Tradition is always a major factor in the celebration of holidays, with the food we prepare being no different from any other holiday elements. This month I am sharing two recipes that have gotten a lot of use among members of our family.
Brisket is a favorite for the High Holidays as well as for Pesach and Hanukkah. Being able to prepare it ahead is a boon for Jewish hosts and hostesses who want to serve a delicious special meal and still enjoy time with guests.
During the summer I discovered that the pear cake, a wonderful finale for a meat meal, was the perfect dessert for a young cousin who has severe allergies to dairy products. After having seconds when I served it for dinner, he asked for more at breakfast the next morning! It’s really a great year-round treat since pears are always available. This treat, too can be made well ahead of the time it is served.
This is our family’s recipe pretty much as my mother gave it to me when Larry and I got married. I’ve handed it down to our daughter, who has in turn shared it with her friends. I like the idea that young people still want to make this traditional dish! It’s good to remember that preparing it ahead of time allows you to brown the meat and onions and then, when the meat and juices have chilled, to remove the accumulated rendered fat after it has hardened. There are no gingersnaps, no onion soup mix, no wine or ketchup—just a few simple ingredients that cook up to a delicious tender centerpiece for your holiday menu. A 3 pound roast will probably feed six people with a number of other dishes in the meal. There is considerable shrinkage in the meat when it’s done. If you want to make a bigger roast, it may take a little longer; just use the tenderness test for doneness
Buy first-cut brisket (the flatter end with less fat). Trim fat from outer side. Heat a large pan very hot and brown the fat side of the meat—even scorch it a little. Turn and brown the other side. Remove from pan.
Slice 2 large onions into the fat remaining in the pan. If meat didn't release enough fat, add a little olive or canola oil). Let brown over high heat, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan frequently. Make sure the onion get very brown to assure a flavorful gravy.
Return meat to pan atop the onions. Mince 2 cloves garlic and spread over meat. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt. Cover tightly and simmer over low heat. After 1 hour, turn meat over. Turn each hour thereafter until tender at the thickest part. A roast of about 3 pounds will take 3 to 3 ½ hours. Add water only if necessary to keep meat from drying out. (I have never had to do this—there is always an abundance of gravy.)
When meat is tender, remove from gravy and set aside to cool. Taste the gravy and adjust the seasoning. Refrigerate the meat and gravy separately. It will be easy to remove the fat from the chilled gravy, and the cold meat will be easily sliced against the grain. Layer the gravy and the meat slices in a shallow casserole and store in refrigerator, or freeze to use a later date. Reheat, covered, in a 300° to 350° oven.
This is my variation of a cake that originally won a prize in the Pillsbury Bakeoff many years ago. I added the fruit, which makes it richer and also a bit bigger. It’s parve as long as you use vegetable shortening or parve non-stick spray to grease the pan. Be sure to zest the lemon before juicing it—a timesaving approach. Bosc pears are especially good here. I’ve changed to using bottled nectar from the natural foods section of the supermarket after noting that the canned variety had high fructose corn syrup.
1 TBSP baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
2 ½ C unbleached all-purpose flour
4 eggs (large or extra large)
¾ C canola oil
1 ½ C granulated sugar
2 tsp lemon extract
5 ½ oz apricot nectar
grated zest of one lemon
2 C pears (approximately 2 pears, peeled, quartered, cored,
cut into 8ths and then into small slices)
1 ½ C sifted confectioner’s sugar
½ C fresh-squeezed, strained lemon juice
Preheat oven to 325°. Grease and flour a bundt, tube or 9”x 13” pan or spray all sides with non-stick spray. Unless using a bundt pan, line bottom of pan with parchment paper.
Sift together the baking powder, salt, baking soda and flour and set aside. In bowl of electric mixer combine the eggs, oil and sugar and beat at medium-high speed until very well blended. Add the lemon extract, zest and apricot nectar. On low speed add the sifted dry ingredients and mix just until incorporated evenly. Gently fold in the pear pieces by hand.
Pour batter into prepared pan, level the top surface and bake 40 to 50 minutes or until golden brown and a tester comes out clean.
While cake bakes, combine the confectioner’s sugar and lemon juice for the sauce. (If you do this in a 2-cup or larger glass measuring cup, you can dispense the sauce easily from this cup.)
When the cake is done, remove from oven and prick top all over with a wood skewer or a fork with narrow tines. Slowly pour or spoon half of the prepared sauce evenly over the hot cake, giving it time to soak in to the surface. After 10 minutes invert the cake onto a cake board or plate and carefully spoon or brush the remaining sauce over the top and sides of the cake. Allow to cool completely before serving. Cake can be stored, covered, for up to 4 days in the refrigerator, or frozen for a couple of weeks. Serve at room temperature or chilled according to your preference.
This is delicious as is, but you might want to gild the lily and add a drizzle of raspberry sauce. If you do not require a parve dessert, ice cream, whipped cream, or chocolate sauce would be—as our grandchildren would say—awesome.