In the late 90′s, my graduate school classmate, Valerie, invited me to her family’s passover dinner in Long Island, New York. Even though it took 6 hours on a crowded holiday train to get there from Manhattan, I greatly appreciated the opportunity to learn about Jewish culture and foods. I saw how the middle Matzah, which symbolizes the poor man’s unleavened bread made with only flour & water, got broken in half at the table and how delicious the home-made Jewish foods were. From that cultural experience, I started exploring more into Jewish cuisine. I ended up totally getting addicted to classic Jewish deli food. I miss eating matzo ball soup, brisket, pastrami, a loaf of rye and a bucket of pickles picked up steps away from my old apartment in Manhattan. I hope that the delicious NY-style Jewish deli food will flood into the San Francisco bay area.
Wishing my Jewish friends a great Passover festival, I’m making Maror (horseradish-based bittersweet relish), which signifies the bitter experience of Jews being slaves in Egypt. With it, I’m also making a simple braised brisket dish.
For Maror, using a recipe I found on Food & Wine magazine, I first put 1 lb peeled horseradish root in the food processor and shred it with a ¼ cup of white wine vinegar and 1 teaspoon sea salt. Then, I shred 1 carrot, 1 peeled & cored granny smith apple and 1 peeled beet with a ¼ cup of white wine vinegar and 1 teaspoon sea salt. Subsequently, I shred 1 cup of frozen cranberries with a 1/3 cup of sugar and a ¼ cup of white wine vinegar. Lastly, I mix all shredded fruits & vegetables together in a bowl and store it in the refrigerator until serving.
For the braised brisket, I rub 3 lbs brisket with sea salt on all sides & sprinkle freshly ground black pepper. Separately, I heat a large cast iron pot and pour extra virgin olive oil to saute 1 large onion (chopped) with 2 tablespoons fresh oregano and pinch of salt. Then, I add brisket to brown all sides and pour in a ½ cup of full-bodied Zinfandel. Subsequently, 1 add 1 lb vine-riped tomatoes (diced) & a 1/3 cup Spanish Manzanilla olives stuffed with mince pimento (chopped) to the pot and let it simmer for 3 hours. When the meat gets tender, I take it out to slice thin and then put it back to the pot to cook for another hour or so.
This easy-to-make brisket is very tender and tasty. The slow cooking method infuses the flavors deeply into the grain of the meat. The Spanish Manzanilla olives stuffed with mince pimento also add a complex tangy finish to the sauce.
The horseradish-based bittersweet relish has an even bigger personality than the braised brisket. It’s like a beautiful pair of earrings that steals the attention away from a pretty face. It is so hot, but it’s so good that it’s hard to stop eating. The heat first comes through the nose and then finishes with a sweet, fruity touch in the mouth. It’s a great relish to eat with a variety of Passover foods like matzah, haroset, brisket etc.
I also pair my braised brisket with 2004 Granite Springs’ Petite Sirah from El Dorado AVA located in the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. The estate-grown Petite Sirah grapes from El Dorado are intense and bold. Its flavor proves that there is gold in El Dorado. This 7-year-old peppery wine packed with ripe black fruits flavors still tastes like a young rustic man with a great vigor. What a great match it is for my slow-cooked hearty brisket. Yum.
I wish my Jewish friends great three more days of Passover holiday and my Christian friends very happy Easter! Happy cooking!