A Lifetime Ago

It feels like a lifetime ago, that vague memory of sitting together sharing plans for holiday cooking. It was only last spring (maybe 6 months ago). I was with fellow ushers at our local symphony waiting for the doors to open to ticket-holders for the Sunday matinee. I’ve hardly worn my black clothes in the intervening months, saving them carefully for the day I return to ushering. At this point, I think it’s wishful thinking of when we’ll be together again.

Barbara, Flo, and maybe someone else were comparing recipes for the upcoming Passover dinner. How were we to know it would turn out to be the first Passover-at-a-distance – in our own individual Hotel Californias. The ladies kvelled* over their memories of briskets past. I could not relate, as the descendent of a Greek-Jewish mother, our Seder meal was usually fish.

*Kvell (verb) Yiddish, slang. to be extraordinarily pleased; especially, to be bursting with pride.

Now, Yom Kippur commenced last night (September 27). I’ve made the cake – a plum cake I baked a little while ago with some changes (see July 31 post). No shelled pistachios in the house, so I substituted hazelnut flour. No fresh plums, but I had frozen plums (yes, I know they are the reviled Goya* brand).

*A few months ago, the Goya president found himself and his brand in hot water because of praise he gave to the US President (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/10/business/goya-boycott.html).

The rest of the menu for our pre-fast meal included brisket (see below), a white bean vichyssoise,* and those wonderful multicolored carrots. The soup recipe was recently cut from the newspaper, looked interesting. It is a relatively simple potage.

For the soup, put 2 tbsp of olive oil in a saucepan. Add 1 leek (washed and sliced), ½ cup sliced celery and sauté for 5 minutes. Add 2 tsp minced garlic and sauté another 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add 2 cups of cannellini beans (washed and drained), 3 cups (I used the whole box) vegetable broth, rosemary and sage (I left this herb out, not a favorite). Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cool slightly and puree in a blender or food processor. Serve at room temperature.

*The vichyssoise recipe is from our local food guru, Linda Gassenheimer (https://www.capecodtimes.com/entertainmentlife/20200729/creamy-veggie-soup-light-summer-dish).

I found two nice smallish pieces or brisket at a good price and and remembered that distant conversation. I thought I’d give it a try. The recipe I chose was brisket with onions that I’d downloaded a little while ago. This recipe by Bruce Aidells was a Hanukah favorite. We’re having it now!

I started mid-morning so I would not be faced hours with of cooking later in the day. There’s a few preparatory steps to start with – soak ½ cup of dried mushrooms in 1 cup of hot water for at least 20 minutes; mix the herbs (1 tsp thyme, 1 tsp oregano, 1 tbsp sweet paprika, salt and pepper); if using fresh tomatoes chop them, or use a can of chopped tomatoes; and thinly slice 4 onions and 3 tbsp chopped garlic.

Rub the herb mixture on the meat. Put 3 tbsp olive oil in a casserole. Add the brisket, fat side down (mine was trimmed of fat), cook til browned, about 8 minutes per side.

Remove brisket. Add 2 cups dry vermouth,* chicken stock, mushroom soaking liquid and scrape up the stuff (the fond) stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the tomatoes, mushrooms, and 2 bay leaves.

*The vermouth. I have the remains of my mother-in-law’s liquor cabinet. She moved to Florida about 25 years ago. My husband went to her house to choose some furniture and other things we could use. The ever-present bottles of all sorts of liquor were loaded up and brought home (at that time, to Oklahoma); 21 years ago, they came along with us here! Slowly the now antique/heritage liquor has been whittled down. I suspected that there had to be a dry vermouth. Actually, there are 2! Are you the keeper of the family booze museum like us?

there are some new additions to the collection

Return brisket to casserole, fat side up, scatter onions and garlic over the meat, bring to a boil. Cover and put into 350 degree oven for one hour. Uncover and cook for 30 minutes. Spoon onions over meat and cook another 30 minutes. Cover and cook another 2 hours. (That’s why I started early).

Our meal was lovely – the brisket nestled in lots of onions, roast potatoes, and carrots cooked with a little bit of paprika. A good way to prepare for this year’s Yom Kippur reflections. A easy fast to all.

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