Archive for September, 2008


Barbara’s Brisket with Leek Latkes and Mama Grande’s Homemade Applesauce

My mother-in-law Barbara makes this incredible brisket for holiday meals.  If we can’t be at home with Matt’s family for the holidays, at least we can feel a little closer by eating the food we love.  We started this Rosh Hashanah meal with Matt’s favorite food ever — Barbara’s chicken soup with matzo balls.  We ate the soup with Challah.  Thankfully, the soup was the real thing since Barbara left some with us when she came to visit and it’s been waiting in the freezer for this special occasion.  That recipe is super double secret, but I will share her wonderful brisket recipe. I basically halved this recipe and cooked it for half as long because the brisket I used was a little under two pounds.  The brisket and the applesauce can both be made a day or more ahead of being served.

Barbara’s Brisket

4-5 lb. first or flat-cut brisket
3 large onions
1 clove garlic, crushed
¾ cup ketchup
½ cup dark brown sugar
½ cup water
3 bay leaves

Preheat oven to 325.  Slice onions and sauté in a little bit of oil until soft.  Remove from frying pan and sear brisket on both sides.  Season meat and rub with garlic.  Put into roasting pan with onions on top. Combine ketchup, brown sugar and water – pour over brisket.  Put bay leaves on top.  Cover tightly and bake at 325 for 3.5 to 4 hours.

Remove from oven.  Discard bay leaves.  Separate meat from gravy.  Mash gravy and onions through strainer. (I didn’t have a strainer, so only mashed up the onions somewhat.)  Refrigerate meat and gravy overnight.  Remove fat from meat and slice against the grain.  Combine with gravy after fat is removed.  To serve, reheat covered at 350 for 30 minutes.

Leek Latkes

Latkes are probably associated with Hanukkah more than Rosh Hashanah, but leeks are a traditional Rosh Hashanah food, so I thought I would try out this recipe from Tipuach Zahav (Golden Apple) restaurant in Tel Aviv.  The latkes turned out really well.  They’re not too heavy because they’re lightly fried on each side, not deep fried. These are very flavorful, with the cilantro especially standing out.  They’re also great little appetizers if you make the “mini” version described in the recipe.  The parmesan cheese can be omitted to make them non-dairy.

Mama Grande’s Homemade Applesauce

Applesauce is great with just about any kind of latke and this continues with the Rosh Hashanah apple theme.  Since I was a little girl, I’ve loved the homemade applesauce Mama Grande, my grandmother, makes with McIntosh apples from New York.   The recipe is very simple and can be frozen.

4 large McIntosh apples, peeled, cored and chopped
½ cup water
3 tablespoons sugar

Cook apples and water in a saucepan over medium-low heat until apples are soft and the consistency you want in the applesauce.  Stir in sugar to taste – I used about 3 tablespoons in this batch.  Makes 4 servings.

We finished this meal with Apple Crisp.


Apple Crisp

Apples are another traditional Rosh Hashanah food.  This apple crisp recipe comes from

I used McIntosh apples instead of Granny Smith and liked the results.  McIntosh are tart enough to balance the sugar in this recipe.  I also substituted a few tablespoons of brown sugar for some of the white sugar mixed in with the apples and in the topping.   The recipe made more than one pie plate could hold, so I made another mini-crisp in a bowl.  The quantity of filling depends on the size of the apples – I used four large and three very small apples, so five large apples would probably be plenty instead of the 7-8 the recipe calls for.  This can be made a day ahead of time.



Last night marked the start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year and beginning of the High Holidays.  Challah, a round loaf of bread, is a traditional food at this time, as are many other round foods.  Roundness symbolizes a perfect year to come.  Here’s a link to various Rosh Hashanah food traditions.  I have enjoyed learning about these holiday customs from my husband’s family, and since we are in a new city this year, wanted to try out a few traditional recipes for our own celebration.  This recipe can be made ahead of time for a holiday celebration.

This Challah recipe is from  I halved it to make one big loaf instead of two, and omitted the sesame seeds.  I also reduced the cooking time to around 30 minutes instead of the hour called for, and it still turned out to be a little too much.  The challah seemed a little too dense and maybe a little dry.  I think I added too much flour while I was kneading the dough, and probably needed to let the dough rise longer as a result.  Other than all those issues, the Challah was pretty good – especially with my mother-in-law Barbara’s chicken soup with matzo balls!  She brought us some frozen on her last visit and that was definitely the highlight of the meal.


Red-Skinned Potato Mini-Fries with Red Onions

6-8 small red-skinned potatoes
¼ cup chopped red onion
1 cup vegetable oil for frying
sea salt

Leaving peel on, cut potatoes into ¼ inch sticks.  Toss with chopped onions.  Heat oil over medium-high heat until it bubbles rapidly when a piece of potato is added.  Fry potatoes until golden brown on the bottom and then turn.  Remove to plate lined with paper towels to drain.  Salt to taste and serve immediately. Serves 2.

