Our Four Cups Runneth Over
Wine is central to the celebration and story of Passover like no other Jewish holiday. A bottle of Cabernet may grace your Rosh Hashana table, you might serve a chilled Sauvignon Blanc to accompany your dairy Shavuot feast, but besides making Kiddush, you’re not actually commanded to drink any vino. Not true for Passover. As you slosh through your four glasses of wine, as the candlelight and murmuring of the ancient Haggada text mix with the rich, beckoning aromas emanating from the nearby kitchen, consider the meal that will unfold over the course of the Seder as the ultimate test of pairing food and wine.
With that consideration in mind, I recommend consulting Jeff and Jodie Morgan’s The Covenant Kitchen: Food and Wine for the New Jewish Table (Schocken) before your Passover menu planning, whether for the Seders or intermediate days. Jeff Morgan is the coproprietor of the critically acclaimed Covenant kosher wine label, whose first vintage—a 2003 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon—earned immediate rave reviews. The ensuing 12 years have cemented Covenant’s reputation as one of the top—if not the pinnacle—examples of American kosher winemaking, which Morgan has expanded by introducing Chardonnays, a Sauvignon Blanc and various reds (www.covenantwine.com).
The Covenant Kitchen is the effort of Jeff and his wife, Jodie Morgan, a business manager at the winery, to share their knowledge of wine and food with readers unfamiliar at pairing the casual foodie elegance Napa Valley is renowned for with high-caliber kosher wines. The Morgans have previously paired on several notable cookbooks, including Dean & Deluca: The Food & Wine Cookbook (Chronicle).
For Passover, their Fish Soup with Matzo Balls and Aioli will excite any cook who loves to tinker with Jewish classics. The saffron-colored fish stock should be a happy surprise to your Seder guests. Pair the soup with a dry rosé or dry white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc or Chardonnay.
Next up is Gefilte Quenelles with Braised Leeks and Lemon Zest, which call for a hint of ginger, fennel and coriander. (In a major departure, horseradish is not recommended.) These light pink-colored salmon balls more closely resemble typical French fish dumplings (quenelles) than standard gefilte fish. Chilled white wines such as Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay work well with the quenelles, as would a fruity Riesling or Gewürztraminer.
And, finally, comes the Morgan’s creative take on brisket—Brisket with Juniper Berries, Bay Leaves, Red Wine Gravy, and Mashed Potatoes. The juniper berries and bay leaves give the meat an earthy, minty quality, a lovely way to welcome spring after the particularly brutal winter much of America has endured this year. Serve the brisket with a fruity but dry red, like Zinfandel or Pinot Noir.
Raise your glass(es) to a happy, joyous holiday!
Matza balls (makes 10 to 15 matza balls)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup water
1 cup matza meal
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
1. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, olive oil, water, matza meal, garlic, cilantro, and salt. Add a few grinds of pepper. Using a whisk or wooden spoon, gently mix to incorporate all the ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
2. When the matza mix is firm to the touch, remove it from the refrigerator and shape it into 10 to 15 balls the size of Ping-Pong balls. Rinse your hands with cold water now and then to prevent sticking. Lay the matza balls out on a flat surface coated with wax paper.
3. Fill a large skillet halfway with lightly salted water and bring to a boil over high heat. Use a large spoon to gently lay the matza balls in a single layer into the water. They should not be stacked on top of each other. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook until the matza balls have expanded and are firm to the touch, 45 to 50 minutes. Use immediately or let cool and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, sliced
3 carrots, coarsely chopped
3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
One 3-to 4-pound saltwater fish (with or without head), such as cod, flounder, salmon, or halibut, scaled and gutted
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
2 to 4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
1 large head garlic, halved
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes, chopped, or 1 can (28 ounces) whole Italian plum tomatoes, chopped, with juice
1 teaspoon saffron threads
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 large potato, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 cups aioli, for serving
Freshly ground pepper
1. In a large saucepan or a soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the fish (cut in pieces, if necessary, to fit into the pot) and cook, turning frequently, until the flesh begins to fall off the bones, about 10 minutes.
2. Add the thyme, bay leaf, parsley, garlic, tomato paste, tomatoes, saffron, cayenne, potato, and salt. Add enough water to cover the contents. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer, covered, until the potato is tender, about 45 minutes.
3. Let the soup cool for about 15 minutes. Working in batches if necessary, in a blender or food processor, coarsely pulse the fish soup. Strain the purée through a fine-mesh sieve or colander into a large bowl or pot, forcing the liquid through by pressing on the solids with the back of a large spoon or—even better—the bottom of a (pareve) coffee mug. Discard all the solids. Strain the soup one more time through a fine-mesh sieve into a large pot to remove as many remaining solids as possible.
4. To serve, add the cooked matza balls to the soup that is now in a large pot and reheat over medium-high heat. When the soup starts to bubble, reduce the heat to medium, cover, and continue to heat until the matza balls are hot throughout, about 10 minutes. Ladle the soup with one or two matza balls per serving into individual soup bowls. You or your dinner guests can add a dollop or two of aioli to the broth in each bowl. Season with pepper to taste.
Aioli (makes about 1 1/2 cups)
1 egg yolk, at room temperature
Pinch of salt, plus salt to taste
1 clove garlic, minced or crushed in garlic press
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Hand method: In a medium bowl, whisk together the yolk, salt and garlic. Whisk in a little bit of olive oil until the aioli begins to thicken. Continue adding the oil, a small amount at a time, taking care not to let the aioli liquefy. When you have finished adding the oil, whisk in the lemon juice. Add additional salt to taste.
2 pounds salmon fillets, skinned, cut into 1-to 2-inch cubes
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1/4 cup chopped onion, plus 1 onion, sliced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced into ¼-inch-thick crescents
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 bottle or 3 cups dry white wine
6 cups water
1 bay leaf
6 to 12 leeks (white part only), well washed (allow 1 leek for individual portion)
2 tablespoons finely chopped lemon zest
Freshly ground pepper
1. Place the fish, half the chopped garlic, the ginger, chopped onion, eggs, lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon of the salt in a food processor. In pulse mode, finely chop (but do not puree). Transfer the fish mixture to a large nonreactive bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until all the ingredients are well incorporated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. (If the fish is not cold enough, it will not hold its shape when you mold it into balls. You can speed up the cooling process by putting the fish in the freezer. But be careful not to let it freeze.)
2. While the fish is chilling, in a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the sliced onion and remaining chopped garlic and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the carrots and stir to coat with the oil. Add the fennel and stir until it is coated as well. Continue to sauté, stirring occasionally, until the fennel is soft and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Stir in the thyme, coriander, and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Add the wine, water, and bay leaf. Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes.
3. Remove the pot from the heat and let the broth cool slightly, about 15 minutes. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve and reserve the vegetables from the broth in a covered container and refrigerate. Divide the strained broth between 2 large pots or deep-sided skillets.
4. Roll the chilled fish mixture into 10 to 12 balls and arrange them on a flat surface covered with wax paper. (If necessary, wet your hands occasionally with cold water to prevent sticking.) Bring the broth in the pots to a boil over high heat. Use a large spoon to gently lay the quenelles into the broth, dividing them between the 2 pots so that they have room to cook without touching each other. Reduce the heat to medium and if the quenelles are not completely submerged, spoon a little broth over the tops. Cover and braise (which means simply to cook in any liquid—in this case the vegetable broth) for 15 minutes.
3 pounds brisket
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons plus 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
5 medium onions, sliced into thin rounds
5 cloves garlic, minced
15 juniper berries
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 pounds small, think-skinned potatoes, such as Yukon Gold
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
2. Season both sides of the brisket with salt and pepper. In a Dutch oven or large ovenproof pot, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over high heat. Add the brisket and sear on both sides until browned, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the meat to a platter and set aside.
3. Reduce the heat to medium and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the pan. Add the onions, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste and stir well. Sauté until the onions have wilted, 5 to 7 minutes, stirring regularly to prevent burning.
4. Add the juniper berries and bay leaves and mix well. Add the tomato paste and mix well. Add the wine and chicken stock, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Return the brisket to the pot. Cover and bake for 1 1/2 hours. Flip the meat over, cover, and bake until the meat is very tender, another 1 1/2 hours.
5. Thirty minutes before the meat has finished cooking, prepare the potatoes. Wash but do not peel them, then cut them into quarters or eighths. Steam or cook in lightly salted boiling water until they are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes in a colander if boiling them, or remove them from the steamer and empty the water from the steamer pot. Return the potatoes to the pot.
6. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes while adding the remaining 1 cup olive oil, 1/4 to 1/2 cup at a time. Continue mashing until the potatoes are fairly smooth. (It’s OK if some lumps remain.) Using a wooden spoon, stir in 1 teaspoon salt. The potatoes will become smoother but remain dense, not runny. Season with additional salt to taste. Cover and set aside. The potatoes should remain hot enough to serve with the meat. But, if not, reheat them over medium-high heat before serving, stirring to prevent burning.
7. Take the meat out of the oven and transfer it to a large serving platter. Tent with foil until ready to slice. While the meat is resting, fish out the juniper berries and bay leaves and discard. Season the gravy and the onions in the pot with salt and pepper to taste.
8. Slice the meat against the grain on the platter and top with the onions and gravy. Serve the meat and potatoes family style. Extra gravy from the pot can be served in a gravy boat on the side.
Recipes excerpted from The Covenant Kitchen: Food and Wine for the New Jewish Table by Jeff and Jodie Morgan. Copyright (c) 2015 by Jeff Morgan and Jodie Morgan. Excerpted by permission of Schocken, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.