April 2, 2010

Passover Recipes: Matzah Apple Kugel and Garlic Brisket

More! Food! It just keeps coming!

It's the Jewish way, folks.
They tried to kill us.
They didn't succeed.
Let's eat!

Matzah Apple Kugel
adapted from allrecipes.com

Passover kugels aren't necessarily the best thing. No flour, no noodles...only matzah, maztah meal or matzah cake meal. However, this apple kugel was a surprise! It was flavorful and moist, and I cut back on the sugar so it wasn't too sweet. Everyone at the seder enjoyed it. The only change I would make for next time is to use a 9x13 baking dish instead. I like a crispy kugel and this didn't really have a chance for that in the 2-quart casserole dish.

4 matzo crackers, crushed
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup white sugar (I used slightly less)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/3 cup applesauce (unsweetened)
3 Granny Smith apples - cored, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins

1/4 cup white sugar (I used about 3 TBS)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Place the crumbled matzos in a medium bowl, and add enough water to cover. Let stand for 2 minutes, then drain off excess water. Do not squeeze.

To the bowl of matzo, add eggs, 1/4 cup sugar, salt, lemon juice and applesauce. Stir to combine. Mix in the apples and dried cranberries. Spread the mixture evenly into a 2 quart casserole dish. Mix together the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, and cinnamon; sprinkle over the top.

Bake for 45 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the top is golden, and the apples are soft.

Braised Brisket with Thirty-Six Cloves of Garlic
adapted from epicurious.com

Oh, man, this is soo good. The garlic cloves mellow out during the cooking process and become sweet, instead of pungent. The gravy is then finished with chopped rosemary, more garlic and a sprinkling of lemon zest for an extra oomph.

The only complaint I have is that using a kosher brisket makes for a very salty gravy. I added broth, more rosemary and even MORE broth...but it was still pretty salty. Overall, it didn't ruin things, but I think that next time, I'll make my gravy with help from one of those gravy packets...minus the salt.

The low and slow cooking time braises the brisket perfectly, so that it becomes fork-tender and just melt in your mouth good. If you're looking for a good brisket recipe, you can't really go wrong with this one.

36 fat unpeeled garlic cloves (1 2/3 to 2 cups) or an equivalent amount of smaller cloves, plus 1 teaspoon minced garlic (I used pre-peeled cloves)
3 tablespoons olive oil
A first-or second-cut beef brisket (about 5 pounds), trimmed of excess fat, wiped with a damp paper towel, and patted dry
2 TBS red wine vinegar
3 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade or good-quality low-sodium purchased
3 or 4 fresh thyme sprigs, or 2 teaspoons dried leaves
2 fresh rosemary sprigs, plus 1 teaspoon chopped leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp grated lemon zest

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed roasting pan or casserole large enough to accommodate the meat in one layer. Use two burners, if necessary. Add the brisket and brown well on both sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer the brisket to a platter and set aside. (Or brown the meat under the broiler: place the brisket, fat side up, on a foil-lined broiler pan under a preheated broiler. Broil for 5 to 6 minutes on each side, until browned. Don’t allow it to develop a hard, dark crust, which might make the meat tough or bitter. Move the meat around as necessary, so it sears evenly.)

Pour off all but about 1 tablespoon of fat remaining in the pan and add the garlic cloves. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic edges are tinged with gold. Add the vinegar and deglaze the pan, scraping up all the browned bits from the bottom with a wooden spoon. Add the stock, thyme, and rosemary sprigs, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Salt and pepper the brisket to taste on all sides, and add it to the pan, fat side up. Spoon the garlic cloves over the meat.

Place the brisket in the oven, cover (if you have no lid, use heavy-duty foil), and cook, basting every half-hour, until the meat is fork tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours or longer. (As the meat cooks, periodically check that the liquid is bubbling gently. If it is boiling rapidly, turn the oven down to 300°F.)

The brisket tastes best if it is allowed to rest, reabsorbing the juices lost during braising, and it's easiest to defat the gravy if you prepare the meat ahead and refrigerate it until the fat solidifies. That is the method I use, given here, but the gravy can be prepared by skimming the fat in the traditional way, if you prefer. If you go that route though, do let the meat rest in the pan sauce for at least an hour.

Cool the brisket in the pan sauce, cover well with foil, and refrigerate until the fat congeals. Scrape off all solid fat. Remove the brisket from the pan and slice thinly across the grain.

Prepare the gravy: Bring the braising mixture to room temperature, then strain it, reserving the garlic and discarding the thyme and rosemary sprigs. Skim and discard as much fat as possible from the liquid. Puree about one half of the cooked garlic with 1 cup of the defatted braising liquid in a food processor or a blender. (If you want a smooth gravy, puree all of the cooked garlic cloves.) Transfer the pureed mixture, the remaining braising liquid, and the rest of the cooked garlic to a skillet. Add the chopped rosemary, minced garlic, and lemon zest. Boil down the gravy over high heat, uncovered, to the desired consistency. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Rewarm the brisket in the gravy until heated through.

Arrange the sliced brisket on a serving platter. Spoon some of the hot gravy all over the meat and pass the rest in a separate sauce boat. Watch your guests drool.