The browned onion bits make these very tasty.  I served these with burgers and grilled red and yellow peppers.


Chicken Flautas

Another Las Cruces, NM favorite, named after their flute-like shape —  “flauta” means flute in Spanish.  This is a pretty cheesy intro, but I’m trying to add some local flavor for all you non-New Mexicans out there. This is a great way to use chicken you already have cooked.  These make a good appetizer or finger food for parties, too.

1 large cooked chicken breast, chopped
8 corn tortillas
¼ cup chopped onions
1 cup vegetable oil
Shredded Mexican cheese
16 toothpicks

Preheat oven to 400. Sautee onions until soft.  Add chicken breast and cook until warmed through.  Set aside a plate lined with paper towels for draining tortillas.  Heat vegetable oil on medium-high heat in a large pan until it bubbles when a tortilla is added.  Dip each tortilla in the hot oil until softened, about two seconds.  Remove and drain on paper towels.  Remove oil from heat.

To make flautas, place tortillas flat and fill with about 2 tablespoons of chicken. Some people like to add cheese within the flautas, but I like to sprinkle it on top like they do at La Posta in Mesilla, NM, one of my family’s favorite restaurants.  After filling flautas, roll tightly and secure with two toothpicks each.

Reheat oil on medium-high. Set aside a plate lined with paper towels for draining.  Fry flautas for 1-2 minutes on each side, until crispy.  They should be done enough to hold their shape when the toothpicks are removed.  Remove from oil and drain.

When all flautas are done, remove toothpicks.  Place flautas in an oven-safe dish.  Sprinkle with cheese and place in oven until cheese is melted, approximately 5 minutes.

Serve with salsa and garnish with sour cream and cilantro. These would be good served with Hot Mexican Rice.

I like to be efficient with ingredients I have on hand and left-overs.  Tonight I had a few items I wanted to use besides the chicken breast, including white rice, Tomatillo Salsa, and queso fresco.  I decided to serve the flautas with a couple other dishes as a buffet of Mexican (instead of Spanish) tapas, or small plates.  I made a chopped salad with lettuce, red peppers, apples, red onions and queso fresco, very similar to Chopped Salad with Zesty Lime-Dijon Dressing.  The other dish was white rice topped with tomatillo salsa (also known as salsa verde) and queso fresco.  To go put out some tortilla chips with Sadie’s salsa and tomatillo salsa.


Herbed Chicken Breasts with Tomatillo Salsa and Queso Fresco

Herbed Chicken Breasts with Tomatillo Salsa and Queso Fresco is another great Cooking Light Recipe.  If you don’t have time to make homemade salsa and breadcrumbs, store-bought can be substituted and it’s still good.  Also, if you can’t find queso fresco, feta works as a substitute.

For the chicken, I stuck with the recipe, but used chicken tenders.  This is also a good time-saver since you don’t have to pound out the chicken breasts and tenders cook faster anyway.

For the Tomatillo Salsa, I made a couple of changes.  I used two Roasted Green Chiles instead of the one called for in the recipe, and added a little extra lime juice.

When I took the salsa out of the food processor and tasted it, it was missing something in terms of depth of flavor.  I think it needed more garlic from the outset.  I added a dash or two each of garlic powder and cumin and that really helped.

I like to serve this with Hot Mexican Rice and garnish it with lime wedges and cilantro.  Warm flour tortillas on the side are great for soaking up extra salsa and cheese.  The tomatillo salsa or “salsa verde” tastes great on its own with chips.


Steak Frites with Shallot Pan Reduction and Sautéed Spinach

Steak Frites with Shallot Pan Reduction

This recipe came from Cooking Light.  I normally would have grilled the steak, but a huge rainstorm came through and I didn’t want to go out to the grill.  Perfect opportunity to try out this recipe.

I cooked the steak according to the recipe and it came out fine.  I substituted Cabernet Sauvignon for the brandy because that’s what I had on hand.  The steak would have been just as good if not better without the shallot pan reduction.  It really didn’t add much.

For the frites, I misted them with olive oil instead of cooking spray.  They came out pretty well, but stuck to the bottom of the pan somewhat.  They needed considerably more salt than the recipe called for. These are a great healthier version of fries since they’re oven-baked.

Sautéed Spinach

This recipe is from the Food Network. Since it also contains shallots, it’s a nice complement to the Steak Frites and is also a good way to be efficient with your ingredient list.


As mentioned in the notes accompanying the Cooking Light recipe, Cabernet Sauvignon is a great match for Steak Frites.  We went with Chateau St. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon 2004.

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