There's Four Questions. Pick a question, any question... see if you can find it again! Actually, I was hoping you'd pick the fourth of these parables:
4. Why is this night different from all other nights? For on all other nights, we eat either sitting straight or leaning; But tonight we are required to lean!
For our purposes today it really should read "we are required to EAT lean!" Pesach can be a difficult time for those trying to eat lower-cholesterol because it seems that almost everything is either fatty or full of eggs. If you look at the typical 8-day shopping list, you'll see dozens of dozens of eggses for example, and fatty meats and metric tons of high-carb potato and matzo dishes. So here our goal is how to eat some of the time-honored dishes (with a moderne twist here and there), but produce them in a more healthy manner.
Our first recipe combines both technique with ingredients to produce a moist, tender, lower-fat Brisket Bordelaise--today's lean "first cuts" without the "brust deckle" tend to dry out over the loooonnnng braising period and wind up tough and stringy. At two days to produce, this is definitely Slow Food, but then again, there's not much to actually do except marinate overnight, bake, cool, and make the gravy. Did I mention this is the "house brisket" here at Merlin's Kitchen?
Arriving on Track 2 from sunny southern Spain (Andalusia was home to The Rambam!), moving us along as a relief after heavy matzo-laden dishes, we then accomplish a bright vibrant salad with little strain. Lower-carb, and with only the "good" fat of olive oil, this will go a long way in achieving the famous "seven colors a day" for good nutrition.
Lower on eggs than a trad sponge cake (as well as lower in work since it all can be mixed in one bowl), this Walnut "Fudge" Torte--technically, a torte is a cake made with ground nuts--is deceptive with its low height. It's as rich and dense as its eggsier, fattier cousins in the pastry shops (and less sugar as well), incredibly the moistiest, with layers of flavors built in from the simple list of ingredients. Annnnnd, it also has the property of being non-gebrochts.
Serves 8-10, with leftovers
1 8-pound brisket
1 bottle dry red wine, divided
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Double the next vegetables (one batch for the brine/marinade, one batch for the gravy):
2-3 carrots, chopped coarsely
2-3 stalks celery, chopped coarsely
1 large or 2 medium onions, chopped coarsely
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped coarsely
3-4 bay leaves
1 bunch parsley (reserve a tablespoon or so for the salad below)
3 tablespoons fresh thyme or 1 tablespoon dried
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup balsamic or red wine vinegar
Take brisket and lay in roasting pan. Dissolve the salt in 3/4 bottle of red wine. Add first batch of the mirepoix (mih-rih-PWAH, the chopped carrots, onions, celery, and garlic) and pour on the red wine. Cover and set aside overnight in fridge. That's that with that! Not much work so far, huh?
Strain veggies out of wine brine and discard veggies. Preheat oven to 325:F. Reserve about 1/3 cup of wine from what's remaining in the bottle and mix with balsamic vinegar. Set this aside until making the gravy.
Place second set of veggies (again, the mirepoix of chopped carrots, onions, celery, and garlic + 3-4 bay leaves) along with the parsley on the bottom of the roasting pan for an organic rack. Lay brisket on top of the mirepoix.
Pour the wine brine over brisket, sprinkle thyme and pepper on that, cover. Bake in oven for about 3 hours or until brisket is tender (could be a half hour more). STILL not much work!
Now. The brisket's done. Separate out the wine/veggie mixture from the brisket and strain out the veggies BUT DON'T (don't) throw them out. Except for the bay leaves. You can separate those out and discard (they don't soften in cooking and are a choking hazard). Let liquid and meat cool separately. When the cooking juice has cooled to room temperature, place the bowl in a bowl of iced water (that is, mostly ice, little water) and let that sit for 10-15 minutes to chill. Remove the fat cap that forms, it's done its job.
Let the brisket continue to cool, even situate it in the refrigerator to help it settle so it won't tear up into rags when you slice it.
_Last Step Before Yom Tov (or before serving if not a holiday)_:
First, we're going to start to make the gravy. Take the defatted liquid and put the reserved veggies back in to it. Pour it into a pan, and put the pan on high heat on the stove. Bring to a boil.
While the liquid is reducing, slice the brisket and arrange on serving platter.
When the liquid has reduced between 1/3 and 1/2, puree the mixture with an immersion blender, or place in regular blender or food processor.
_When Ready To Serve_:
Now, remember the uncooked wine and vinegar mixture? *I* haven't forgotten it. Freshen up/brighten up the gravy with that and season to taste. If gravy is too thick, dilute with water.
Pour hot gravy over brisket (this will avoid the "steam table taste" that other methods may produce) and serve.
1. Marinate/brine brisket 8 hours/overnight with mirepoix.
2. Lay second batch of mirepoix in roasting pan, then brisket, then wine, then thyme and pepper.
3. Bake, covered, for 3 hours or until tender.
4. Separate liquid and brisket and cool. Defat liquid.
5. Reduce liquid and veggies to 1/3 to 1/2. Puree, and season to taste.
6. Pour gravy over previously-sliced brisket.
Serves: 4 (can double or triple)
2 navel oranges, peeled and sliced into rounds, juice reserved
1 tbsp. orange juice concentrate (optional)
1 red onion, sliced into rings
24 black olives of your choice, pitted
1-2 tablespoons parsley, chopped (see brisket above)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 head Bibb or butter lettuce, washed, dried, and torn
Soak onion rings in ice water for about 45 minutes--this will crisp them up and remove any perceived harshness that some detect with raw onions. Remove and pat dry.
Arrange lettuce on salad plates and place 1/4 amount of oranges, onions, and olives on each.
Now we'll make the dressing. Mix reserved orange juice with olive oil, salt and black pepper, and parsley. Season to taste and pour over salad. Yummmmmm.
None needed, it's all there
WALNUT “FUDGE” TORTE
Serves: 10-12 or 8-10 Jewish portions
2 cups walnuts, ground + 1/4 cup chopped coarsely
1/2 tsp. salt
4 eggs, brought to room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon rum or brandy or strong coffee
Preheat oven to 350:F
Grind walnuts in food processor to a sand-like consistency, first for about 10-15 seconds continuously and then in pulses, pausing a second or three between a series of pulses (this will let them settle a bit and the large chunks get to the blades) until nuts become finely ground. Be careful not to grind too finely or you'll get walnut butter! Which is certainly ok if that's what you want to do to begin with, but that's not what we're doing here. You can tell jusssst when it's starting to turn, the particles in the processor bowl will stick together in large flakes as well as sort of cling to the sides of the bowl.
Place ground nut "flour" in a bowl, and sort of scrabble your fingers around to fluff it and to find any chunks that survived. Add salt. Set aside.
Put remaining 1/4 cup walnuts in food processor and pulse 2-3 times to chop coarsely. Heat dry frying pan and toss walnut pieces until toasted, about 1 minute. Set aside.
Crack the four eggs into a bowl. With a hand mixer or balloon whisk, start slowly whisking the eggs and increase the speed over the next 30 seconds or so to high. Beat eggs until frothy and tripled in bulk, about 2-1/2 to 3 minutes.
Beat sugar into eggs, a couple tablespoons at a time until incorporated (egg mixture will be foamy and somewhat thickened).
Fold in ground walnuts, about 1/4 cup at a time (fold in one direction!) until mixed in. Sprinkle chopped walnuts into batter and mix in. Add liquor or coffee.
Pour batter into ungreased springform tube pan (the kind with a removable bottom) and bake at 350:F for 50 minutes or until torte tests clean. Place pan on a bottle neck and cool upside down for an hour.
To remove from pan run a knife around the tube, then around the outside of torte. Pick up the pan and push the bottom away from the sides--you may wind up with a pan bracelet but never mind that. Then take the knife and in a sawing motion cut the torte away from the pan bottom. Now comes the tricksy part because the torte is fragile and could tear (this is why the removable bottom, instead of taking the torte out of the pan, we've taken the pan away from the torte). Bracing the torte on both sides, with fingers spread, invert the pan bottom and lower the torte. If you feel it sticking, turn the tube rightside up again and free that part. Go back to bracing the torte on both sides as you free it. Turn it "foam" side up, sprinkle with powdered sugar, if available, and serve with fresh fruit.
1. Grind walnuts, chop remaining walnuts, pan toast walnut chunks.
2. Beat eggs until tripled in bulk. Beat in sugar.
3. Fold in ground walnuts, add chopped walnuts.
4. Add liquor or coffee, pour into pan and bake.
5. Turn upside and cool. Remove from pan and invert torte again.