The Sabbath stands at the center of Jewish life, its ceremonies inspiring both an affirmation of a family's faith and a renewal of its own common ties. Partaking of the Friday night meal and the two others commanded for Shabbat has always been honored as a mitzvah, a joyous observance drawing upon a rich heritage of Jewish food and celebration.
This hearty winter soup is a wonderful start to a special meal. Its creamy white color is another appropriate welcome for "the Bride," as some refer to Shabbat.
1/4 cup pearl barley
2 cups sliced onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large celery root, peeled and diced (about 5 cups)
5 cups chicken stock or vegetable broth
Freshly ground black pepper
Celery root or knob celery or celeriac is a delicious vegetable full of flavor. To cope with this gnarled root, slice off the leaves with a sharp knife. Peel the root with a vegetable peeler, using the knife for irregular knobs. Slice and dice with a large chef's knife.
1. Stir the barley into 3 cups of water in a heavy saucepan. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Bring the water to boiling, reduce the heat, and simmer for about 45 minutes, until the barley is tender. Drain, and discard any remaining liquid.
2. Sauté the onion in the olive oil over moderate heat. Add the celery root and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the stock, salt and pepper. Bring the soup to boiling, reduce the heat and simmer until the celery root is tender, 20 to 30 minutes.
3. Puree the soup in a blender or processor. Return the soup to the saucepan, add the barley, stir well and heat.
AHEAD OF TIME NOTE: The soup will thicken as it stands; thin with water or additional chicken stock.
Here's a classic American dish that uses a kosher cut of meat. Its long, slow oven cooking (four to five hours) is a boon for the busy Shabbat cook. This spice rub is hot; use less cayenne if you prefer milder food.
2 tablespoons toasted cumin seeds, ground (see Note)
3 or 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and mashed 1 tablespoon dry mustard
2 teaspoons paprika
1 tablespoon cayenne (or less, to taste) 1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
4 pounds brisket
1. Combine all the ingredients except the brisket in a small bowl. Mix well.
2. Rub the spice mixture into the brisket and let it sit for an hour or two in a roasting pan.
3. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
4. Cook the brisket in the oven for 1 hour; turn and cook for another hour.
5. Cover the brisket with foil or a lid and let it cook undisturbed for 2 to 3 hours.
6. Remove the brisket from the oven and let it sit for 15 minutes before slicing.
NOTE: Toast cumin seeds in dry cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Toss continuously for about 5 minutes, watching carefully. They turn from toasted to burned quickly. Grind the seeds in a mortar with a pestle or in an electric grinder.
A whole brisket is best for this. Ask the butcher to trim it, or do it yourself. The first cut is lean, and though good, it will yield a somewhat dry finished dish.
AHEAD OF TIME NOTE: This can be made in advance and reheated.
There has been a Jewish community in Alsace, France, where the dish originates, for hundreds of years. Many Jewish foods have, in fact, been integrated into general Alsatian cuisine. André Soltner, the great chef and former owner of Lutéce restaurant in New York, offers a recipe for Choucroute à la Juive in his book "The Lutéce Cookbook." Soltner's and the one offered here are made with kosher meats.
Choucroute is French for sauerkraut or pickled cabbage; garni means, simply, garnished. Literally, this is dish of garnished sauerkraut.
4 pounds sauerkraut
4 tablespoons shmaltz, goose fat, or vegetable oil
3 cups sliced onion
2 cups thinly sliced carrot
2 cups dry white wine; Riesling, Traminer, or other Alsatian wine is best
2 cups chicken or beef stock or water
Bouquet garni of 12 juniper berries, crushed, 10 black peppercorns, 2 bay leaves, 2 teaspoons caraway seeds, tied in cheesecloth
3 pounds fresh uncooked corned beef
15 to 18 small new potatoes
3/4 pound beef frankfurters
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Wash the sauerkraut in cold water. Squeeze the water out in your hands and pat the sauerkraut dry on paper towels.
3. In a heavy enameled cast-iron pot that has a cover, heat the shmaltz, goose fat, or oil. Slowly cook the onion and carrot, covered, without browning, for a few minutes.
4. Add the sauerkraut, wine, stock or water, and the bouquet garni. Bring to boiling. Cover the sauerkraut with a sheet of greased wax paper, trimmed to fit., and the lid of the pot. Cook in the preheated over for 1 hour.
5. Bury the corned beef in the sauerkraut and vegetables and cook for another 2 hours.
6. Bring a large pot of water to boiling. Boil the potatoes until done. Remove the potatoes and keep them warm in the pot with the choucroute. Add the knockwurst to the potato water and cook for 10 minutes; add the frankfurters and cook for 15 more minutes.
7. To serve, place the sauerkraut and vegetables on a platter. Slice the corned beef and knockwurst and arrange them on top. Surround the platter with the frankfurters and potatoes. Serve with mustard.
NOTE: The best sauerkraut is bought fresh from barrels. If that's unavailable, try the sauerkraut packaged in plastic bags. Your last choice should be canned sauerkraut.
If your corned beef is precooked, place it on the sauerkraut only for the last 30 minutes of cooking.