is said to ensure a prosperous New Year. This dish is guaranteed to deliver Vitamin A to your children. Kids love the sweet taste and the not-too-crunchy, not-too-mushy texture of the carrots, plus if you tell them about the gold coin idea, they like it even more. When making this dish, buy the bunches of carrots with the green tops still on. I read in one of the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks that these carrots are the most flavorful, and I have to agree.
Two bunches of carrots, trimmed, peeled and cut into round pieces
2-3 TB butter, olive oil or a combination of the two
2 TB honey
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Heat the butter or oil in a large shallow saute pan over medium heat. (Butter will give the richest taste, but if you observe Jewish dietary laws, or have a child allergic to dairy, olive oil works fine.) Toss the carrot “coins” in the fat to coat them. Add honey, cinnamon, orange juice and water, if needed, just to cover the carrots. Turn the heat down to a simmer, partially cover the saute pan and cook until the carrots are tender, 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle in a handful of raisins. Then remove the cover and turn the heat up until the sauce is boiling. Reduce the sauce until it is a syrupy glaze. Serve immediately.
L’shana tova to everyone celebrating Rosh Hashanah. A sweet and healthy new year!