Tuesday, April 25, 2017

"The Joys of Jewish Cooking" - Karobki Pot Roast (Beef Brisket) - Passover 2017

Date I made this recipe – April 15, 2017 – Passover

The Joys of Jewish Cooking by Stephen and Ethel Longstreet
Published by Weathervane Books New York
© 1974
Recipe:  Karobki Pot Roast (Beef Brisket) – p. 84

This year, the Jewish holiday of Passover started on Monday, April 10th and since I couldn't make a dish on that day, I thought all was lost but no, people, no; Passover ended on Tuesday, April 18th so I snuck this one in just in time.

I'm probably being single-minded here, but when I hear "Passover" or "Hanukah," I think of one word:  brisket.  Sure, there are other foods I can make, like [Jewish] chicken noodle soup, or matzo ball soup, but been there, done that.  I have not though, made a brisket in eons and just felt like this year was "the" year. 

All right then, having decided to make a brisket, all I had to do was go out and find one that would feed two people instead of twenty and all I can say folks, is "Oy."  Oy, oy, oy, what a task this was!  I tried several grocery stores finding mostly briskets costing upwards of $40.00 and that was way too expensive for us plus, I'd have to freeze the leftovers and I didn't want to.

In the end, Whole Foods [Whole Paycheck] had beef brisket that I could buy by the pound and so I was all excited because I could get just what I needed, no more, no less, and planned to round up my afternoon of shopping with a stop there, but first, Target.

Target stores have been in the papers a lot lately because their growth strategies just seem a tad off.  Long gone are the days when you can stop at Target and do one-stop shopping.  Gone too, are some of the "basics" like household cleaners or even just plain old toothpaste.  And not that I'm necessarily keeping track, but I think I've walked out empty-handed probably 9 times out of 10 and it's because they don't stock what I am looking for.  As a for instance, last year, I stopped at Target hoping to find just a basic ace bandage.  Did they have one?  No.  I found it at Walgreens.  Did they have a household bleach I like to use?  No.  I found that elsewhere as well.  The list goes on and on. (Local's, one place where I inexplicably find a lot of things I need is at Frattalone's Ace Hardware on Grand Ave.  Not groceries, mind you, but other household stuff?  Oh my, yes!)

But on brisket day folks, my luck changed.  Mind you, I went into the store looking for another basic item that they didn't have, and then checked out a few other things to no avail, and was about to leave the store empty-handed to go to Whole Foods when I thought "Oh what the hell, check out the meat department to see if they carry brisket."

Folks, it was a regular Passover/Easter miracle!  Not only did they carry brisket, but they were all small cuts of meat, weighing between 1.5 and 2.5 pounds and so not only did I find it, I had options!  And it was priced to move!  So as I said to some friends, today I left totting one damned fine piece of brisket!  I still can't believe it.

So okay then, I had my brisket, I had the other ingredients, and now all I had to do was cook it as directed.

Insert major "record-scratch" moment here.

"As directed" said to simmer a four-pound brisket (full recipe) for 1 hour, then slice it and return it to the heat for another ½ hour until meat is tender.  This is whacked.  Since I was making this for Passover let me just posit that God can perform many miracles, but he cannot make a four-pound brisket cook fully in an hour and a half.  And even though I made half the recipe, the cooking time was still insufficient for my two-pound roast.  Total time elapsed for my mini-roast was about 3 hours and it still could have cooked for about a half an hour longer but I decided enough was enough. 

In a way, I blame myself and my own self-imposed rule of following the directions to the letter because I knew better.  Brisket needs to be slow-cooked. It can slow cook in a crock pot, or it can slow cook in an oven (I used the oven to finish it off), but at minimum, you need to plan on about 3-4 hours or more depending on the brisket's size.  One hour is insufficient.  An additional half hour is insufficient.  In fact, that's my word of the day:  insufficient.

So here's what I did instead:  I checked the meat at the half hour mark because in theory, two pounds of brisket should need half the time (one hour for the full recipe) and it wasn't anywhere near done.  So then I checked it at the hour mark and it wasn't done, and then I cooked it for another half hour on the stovetop and at 1 ½ hours, it was still petty tough.

Okay then....hmmmmm, what to do next, what to do next?

Google.  That's what I did next. I Googled brisket recipes and every single one of them without fail said 3-4 hours minimum without regard to the size.

And so I removed the brisket to a roasting pan, added all the vegetables and sauce, covered the pan with foil and baked the sucker for another hour.  Total elapsed time was now 2 ½ hours and I was getting closer but still wasn't done.

I decided I was going to give it another ½ hour and you know, by then it was almost perfect, but it could have benefited from another ½ hour to be sure.  Maybe more.  But by this point, we were approaching 8:00 p.m. and I just didn't have the patience to go much longer so I pulled it out of the oven and turned the oven off.  Take that!

