Ronnie Fein is the author of Hip Kosher. She has appeared in cooking segments on such shows as “Good Day New York.” She lives in Stamford, Connecticut.

Brisket, updated

No more boring braised meat

September 10, 2008

A few years ago, right around this time of year, just before the Jewish holidays, I went shopping in one of the local supermarkets to get the ingredients I needed for my Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) dinner. My two daughters and their husbands were coming, so it would be just the six adults, plus one baby (there are now three grandchildren).

For Rosh Hashanah, I usually make a roasted turkey and lots of grain and vegetable side dishes. My children, who prefer the more modern foods that I typically make, won’t eat what they call “wet brown meat.”

That leaves out brisket.

If I had to name the one food that lots of Jewish people of Eastern European descent (Ashkenazic Jews) eat on Rosh Hashanah, it’s brisket. This is the quintessential holiday dish, and learning to make it is a kind of rite of passage, or it used to be. If you’ve cooked brisket once, you can say you know how to make Jewish food, even if this is the only such recipe you know.

So, whenever it’s pre-High Holiday time, Jewish people discuss how they’re making their brisket. It’s the assumed choice, like the Thanksgiving turkey.

Because I write a food column for our daily newspaper, people who know me and see me in the store often ask about this or that ingredient or a recipe and such. On the day in question, someone asked me if I do anything special with my brisket, certain that’s what I’d be making for my holiday dinner.

I was at a loss for words, but came up with something because, naturally, my own mother had shown me how to do it many years before. After we finished our conversation, I made up my mind that I would do something special with a brisket that year (in addition to the turkey we usually have, just in case).

Give brisket an unusual twist with fresh mango.

My Barbecued Brisket with Mango-Orange-Molasses Sauce was a sensation. It’s not the last time I made it for my family, and, in fact, while they still prefer turkey, they have asked me to include it at some of our summertime extended-family get-togethers, when I make a whole brisket on the grill.

They like two things about this dish. First, the meat isn’t wet, as braised foods can sometimes be; the outside is crispy and caramelized and the inside is as tender as a love song. Second, the sweet sauce, with a bit of molasses tang, harmonizes perfectly with the savory beef taste.

There are two things that I like about it, too. First, everyone loves this dish and eats it enthusiastically. Second, it’s incredibly easy to prepare and can all be done in advance (or up to the point of actual grilling or broiling), and that makes my life easier. So, in case you want something new to do with your brisket this Rosh Hashanah, try my version. You might find it a hit.

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