When Passover begins at sundown Friday, many Jewish cooks will pull out recipes they’ve used for years. That’s part of the joy of a holiday: ritual, tradition, memories.
Other cooks, though, crave something new. Here are two twists on traditional dishes by respected food writers for the New York Times, Joan Nathan with a fresh take on gefilte fish, and Melissa Clark on a better beef dish to replace the sometimes-tough brisket.
Joan Nathan: Gefilte
The day before the annual ritual of our Seder, I celebrate what has become another annual ritual: our “gefilte fish-in.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer
A group of five friends arrive at my home, bearing large pots and pounds of whitefish, pike and carp, fish and bones, carrots, matzo meal, eggs and onions. We cry as we chop the onions, laugh as we catch up, compare recipes and Seder menus, and generally have a good time making hundreds of gefilte fish patties.
Recently, I have noticed that my children, all in their 30s now, want tradition, but they also want natural, sustainable and flavorful. Most important, they don’t want the smell of fish stock in the kitchen.
So I simplified my recipe to convert the next generation to gefilte fish lovers. I eliminate the fish stock and simmer the spruced-up patties with colorful and flavorful fresh herbs such as tarragon, dill or parsley and chives in a vegetable court-bouillon. It is easy, delicious and authentic, similar to what people probably did for centuries in Europe.
Melissa Clark: Tenderloin ‘Tafelspitz’
Tafelspitz, the Austrian meal of a gently simmered (never boiled) chunk of beef served with root vegetables from the pot and horseradish cream, is one of the most esteemed dishes of the very estimable cuisine.
The problem is that when someone translated the name into English, the German tafelspitz became “boiled beef,” with its unfortunate connotations of overcooked, gray-centered, stringy meat. A more literal translation would be “table tip,” or tip (of meat) for the table.
With a few tweaks, it will be a nice change of pace from the usual brisket at Passover.
I use tenderloin, which cooks far more quickly. Instead of simmering for two or more hours, a tenderloin cooks up rosy-centered and juicy in under 30 minutes.
This beef tenderloin, with its bloody rare center, is nobody’s idea of “boiled beef,” and it’s not really tafelspitz anymore, either. But I’ll bet there’s a lovely Austrian term for “yum.”
2 medium yellow onions, peeled
2 celery stalks
3 large carrots, peeled
1 fennel bulb
6 black peppercorns
2 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless salmon, whitefish or striped bass fillets, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 pound boneless, skinless trout, pike or carp (or a mixture), cut into 2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons chopped parsley, tarragon, dill and/or a combination
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 to 6 tablespoons matzo meal
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 head radicchio or endive, or both, for serving
Prepared horseradish, for serving
Fill a large, wide pot with 10 cups of water and place over high heat. While bringing to a boil, coarsely chop and add to the pot 1 onion, 1 celery stalk, 1 carrot and the fennel bulb. Add the peppercorns and 1 teaspoon salt. Once water is boiling, reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, while preparing the fish.
Coarsely chop the remaining onion, celery stalk and 1 carrot, then pulse in a food processor until finely chopped. Add fish, chives and 2 tablespoons parsley, tarragon and/or dill, and keep pulsing until fish is chopped but not mushy.
Move the fish mixture to a medium bowl and add eggs, oil, matzo meal, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt (or to taste) and ground black pepper, and mix well with your hands.
Put your hands in a bowl of cold water. Using your hands, mold the fish mixture into 3- by 2-inch oval patties (about 2 ounces each) and gently place on a platter.
Pop the third carrot into the simmering broth and gently add the patties. Cover and cook about 20 minutes until patties are firm.
Use a slotted spoon to remove the fish and carrot from the poaching liquid to cool on a plate. Slice the carrot diagonally into thin rounds.
Place each patty on a leaf of radicchio or endive. Set sliced carrot rounds on top of each patty. Garnish with the remaining tablespoon of fresh herbs and serve warm or at room temperature with horseradish. Can be made a day ahead, covered and refrigerated. Return to room temperature before serving.
Yield: About 20 patties
Beef With Horseradish-Beet Aioli
3 pounds center-cut beef tenderloin, boneless rib roast or center-cut London broil, trimmed
2 teaspoons kosher salt, more as needed
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 garlic cloves, finely grated or mashed
3 large leeks, white and light green parts, trimmed, halved lengthwise and rinsed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 pounds root vegetables, such as parsnip, carrot, turnip, celery root and rutabaga, trimmed, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
10 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
6 cups good-quality beef stock
1 small bunch thyme, tied with kitchen twine
1 bay leaf
Lemon juice and coarse sea salt, as needed
Chopped chives, for garnish
1 medium horseradish root (about 10 ounces), peeled and cut into large chunks
1 small raw beet, peeled
2/3 cup white wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Pat the beef dry and season all over with salt, pepper, lemon zest and grated garlic. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.
In a food processor fitted with the grating blade, grate horseradish and beet. Replace the grating blade with the food processor chopping blade. Add vinegar, sugar and salt. Process until mixture is finely chopped, stopping occasionally to scrape down the bowl, 2 to 3 minutes.
In a medium bowl, whisk together egg, egg yolk, lemon juice and salt. Whisking constantly, add oil in a thin, steady stream until fully incorporated. (Do this in the blender if you prefer.) Stir in 2 to 4 tablespoons horseradish mixture to taste; reserve remaining horseradish mixture. Chill aioli up to 5 days.
Remove beef from refrigerator. If needed, fold the thin end of the meat over itself so the meat becomes an evenly thick log, then tie ends with kitchen twine.
Bundle three leek halves together with kitchen twine. Repeat with remaining leek halves.
Heat oil over medium-high heat in the bottom of a wide Dutch oven. Add beef and brown well on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer meat to a platter. Stir in wine and cook, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of pan, until reduced by half, about 3 minutes.
Add leeks, root vegetables, garlic and stock to the pot. Add tied thyme branches and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer.
Add meat and any juices on the plate and cook, partly covered, at a gentle simmer (do not let it come to a boil) until meat reaches desired doneness (120 degrees on an instant-read thermometer for rare), 15 to 25 minutes. Immediately remove meat from pot, transfer to a plate, and tent with foil 10 minutes.
Simmer vegetables until tender. Taste stock and season with salt and a squeeze of lemon.
Slice the meat thinly just before serving. Spoon vegetables into shallow bowls and arrange meat on top. Add a little of the broth and sprinkle with coarse sea salt and chopped chives. Serve with aioli and additional fresh horseradish and beets.
Yield: 8 servings