The Best Brisket Recipe and a Modern Rosh Hashanah Menu

My guess would be that Rosh Hashanah is one of the most widely celebrated Jewish holidays. Every fall, family and friends gather around a table overflowing with food to rejoice over the beginning of another new year. Last week, I decided to conduct an experiment and asked my New York City neighbors -- some Jewish and some not -- what came to mind when they hear the words "Rosh Hashanah." "Brisket," "noodle pudding," "my mom's matzo ball soup," and "feeling full" were some of the answers.

I can't say that I was surprised. Many Jewish holidays revolve around food, and Rosh Hashanah is no exception. It's always nice to find an excuse to celebrate the great moments in life, spend time with your family (even the members you might not be so crazy about) and to keep traditions in tact for future generations. Especially if it involves eating.

When it comes to cooking, I am all about fresh and seasonal ingredients. But every once in a while, there's a recipe that is just made to be prepared in advanced, and even frozen. Brisket is one of them. I can attest that brisket is the perfect prepare-ahead-and-freeze recipe. I might even go as far to say that it tastes better when made a few days in advance, allowing the flavors to really settle into one another and the meat to tenderize. I love this recipe, and so many agree that it really is the best brisket. Whether you celebrate Rosh Hashanah or not, these recipes are tried and true go-tos, that can be prepared all year round, in any kitchen -- kosher or not!

Best Brisket

Serves 8 to 10

The key to an amazing brisket is a perfect sauce, one that goes easy on the sugar. Too many modern-day kosher recipes call for heaps of it, and it's so, so unnecessary. This is the best brisket I've ever tasted. Almost as great as its amazing flavor is that you can make it a month in advance and freeze it. So convenient! Note that you will need a roasting pan that can be used both on a stovetop and in the oven.

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 (5-pound) first-cut beef brisket
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 medium yellow onions, sliced
1 (12-ounce) bottle beer, such as Corona
¾ cup ketchup
1 (14-ounce) can whole-berry cranberry sauce
¼ cup red wine

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Heat the olive oil in a large roasting pan over medium-high heat. Season the brisket generously with salt and pepper (don't be afraid to over-season). Sear the brisket in the pan until nicely browned on each side, about 4 minutes per side. Remove to a platter. Add the onions to the pan and sauté until translucent, about 10 minutes. Place the brisket on the onions.

In a large bowl, whisk together the beer, ketchup, cranberry sauce, and wine. Pour the mixture over the brisket in the pan and bring to a boil.

Cover the pan with foil and bake in the oven for 1½ hours. Carefully turn the brisket over using tongs. Continue baking, covered, for an additional 1½ hours, until a fork easily pierces the brisket. Using tongs, transfer the brisket to a cutting board.

Place the roasting pan on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Bring the cooking juices to a boil and simmer until the liquid reduces to a thick, velvety sauce, about 10 minutes. Slice the brisket while still warm and serve with the sauce alongside.

The brisket can be made 1 day in advance. To store, let the brisket and sauce cool completely, then wrap the meat in foil and refrigerate. Transfer the sauce to a covered container and refrigerate as well. To serve, slice the brisket when it is cold to prevent it from falling apart. Arrange the slices in a large baking dish and pour the sauce over them. Cover with foil and reheat in a 300°F oven for 40 minutes. The brisket, whole or sliced, and the sauce can also be frozen for up to 4 weeks.

Zucchini and Noodle Kugel
Serves 12

This kugel is not your grandmother's! For an updated, modern kugel, I fiddled with the classic recipe to create a sophisticated and more lady-like, if you will, version. It may put purists off, but there's never any left when I make it!

3 eggs
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons peach or apricot preserves
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 medium zucchini, grated on the medium holes of a grater and drained in a strainer
1 medium yellow onion, grated on the medium holes of a grater
12 ounces fine egg noodles, cooked according to package directions and drained

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease an 11 x 14-inch baking dish with oil.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, flour, oil, preserves, Worcestershire, mustard, salt, and pepper. Add the zucchini, onion, and noodles and stir until thoroughly coated and combined.

Scrape the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Bake, uncovered, for about 1 hour, until crisp and golden. (For individual servings, divide the mixture equally among 12 greased 4-ounce ramekins, place on baking sheets, and bake for about 30 minutes, until crisp and golden.

Spinach, Haricots Vert, and Avocado Salad with Crunchy Honey Dressing
Serves 6 to 8

Crunchy, salty, sweet, and sharp-this salad has it all! The dressing contributes texture with
sunflower and sesame seeds as well as sweetness and tang with honey and cider vinegar.
All in all, a unique and delicious concoction.

8 cups baby spinach
Handful haricots verts, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and cut into small cubes
1 white peach, skin on, pitted and cut into
very thin slices
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup honey
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ cup salted shelled sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Place the spinach, haricots verts, avocado, and peach in a large bowl or on a large platter. Combine the sugar, honey, vegetable oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake to thoroughly combine. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss to coat all over.

Cinnamon-Hazelnut Pavlova with Raspberries
Serves 10

Nigella Lawson, one of my absolute favorite celeb chefs, got me hooked on her pavlova. I made it so many times that I began to adapt it as I went along. The recipe below is a reflection of all this toying around. The dessert is like a work of art and has all the essentials a great dessert should have: the glossy meringue shell is crisp and rich, the whipped cream topping is soft and delectable, and the raspberries add the perfect dose of tartness. Once you get the hang of making these, it's pure joy.

6 large egg whites
2 cups granulated sugar
¼ cup skinned hazelnuts, ground
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
2 cups heavy cream
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
Pinch of kosher salt
4 cups raspberries

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed until satiny peaks form. Add the granulated sugar, ¼ cup at a time, and continue beating until the meringue becomes stiff and very shiny. Using a spatula, fold in the hazelnuts, cinnamon, and balsamic vinegar.

Spoon the meringue onto the prepared baking sheet, forming a 10-inch circle that is about 2 inches thick. Place in the oven, and immediately turn the temperature down to 300°F. Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the meringue looks and feels dry. Let cool in a dry place overnight.

Invert the pavlova onto a serving dish, peel away the parchment, and flip over onto the dish. Combine the cream and brown sugar in a large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium speed until soft peaks form. Spoon the whipped cream into the center of the pavlova, leaving a 1-inch border. Sprinkle the raspberries over the whipped cream and serve.

All recipes from The Modern Menu by Kim Kushner, Photos by Andrew Zimmerman (Gefen Publishing House, 2013).

Kim Kushner is from a huge family with roots stemming from Israel, Morocco and Montreal. Spending childhood summers in Israel with her extended family, Kim learned to cook by eating, and by participating in family feasts. Hands-on experience with fresh and international ingredients gave Kim an edge when she began her studies at the prestigious Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan, where she excelled in their Professional Culinary Program. Her culinary style, much like her life, is a study in Modern Orthodoxy: her kitchen is Kosher, and very much in line with her upbringing and heritage, but as a young chef she keeps her perspective fresh and new. For Kim, food is tangible and social--the effort you put into it comes back to you many times over, in the form of friendships, health, flattery, and fun.