And so we tried it and we liked it, Hey Mikey, and that was good.  The meat was fairly tender (it should be) and the accoutrements (tomatoes, onion, garlic, red wine, etc.) made for a great "flavor profile," ala Food Network's Chopped.  And there was much rejoicing!

Please note that this recipe calls for a ½ cup dry red wine but if you don't want to go that route, substitute beef, chicken, or veggie broth (Why do I suddenly feel like I'm selecting a option from a wedding reception menu?) and you should be okay.  But if beef is not your thing, then I've got nothin'! 

Wait, that's not true as this book has several other recipes that might appeal...or not!

In the fish department, we have "Herring Pie" (nope), "Gefilte Fish Balls" also a "no" as is – for me – "Pickled Herring."  I know plenty of people though, who like herring so if you want it, you go for it!

If you must have chicken soup, there are a couple of recipes for that.  I love chicken soup but I was set on brisket.  If you want dessert (and boy, was that tempting), then there are plenty that should satisfy, including several strudel recipes and also a cheesecake recipe.  Again, all good but I needed, wanted, had to have brisket, no other substitutes would do.

One of the challenges of this book (besides the brisket's cooking time) was the way it is laid out.  The authors take us through Jewish cooking in several countries or regions and within that region, they give us recipes for "Appetizers;" "Meat;" "Fowl;" "Fish;" "Soup;" "Vegetables;" "Salads;" "Doughs," and "Desserts," and so if you are looking for a particular recipe, you may need to do a bit of hunting.  The countries/regions they included in this book are:

  • Russia
  • Poland
  • Germany
  • Austria
  • Hungary
  • Romania and the Balkans
  • Italy and the Mediterranean
  • France
  • England
  • Israel
  • Middle East and North Africa
  • Republic of South Africa
  • Latin America
  • The United States

If you put the countries and categories together, here is what you'll see in the Table of Contents:
§       Meat
§       Fowl
§       Fish
§       Soup
§       Vegetables
§       Doughs
§       Salads
§       Dessert

*Categories vary depending on the country, for example, Russia's list did not include Appetizers but other countries did. 

I must say though, that reading through each section was kind of fun even if it took me longer than I imagined to find the right recipe.  You'll definitely see regional differences in the ingredients used but that too, adds to the fun.

All in all, this was a tasty recipe and one that I might make again sometime when I have half a day to devote to it! 

Karobki Pot Roast (Brisket) – 6 servings - "The karobki was the Czar's official tax on kosher meat.  The title of this dish is meant to be iron – for it survived after the Revolution of 1917."
3 large onions, sliced
1 clove garlic, mashed or finely diced
1 pound stewed tomatoes (Ann's Note:  I used diced tomatoes.  Why?  Because I found myself standing in the Vegetable aisle confused as all get out i.e. did Stewed Tomatoes always contain onions and green pepper?  The cans I looked at that day did.  Rather than screw up the recipe by using ingredients that weren't called for, I stuck with plain old tomatoes, final answer!)
4 carrots, scraped, quartered
Pinch of oregano
Pinch of sugar
Salt, ground pepper to taste
4 pounds beef brisket
½ pound fresh mushrooms
½ cup dry red wine

In a 5-quart pot with a lid put the sliced onions, garlic, tomatoes, carrots, a pinch of oregano, a dash of sugar, and salt and pepper.  Put the meat on top, cover pot tightly, bring to a boil.  Lower heat, simmer for 1 hourAnn's Note:  I cannot stress this enough:  You will need more than one hour if you are making a full recipe (4 pounds of brisket) and definitely more than a half an hour if you are making a half recipe (2 pounds of brisket).  So either resign yourself to cook this for at least 2 hours or on the stove, or follow along with me as I "fix" it for you.

After an hour, slice the mushrooms and mix with wine.  Remove meat and slice against the grain.  Add mushrooms and wine to gravy.  Put sliced meat in pot, cover tightly, return to boil, lower heat, simmer for ½ hour until meat is tender.  Serve with potato latkes.  Ann's Note:  Again I say unto you, you need more time.  If your brisket miraculously cooks during this time period, hooray for you, but unless it is the size of a boot heel, it probably won't.  As I mentioned above, I ended up simmering my two-pound brisket for about an hour and a half before moving the whole shebang to the oven to bake for another hour and a half at 300F.

Should you want to skip the simmering portion of the program, slow cook the brisket in a 250-300F oven for several hours.  Cover your roasting pan with heavy duty aluminum foil if your pan does not have a cover.  I think you should probably follow the general guidelines which is to say bake all but the mushrooms and wine for a couple of hours before adding the finishing touches.

The total time for this recipe, as written was 1 and ½ hours for a four-pound brisket. 

Good luck!

By the way, after dealing with this overly-long brisket process, I realized why I hadn't made a brisket in such a long time and it's because of the time requirements, oy.

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