Kbell's Perfect Brisket
My friend KBell makes socks for a living. But it’s what comes out of her kitchen that’ll really knock your socks off – the world’s most perfect brisket.
Waking up at 5am really worked for me this morning. I got to Fairfax
at 8:15 am, expecting to avoid the long lines and empty shelves typical
of pre-Passover. Apparently, so thought all the other conscientious
First, I run into Melissa between the tomatoes and avocados in the vegetable store. We know each other from when our children were in elementary school. Her cart was already piled full with onions, carrots, celery, etc… each item meticulously checked off on the list in her hand. Seeing her reminds me of old times, a sweet, sad longing for when our children were young. We hug. I’m a little embarrassed because Melissa, as always, looks beautiful and put together, while I look like a schmata (rag) in an old sweatshirt and sweatpants.
This is from Molly Goldberg’s cookbook. This is her friend Dora’s gefilte fish recipe (not Dora Levy Mossanen’s recipe). And what I discovered in publishing the Passover issue is that there are as many spellings of gefilte fish as there are of Al Quaeda.
From The Molly Goldberg Cookbook (which I bought from the amazing Rabelais Books in Maine for Laraine for Hanukah!) But we’ve updated it slightly. And in our opinion it uses a crazy amount of salt, which you might want to modify, as well. (AE)
Decades ago, as a fledging (broke) New York stage actress, I had the good fortune to be befriended by the film producer Robert Chartoff (“Raging Bull,” “The Right Stuff,” “Rocky’s I—VI”). We met on the basis of our identical surnames, but traced our ancestry back to different origins. It seemed our names were accidentally namesake bastardizations of different, multi-syllabic and multi-Slavic monikers of yore, carelessly abbreviated by uncreative Ellis Island officiates.
Having the same name (although it came from different sources) and feeling like we were kin, felt almost like the miraculous time my malfunctioning checking account was so out of balance, it somehow came out balanced to the penny. Even a broken clock is correct twice a day. How fortunate for me, who’d been thrilled when Robert first put our name in lights and on the big screen with “They Shoot Horses Don’t They.”
It is 1979, my first night of Seder in America since I fled Iran eight months before. My husband remains back in Iran, hoping to salvage a small part of our valuable properties, our home and business, a chewing gum factory that remains the largest in the Middle East. “Come with us,” I insisted, “It’s too dangerous, especially for Jews.”
He would not hear of it. I was "being an alarmist", as always, he will join us "in a few weeks", a couple of months at most.
Now, in hindsight, I realize that we were blinded by a certain naiveté and senseless hope that is common with having lived in comfort—this could not be the end of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi who had, with enormous pomp, crowned himself King of Kings in 1967.
We were wrong of course. Once we landed in LAX, I learned that the Air France Plane that carried me and my daughters, age two and ten, to safety was the last allowed out of Iran before Mehrabad Airport was shut down by the Islamic Revolutionaries. It would take another three years before my husband would be allowed to leave the country.
As a secular Jew married to a Catholic, I guess you could say that religion for me has always been a spectator sport. I do know that Easter is upon us, so my catholic friends (yes, I mean those who embrace all things) celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ with a holiday, whose name is derived from the name of a goddess associated with spring, hence all the chocolate fertility symbols (a patriarchal holiday with something for everyone). And this Christian holiday normally coincides with Passover because the Last Supper was a Passover meal, and we all know how that went.
My husband is Jewish, my stepchildren are Jewish, even my son is Jewish. And yet, I, myself, am merely Jew-ish, which is to say that I go to temple with my family, participate in our Jewish life, but have yet to officially convert. Why? I don’t know exactly. I believe that it’s either in your heart or it isn’t, and it is in mine, and no amount of mikvehs will make it more so.
My first seder was easily a decade ago. I slaved (no pun intended), I sweated, I researched. I even figured out how to get a lamb shank bone for my seder plate. And for dinner, I made a fine lamb roast. We invited my husband’s best friend since high school, and his family. Turns out, they don’t eat lamb. That was awkward. But it had nothing to do with Passover. (I had no idea that there were people who felt funny about lamb. Now I ask, every single time, and there’s only been one other occasion where someone categorically turned their back on it.)
I hate matzoh. There, I've said it. I may be Jewish but matzoh sure feels like penance to me. It was bad enough my ancestors had to wander through the desert for forty years, but adding insult to injury, they had to eat crumbly crackers with all the flavor of cardboard. I know there are some people who claim to love eating matzoh, but frankly, I don't buy it.
Sure, slathered with butter and liberally sprinkled with kosher salt or cinnamon sugar improves the taste of matzoh, but that treatment would work on just about any kind of tasteless cracker or bread. Don't try to sell me on flavored matzoh. Flavored matzoh tastes artificial. Whole wheat matzoh has to be the worst. I've never heard anyone even claim to like it. It's what I imagine must be served in jails or orphanages.
I tried to be religious at college and while I hit more frat parties then holidays at Hillel, I did my fair share to keep my faith. There were long services in make-shift synagogues on campus, and awkward dinners with friends of friends relatives in the greater Providence and Boston area where people actually came back to the table after the Seder meal (a foreign site to me as once my family hit the matzo, it was a fast feast all the way to the afikomen.)
There were valiant attempts at fasting for Yom Kippur and signing off bread for Passover observance; the yeast in Natty Lite beer didn’t count, right? But, nothing was quite like my senior year Seder spectacular.
My boyfriend was a Persian Muslim. We spent a decade together starting in the mid-eighties. Neither of us came from a religiously observant household so our typical couple problems had less to do with religion and more to do with conflicts you would expect when an open-minded, American, risk-taking former hippie (me) hung with a hard-headed (yet remarkably open-minded) Persian muslim educated in Italy (him). The sharing of food was a large part of our learning about each other.
I helped him negotiate his first experience of the American menu with its infinite choices. You know the kind – Soup or Salad? What kind of dressing? Which of four entrée choices? Which dessert? The American way of eating was complicated to him. Sometimes the consternation I saw on his face confronting what should be such a simple task just slayed me.