Passover (Alison's Version)
Home Movies Tuesday and two very big "media moments"
Hello and welcome to Home Movies Tuesday! If you’ve found your way over by some miracle but are not yet subscribed, here, let me help you with that:
I’m going to level with you: This has been one of the busiest weeks of my life. And yet, I was adamant that there be a Passover menu this year even though it would mean publishing these recipes and this video this week (one of the busiest weeks of my life). I am VERY glad we did— it’s a truly fantastic menu full of useful and extremely delicious recipes. I do NOT, however, have the time or bandwidth to wax poetic about Passover or how much it means to me or why it’s my second favorite holiday or why the brisket is, to me, the best and only brisket recipe you need or justify why I’m all of a sudden “into using the mandolin” for crispy potatoes.
I’m currently on the Acela en route to our nations capital to speak at Sixth & I for a sold out event moderated by Abby Phillip (!). Something you might not know about me (why would you know this about me?) I get very intense motion sickness and I can barely stand to look at this computer right now, so I’m going to close it and let you enjoy this video and these recipes while I promise myself to never try and publish a big holiday package at the same time as a book release.
I’ll also use this opportunity to plug two very big career highlights because I am PROUD OF THEM (shout out to Janice, my therapist):
Me having the time of my life with Stephen Colbert. I was very nervous because I have been a fan of his for so long and also I find him attractive and hot people make me nervous! He is as wonderful, charming and kind as I thought he would be when I fell in love with Chuck Noblet all those years ago.
The podcast we have ALL been waiting for: Armchair Expert with THEE Dax Shepard and THEEEE Monica Padman. I can’t overstate what a true gift doing this interview was (yes, we all cried). It’s such a rare opportunity to speak openly and vulnerably with people who give you their openness and vulnerability right back, who “see” you, who “get” it. Anyone who’s listened to the podcast before (all of you?) knows what champions they are of boldness, honesty and all of the messiness that comes along with the human experience. They are wonderful and I feel so lucky.
And now, PASSOVER MENU! We didn’t do the usual “invite everyone over” thing this time, so think of this somewhere between Thanksgiving and a regular Home Movies. There is no stressful moment, because frankly, I wasn’t stressed out. This menu is easy! So easy you can do in a few hours, if you like. I’m too stressed out about just about everything else to be stressed out about brisket, so let’s not!!!
As with every menu spectacular, it’s my greatest hope and wish that you *do* make everything together, as each dish is there with the intention of being enjoyed in harmony with one another. That said, take what you like, leave what you don’t! Mix and match! Your Passover, your menu!
Matzo Ball Soup
We know her, we love her. I didn’t make it in the video because, well, it has its own video. But of course, it was there.
Braised Brisket with Horseradish and Shallots
The key components in this recipe are really just the brisket, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and broth (or water). The liquid the brisket creates with just those ingredients is magnificent on its own, but everything else here really does make it so good. Shallots for sweetness, horseradish for gentle earthy spiciness, bay leaves for a “certain something” that yes, I’m sure exists. That said, you can really customize it however you like– adding onions instead of shallots, throwing in a few carrots or celery stalks if you like, leaving out the horseradish if that’s not your thing.
If you don’t have a dutch oven, see the bottom of the recipe for a workaround using a baking dish and some tin foil.
4 ½ – 5 lb. brisket
Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 heads garlic, halved crosswise, unpeeled is fine
1 pound (5–8) shallots, halved lengthwise, quartered if large (I don’t peel mine but you can if you like)
4 cups beef broth, chicken broth, or water (Better Than Bouillon optional)
1 cup white wine vinegar or ⅔ cup distilled white vinegar
⅓ cup Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, or tamari, plus more
¼ cup freshly grated horseradish or 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish, plus more
2 fresh or dried bay leaves or ½ bunch thyme
Flaky salt, for serving
Fresh parsley sprigs, for serving
1. Season brisket with salt and pepper (if you’re measuring, this is at least 1 teaspoon of kosher salt –I use Diamond Crystal– per pound of meat). Do this a few hours (up to 24) in advance, if you’re able (keep it uncovered in the fridge). It’s also fine just to season and go ahead and braise it right away, too.
2. Preheat oven to 275°. Heat canola oil in a large, heavy-bottomed dutch oven (at least 5.5qt)* over medium-high heat. Sear brisket fat side down first. Use tongs or any implement of your choosing to press the meat to encourage as much contact with the pot as possible.
3. Cook, without moving, until the fat side is deeply browned, 10–12 minutes (doing this over medium heat rather than medium-high will take longer, but with less risk of burning the rendered fat).
4. Using tongs, two large spoons or a fish spatula, flip the brisket to brown on the other side, another 10–12 minutes. Be careful here, the fat is extremely hot and can splatter. This is how I burned myself last year, truly a brisket to remember. If using a thicker brisket, there is a third side; sear that as well, about 5 minutes. If you’d like, carefully pour off some of the rendered fat into a heatproof bowl, leaving about 2 tablespoons fat in the pan (if you’re nervous about hot fat, skip this—if not now, you can remove excess fat later.)
5. Transfer the brisket to a large plate or sheet pan and add the garlic and shallots to the pot, cut side down. Season with salt and pepper and cook, without moving, until the shallots and garlic are nicely browned, 3–5 minutes.
6. Return the brisket (and any juices on the plate) to the pot and add whatever broth or water you’re using (and Better Than Bouillon, if you’re using that), vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish (if using) and bay leaves. If you wanted to throw in a small handful of black peppercorns, you could do that, too.
7. Bring to a simmer and place the lid on. Transfer to the oven and let it gently braise for 3–3 ½ hours (thinner briskets will take about 3; thicker will take closer to 3 ½); the brisket should be very tender; if you insert a knife in the thickest part it should meet little to no resistance. Remove the pot from the oven, uncover and use a spoon to skim off some of the fat that’s pooling on the top.**
8. Increase oven temperature to 425º. Continue to cook, uncovered, for another 45 minutes to 1 hour to further brown and crisp the meat as well as reduce/thicken the sauce. Remove brisket from the oven and test to make sure it’s done by inserting the tip of a knife into the thickest part– it should meet no resistance, the whole slab jiggling like jell-o.
9. To serve, transfer the brisket from the pot to a cutting board. Slice against the grain (easy to locate on a brisket, the grain is very apparent) as thick or thin as you like and place on a large serving platter (alternatively, shred the brisket with two forks in the pot). Give the juices a taste— they should be tangy, salty and very beefy with a bit of heat from the horseradish. Adjust with more Worcestershire, vinegar or horseradish as needed. Spoon the jammy shallots and garlic over the brisket along with the juices from the pot over the brisket. Serve with more fresh horseradish grated over (or prepared horseradish on the side), along with some flaky salt and parsley, if you like.
*If you don’t have a dutch oven, you can sear the brisket and shallots in a large skillet and transfer it to a roasting pan or baking dish. Pour the liquid over everything and cover tightly with foil before putting in the oven.
**If braising the night or two before, you can chill the brisket at this stage and keep refrigerated until you’re ready to use. When you’re ready to reheat, remove any chilled fat from the top layer as best you can before proceeding with step 8.
DO AHEAD: Brisket can be braised four days ahead, kept refrigerated. To reheat, continue starting at step 8.
Crispy Potatoes With Onions and Chicken Fat
These potatoes are about as fussy as I get, but they’re worth it. Sort of a Pommes Anna derivative with flavors of a latke, the potatoes get sliced and layered between rings of onion, spoonfuls of chicken fat and plenty of cracked pepper. It can be hard to know when they’ll be browned on the bottom– a glass pie plate will help with that, but I still prefer the higher, structured sides of doing this in a cake pan. You can use a knife, but using a mandolin to get them perfectly even and just the right thickness will give you something much closer to the result you want.
3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
1 medium yellow onion
½ cup chicken fat or duck fat*, olive oil, or 1 stick / 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
Flaky salt, for serving
1. Preheat oven to 425°. Line an 8” or 9” cake pan or pie plate with parchment paper (alternatively, use an 8” or 9” cast iron skillet); set aside.
2. Using a mandolin if you have it (a sharp knife if you don’t), thinly slice potatoes (no need to peel them). Don’t measure or anything, but they should be about ⅛” thick. While you have it out, use the mandolin to thinly slice onions, too (a knife also works).
3. Drizzle a little fat of your choosing onto the bottom of the pan and arrange potatoes in a concentric circle, overlapping slightly. If you were to also just scatter the potatoes in a thin, even layer, that would work too (no pattern required).
4. Scatter a few slices of onion over the potatoes, drizzle with more melted fat and season everything with salt and pepper. Repeat with remaining potatoes, onions and melted fat, gently pressing down and seasoning with salt and pepper as you make each layer, ending with a layer of potatoes and drizzle of fat.
5. Place the pan of potatoes on a sheet pan to catch any drips and cover the pan with aluminum foil. Bake until the potatoes are completely tender and cooked through, 50–60 minutes. Loosen the foil, and, if you can stand it, place a dish towel on top and gently press the potatoes down as much as possible. This compresses them, ensuring even contact on the bottom and even thickness throughout. They’ll be hot, but the foil and towel will protect your hands (mostly). You can skip this step, too.
6. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the potatoes are browned on the top and the bottom, another 30–35 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly before unmolding onto a serving plate, removing parchment, and topping with flaky salt. Slice into wedges.
*Chicken fat is more widely available these days in grocery stores, but when in doubt, seek out a butcher shop who will almost always have it for sale (often in the frozen section).
DO AHEAD: Potatoes can be made 1 day ahead, wrapped and refrigerated, reheated in a 425° oven for 15–20 minutes until once again hot and crispy.
Peppered Carrots and Dill
These are basic on purpose, given the robustness of the rest of the meal. These can be roasted on a rimmed baking sheet in the oven at 425° until tender, but I like cooking them in a skillet so they get tender without color, staying somewhat…juicy (strange adjective for a carrot, but it’s true), somewhere between a steam and a saute. Save the carrot tops if you’re able– they taste like carrot flavored parsley and should be used just like parsley (coarsely chopped, scattered over the carrots with wild abandon). If you don’t have tops, use parsley.
2–2 ½ pounds small to medium carrots, a few sprigs of the tops reserved if you can (I don’t peel my carrots but you can if you like)
¼ cup chicken fat or duck fat, olive oil, or ½ stick / 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (the coarser the better)
1 cup coarsely chopped dill, from about 1 small bunch, plus more
1. Slice carrots into 2”–3” long pieces. For any carrots on the thicker side, cut (or quarter) in half lengthwise. Point being you want all carrots to have roughly the same size/shape so they cook evenly. If you’d rather just slice all carrots into ½” thick coins, you can do that, too!
2. Melt the fat of your choosing in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pepper and let sizzle 30–45 seconds or so, just to bloom the peppercorns, making the most of their spicy aroma. Add carrots and season with salt. Cook, stirring or tossing occasionally, until carrots are just tender but still have a little bite to them, 6–8 minutes.
3. Remove from heat, add dill (plus some reserved carrot tops, if you’ve got) and toss to coat (there should be a lot of dill. If it looks shy on dill, please, add more dill). Transfer carrots to a serving bowl and top with more spriggy dill and a few spriggy carrot tops, if you like.
DO AHEAD: Carrots are best made before serving, but depending on what fat you use, you may want to give them a brief rewarm as some fats can congeal at room temperature.
Celery Salad with Sour Apple and Walnuts
This is the best salad to eat next to any hunk of braised meat, or on its own in the middle of the day with shredded bits of leftover roast chicken. It’s celery-forward, and before you ask, you *could* use another vegetable, like fennel, but then it’s no longer a celery salad and you’ll have to live with that. For those who don’t get down with the raw onion of it all, you can soak it in cold water for a few minutes to mitigate some of the bite, or, reduce the amount in half. Simple on purpose, this salad is meant to provide crunch, texture, acidity and freshness where it’s needed (always, on every table). But if you’ve simply GOT to make it “more,” you can do that, too: Add in ½ a chopped preserved lemon, a dash of fish sauce, a few good pinches of sumac or za’atar, a blanket of grated parmesan or pecorino– you can have it all, take it wherever you like.
In the video, I FORGOT THE WALNUTS, but do NOT be alarmed, it was still great (so if you’re allergic, leave them out, plenty of crunch to go around).
1 cup walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped (optional)
2 large sour or tart apples (such as Granny Smith), unpeeled, thinly sliced, core removed if you like
1 bunch celery, leaves and stalks separated, thinly sliced
½ medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 lemons, zested and juiced
Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
2 cups parsley, tender leaves and stems
Olive oil, for drizzling
1. Toast walnuts (or whatever nut you’re using) using whatever method you like (on a sheet pan in a 350° oven for 5–7 minutes, in a toaster oven is my preference); set aside.
2. Toss apple, celery, onion, lemon zest and juice in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.
3. Taste a piece of celery or apple and season with more lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add parsley, walnuts and drizzle with a healthy amount of olive oil, seasoning again with salt and pepper before serving.
DO AHEAD: Celery and onion can be sliced a few hours ahead of time, I’d wait to do the apple last minute, as it can oxidize. Salad should be seasoned and tossed just before serving.
Toasted Rice Pudding
makes 5 cups; serves 4–6
People who love rice pudding would truly and absolutely die for it. That fact alone made my exploration of this dessert a little fraught. Is it best served warm? Cold? Cinnamon optional? Egg yolks added? Could I please everyone? Of course not. But I could please myself.
This rice pudding is inspired by my first rice pudding memory: Kozy Shack cups at my aunt’s house down the Jersey Shore. And listen, is this rice pudding better than Kozy Shack eaten at the Jersey Shore? I can’t say that it is. But it’s pretty great. And I think you’ll love it (but only if you love rice pudding).
Try to release your fear when the rice pudding is looser than you think it ought to be when going into the fridge (in this house, rice pudding is chilled). It will thicken as it cools, in this you must trust.
1 cinnamon stick or ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅓ cup/70g long-grain (jasmine, basmati, or Jasmati) rice
3 cups/720g whole milk (or unsweetened oat or almond milk, extra creamy if available)
½ cup/110g sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, or ½ teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
Pinch of kosher salt
2 egg yolks (optional)
1. In a medium pot, combine the rice and cinnamon stick (if using; ground cinnamon goes in later) and toast over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the grains of rice smell slightly toasty and turn a barely perceptible shade of golden brown, 4–5 minutes.
2. Add the milk, sugar, 2 cups/480g water, and salt. If using, scrape in the vanilla seeds (throw in the pod or save it to dry), or add the vanilla extract. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and continue simmering until the rice is totally cooked through and tender and you notice the liquid beginning to thicken up, 20–25 minutes (the rice will still be intact, almost swimming in a liquid, but the liquid itself will be starchy, able to coat the back of a spoon).
3. Reduce the heat to low and continue to stir constantly, making sure no grains of rice stick to the bottom of the pot while encouraging the starch to release from the grains and into the liquid (not unlike risotto). Continue simmering until the rice is beyond tender (but not mush) and the mixture appears pudding-like, another 15–20 minutes.
4. Remove the pudding from the heat and whisk in ground cinnamon (if using) and the egg yolks (if using), stirring to cook them slightly. Transfer the pudding to serving cups, bowls, or coupes, or one giant bowl, whatever you like. If you like warm rice pudding, you can eat it now. Otherwise, place plastic wrap directly on the surface to avoid the skin (or who cares, let it have a skin!) and let it chill completely in the refrigerator.
DO AHEAD: Rice pudding can be made 5 days ahead of time, kept wrapped and refrigerated.