Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

The Jewish Suburban Woman Cooks Tsimmes

Tsimmes is a very old and traditional food, made with sweet potatoes, dried fruits, carrots, and onions. It can be meatless, or can be made with a brisket. I use a modified version of Joan Nathan's Sukkot Tsimmes to make my tsimmes my own. So let's get started, shall we?

The Cast of Characters:

A beautiful and rather enormous brisket, sweet potatoes, prunes, apricots, a large sweet onion, chicken fat (oh come on, it's a holiday...schmaltz once a year won't kill you!), a bag of carrots, honey, nutmeg, cinnamon, and an orange.

Doesn't sound all that appetizing so far, but you just wait. It's gonna look better and better as we layer on the goodness.

First I unwrap the brisket and unfold it. Yes, that sucker is folded in half. It's one hell of a slab of beef. Once it's unfolded I rinse it off carefully and set it down on a cutting board. I take a nice big spoonful of the schmaltz, put it in the bottom of the baking pan, and melt it on the stovetop.

Once the chicken fat is melted, I season the meat with salt and pepper, and lightly brown it on both sides in the schmaltz. Careful, schmaltz smokes... a lot. Do this with your doors open to let out the smoke or the firemen will come and want to stay over and eat. Firemen eat a lot.

Ok, we've seasoned the beef, and now we're going to slice up the gigantic onion into nice big chunks. You don't want to lose them in the middle of the tsimmes, so I cut the onion into quarters and slice each quarter. Layer the onion slices on top of the slab of beef.

Next, it's time to slice up the carrots and sweet potatoes. No fancy schmancy cutting here, just slice those suckers up and add them to the pan. You want to keep the sweet potatoes rather thin so they will cook through in the oven.

Oh, you better preheat your oven just about now. I cook my tsimmes at 350, but Joan says 375. I like a slower cooking brisket myself.

The next step is to add the dried fruit. Now, my mom made tsimmes with a bunch of different dried fruits and even added golden raisins (which are SO much better than brown raisins), but I'm more of a purist. I like dried fruit. I like it a lot. But anyone that spends a week eating matzoh in it's various forms knows that dried fruit is more than a nice snack, it's the one thing keeping you out of the hospital ER for a bowel obstruction. So in my house, we use apricots and prunes in the tsimmes and then eat the other kinds of dried fruit all week long. Aren't you glad I shared this little tidbit?

Prunes first, then the apricots.

Now it's time for some seasonings. I peel off the zest of one orange, chop it up and add it to the pan. Then I squeeze the orange juice into the pan as well.

You can barely see it in this picture, but I also add honey to the mix, and 1/4 cup in total. But I don't measure. I just squeeze the honey until it looks like enough.

Spices? Yup, cinnamon and nutmeg both get shaken over the top of the pan.

Then I add enough water (but you could use beef stock too) over the top to cover the meat, about 3/4 of the way to the top of the pan. I pour about 2 cups, maybe up to 3 cups total.

Ok, it's pretty much made, and now we have to cook this baby slow and long. First I get out the gigantic length of extra strength foil, and wrap the entire pan top to bottom. I know it's going to leak all over my stove. It aways does.

And this, my little pixies, it what it looks like when you've cooked it, and then opened the foil to let the steam escape.

I think I should have turned that photo around, eh?

Now it has to cool off for a while, and then I'll skim the fat off the top, and it will be all delicious and moist and savory and sweet all at the same time.

See, just like Bubbe used to make!

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Blogger Daisy said...

Mmmm. I don't know any firefighters, but I can think of a lot of food-loving folks who would love to stay to eat. Have a wonderful Passover!

19/4/08 12:25 PM  

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