Last year my 9-year-old son added a 6thquestion to the Passover Seder. “Daddy, why do we eat brisket on Passover?”
The simple answer can be quoted from the Fiddler on the Roof. “Tradition!”
My family has been eating brisket at Passover for generations. In fact, the roasting pan I use to cook my brisket belonged to my great-grandmother and is close to 100 years old. I have tried others, but nothing comes close to that perfect brisket like grandma made.
I have learned in my travels, there are many recipes and styles of cooking brisket. This is one I have recently perfected.
When purchasing a whole brisket, it is best to trim the fat. There are two parts. The Flat is the leaner part of the meat and the Point is connected to the flat by a large vein of fat. Separating these pieces allows the meat to cook evenly and is easier to slice when ready to serve. Most butchers will trim the brisket for you or just sell the flat.
The size of your brisket depends on the number of guests. Each person usually eats 6 – 8 oz. of meat, so if you’re feeding 10 you need 60 to 80 oz. or 4 to 5 lbs. BUT, brisket shrinks at least 40% after cooking, so you’ll need a 6 to 7 lb. brisket for 10.
Many ground spices are not kosher for Passover. This is a good thing. Grinding your own spices is more fragrant and adds incredible flavors. I use a dedicated small coffee grinder for my Passover spices. You can find one for less than $20. Some consider these spices Kitniyot and do not use during Passover. If so, you can leave out what spices you do not feel comfortable using.
Tender Passover Brisket
Recipe (Feeds 10-12)
1 brisket (Flat) about 7 lbs.
3 onions cut in quarters
1 whole garlic clove smashed and peeled
1/2 lb. carrots cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 lb. celery cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 Tbs. coriander seeds
2 tsp. caraway seeds
1 Tbs. mustard seeds
3 Tbs. whole black pepper
5 oz. kosher beef soup base
1-liter kosher Coca-Cola
Grind the spices in a coffee grinder. Mix spices with the soup base and rub over the brisket. Let brisket sit at room temperature as you prepare the remaining ingredients. Cut onions, carrots and celery, smash the garlic, and spread across the bottom of the pan. Place seasoned brisket fat side up on top of vegetables. Pour Coke around brisket so that it is 1/3 up the side of the brisket. Be sure the brisket is not submerged in the liquid.
Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for 30 minutes uncovered. This will sear the outside of the brisket and keep all the juices inside. Reduce the heat to 250 degrees, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and cook for 45 minutes to an hour per pound. After the 1sthour, baste the brisket with the juices using a ladle or large spoon. Continue basting every 30 minutes until the brisket is falling apart. Let it rest at least 15 minutes outside of the pan before carving.
Roasted Passover Asparagus (Feeds 4-6)
One of my favorite spring vegetables is asparagus. It’s in season during Passover (early spring) and is very easy to prepare.
1 lb. asparagus
1 clove garlic minced
2 Tbs. lemon
1 tsp honey/sugar
2 Tbs. walnut/olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut 1 inch off the bottom of the stems. Blend remaining ingredients and toss with asparagus. Pour asparagus and dressing on a baking pan. Cook for 10 minutes or until the asparagus is the desired tenderness.
Passover Potato Kugel (Feeds 10-12)
Every Seder needs a Kugel and every brisket needs potatoes.
5 lbs. russet potatoes (about 10 med-sized)
2 whole large onions
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
6 Tbsp. potato starch
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 tsp fresh oregano
1/4 cup schmaltz or extra virgin olive oil, divided (schmaltz gives amazing flavor; use olive oil to keep it vegetarian)
Heat a 9x13 baking pan in the oven at 400 degrees. Peel the potatoes and onions, then use a food processor or hand grater to grate into large shreds. Place the potato shreds in a large mixing bowl and cover with cold water. Let the shreds sit for a few minutes. This removes excess starch from the potatoes.Whisk together the eggs, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper until fluffy.Drain the potato and onion shreds in a colander, pushing down firmly on top of the shreds with your hands to push out the excess liquid.Place grated potatoes and onions in a large bowl. Add the seasoned eggs, and potato starch to the bowl. Use your hands to mix all ingredients together until well combined.
Carefully remove the preheated baking dish from oven. Quickly pour in 3 Tbsp. schmaltz or olive oil, then use a pastry brush to carefully spread the fat around the bottom and sides of the hot dish. The hot dish, while a bit difficult to navigate, will help to form a beautiful brown and crisp crust for the kugel.
Carefully and quickly spread the potato mixture into an even layer in the baking dish (it should sizzle!), then drizzle remaining 1 Tbsp. of melted schmaltz or olive oil across the top.
Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 60-70 minutes until it is nicely browned across the top. If it seems to be browning too fast (before the center is cooked), cover the kugel to keep it from over-browning. You really want it to have a nice golden crust – at the end of cooking, if it’s not quite brown enough, put it 6 inches below the broiler for a minute or two to evenly brown it all across the top. This kugel tastes best served hot directly from the oven. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving.