Season to Taste: A Fruity New Year
Few events in the Jewish calendar are more closely associated with fruit than the High Holidays.
Between the tradition of eating new varieties on the second night of Rosh Hashana and the custom of decorating the sukka with representations of the harvest, the season begs for the symbolism of bounty that fruit represents. With a cornucopia of late-summer and early-fall produce hitting the farmers’ markets and grocery stores now, it is an opportune time to incorporate fruit into your cooking.
Traditionally , the autumnal fruit-in-food equation skews heavily toward desserts or fall recipes that rely more on dried, rather than fresh, elements—raisins, dried cranberries, prunes and dates, for instance. But this year, instead of just tossing a few chopped Turkish apricots into a salad or drizzling pomegranate syrup on chicken before baking, why not explore creative ways to bring fruit to the table in subtle yet high-impact ways?
Chicken has long been paired with these sweet ingredients, but fruit can lend intrigue and character to heavier proteins such as lamb or beef, especially in a long-cooking tagine or roast. Tart, acidic cranberries may require a bit of a gastronomical stretch to push them beyond their expected sauce-and-side-dish role, but the acidity in the fruit can also serve as a natural tenderizer, making it a logical pairing with longer-cooking meat dishes. Cooking cranberries for a long time also solves the problem of their tannic, slightly tough skins, which soften and almost dissolve as they simmer in liquid.
There is just one problem: Cranberries’ piquancy leaves the palate wanting for sweetness. Adding a fortified wine, such as port, helps counterbalance the pucker-inducing qualities of the fruit, rounding out the dish and giving it added body. Dried cherries lend yet one more note of deep fruit flavor to this sauce, which accompanies a brisket.
3 TBs vegetable oil
One 4-lb. brisket, first or second cut
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
2 medium onions, chopped
4 whole cloves of garlic
1 large parsnip, peeled and chopped
(about 1 cup)
3 ribs celery, trimmed and chopped
(about 1 1/2 cups)
3 TBs tomato paste
1 750-ml. bottle dry red wine, such
1/2 cup port
3 TBs sugar
2 cups fresh cranberries
1/3 cup dried cherries
3 cups beef or veal stock
1. Heat oil over high heat in a large, heavy-bottomed, high-sided skillet. Brown brisket until a crust forms on each side, 3-4 minutes per side. Remove brisket from skillet and reserve.
2. Tie thyme, bay leaf and peppercorns in a piece of cheesecloth to make a bouquet garni; set aside. In same skillet, cook onions over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add parsnip and celery and cook 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook 3 minutes. Add wine, port, sugar, cranberries, dried cherries and bouquet garni and cook until liquid is reduced by half, about 30 minutes.
3. Add beef stock, bring to a boil and cook an additional 5 minutes. Return brisket to liquid and cover tightly with a lid or a double layer of aluminum foil.
4. Bake at 325° for about 3 hours, or until brisket is tender. Remove from oven, cool for half an hour and gently remove brisket from liquid and reserve.
5. Pass vegetables and liquid through cheesecloth to separate out solids; discard them. Skim oil from sauce and discard. Return liquid to stove and heat gently for 5 minutes. Serve meat with sauce.
If you like a fattier piece of meat, opt for a second-cut brisket, which is also more economical. Leaving the brisket in the refrigerator overnight after it has cooked allows the flavors to deepen and makes the meat easier to cut after reheating.
This recipe also works well with beef short ribs, cut either English-style, along the bones, or flanken-style, cut across the bones.
Cooking With Fruit
– Caramelize red or concord grapes in a pan with skinless, boneless dark-meat chicken, onions, garlic, lemon zest and some toasted onions.
– Grill fresh figs on skewers with chunks of lamb or beef marinated in mint, oregano and lemon zest.
– Fold chopped raisins into meatballs along with chili flakes and chopped spinach to add moisture and flavor.
– Quince paste—known as membrillo and available in the cheese department of many gourmet stores—makes a great glaze for duck or dark-meat chicken. Combine in a saucepan with minced garlic, a little white wine or water, cumin, salt and pepper, heat until quince paste is melted, cool, then brush on meat.
– Make a compote out of dried fruits such as raisins, apricots, cherries and blueberries by adding lemon zest, liqueur and water; boil until tender, then use as an accompaniment to roasted meats.