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Ask The Kosher Carnivore

Let's Get to the Meat of the Matter!

june-hershWe at KosherEye have received numerous questions from our readers about poultry and meat; how to buy it, prepare it, freeze it, serve it and more. Now KosherEye is delighted to have its own resident expert ? none other than author, chef extraordinaire and cooking instructor, The Kosher Carnivore, June Hersh.

Bring those questions on! June will answer them in her new monthly column on, Ask The Kosher Carnivore. And each month, she has generously offered to give away one of her books, The Kosher Carnivore: The Ultimate Meat and Poultry Cookbook, to the reader who submits her favorite question. Submit your questions to: ContactUs.

Q: I only buy first cut brisket but find that it's so lean that it doesn't get soft enough and it's sometimes dry. I cook a 3-4 pound piece for 3 hours on 325.  Any suggestions?? Gerri Zabusky

A: Gerri, my question to you would be why do you only buy first cut brisket?  Do you like spending extra money or losing that juicy, savory flavor that brisket brings to the table. I suggest that most people buy first cut because they have been told it is better and by better they mean leaner. That's definitely true.  No matter what you call it, flat cut, point, first cut brisket is definitely larger (weighs in at 5-7 pounds) and decidedly leaner, and that's why it can dry out when cooking.  If you only want to buy that cut, then be sure you keep it swimming in liquid and check it more frequently.  There is a fine line between fall-apart yummy and over cooked. For my money, 2nd cut brisket delivers the flavor, controls the cost and you can still monitor the's how.

2ndcutbrisketHave your butcher cut you a 2nd cut brisket, that's the one with the flap of fat that sits atop the lean flat cut.  The top traditionally has been called a deckle- think of it as a double decker.

Season the meat with kosher salt and black pepper. I then smear a layer of Worcestershire sauce to help add color and flavor and it allows the seasonings to adhere to the meat. This is the perfect time to rip open a packet of Lipton Onion Soup, it has all the seasonings that a brisket craves.

jhbrisketHeat a few tablespoons of olive or canola oil in a braising pot or Dutch oven (I still have the first one my grandmother bought me when I got married, nearly 36 years ago). Brown the meat over a medium heat in the pot to get a nice brown crust on the outside.  Remember, color equals flavor, so the crust brings lots of savory umami to the dish. To the pot add onions, baby carrots, even parsnips or turnips if you like and a couple of cups of beef stock.  You don't want to cover the meat, the top third should peak through.  I cook the brisket on the stovetop over low heat for about 1 1/2 hours.  I then add to the pot, lots of quartered baby Dutch or Yukon gold potatoes.  They not only taste great as they absorb some of the sauce, but their starch serves as a natural thickener.  Cook the brisket another 1 1/2 hours or until it is fork tender. 

Now, here's where we get rid of the fat from the top layer. Cut that piece right off the top.  I don't mind the fat, so I nibble on it, but if you prefer, you can shred it and make a fabulous ragout.  Take the brisket and place it in a sealed container, transfer the veggies to a bowl and cover tightly and then let the gravy sit overnight in the fridge.  Voila, the fat will form a thick layer on top of the delicious au jus and you can easily remove it.  What you are left with is the first cut brisket, which is now juicy and moist, an amazing flavorful gravy and no added fat. Slice the cold brisket against the grain and reheat in the defatted gravy.  Toss the veggies back into the fun and serve.

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Q: What are your top 5 dishes for eating kosher meat on a budget? P.S. plain hotdogs don't count. Victor Shikhan

A: Victor, that's a great question, because many people do not associate kosher meat as being budget friendly.  But the key is to select the right cut for the right preparation.  In The Kosher Carnivore, I explored every cut of kosher meat and found that for some dishes, it doesn't need to be the star, but a great supporting player. That's a terrific way to incorporate protein into a dish without breaking the bank. And, while I stuck to beef in this column, kosher meat, of course, includes veal and lamb. In most cases, cuts of beef will be more cost efficient over lamb and veal as the cow is a larger animal and yields many more usable cuts, but don't limit yourself. You can and should ask your butcher what he has on sale, what cuts he recommends for a slow braise where you can bring lots of vegetables and legumes into the dish thus cutting back on the amount of meat needed. If you have a yen for veal but not the wallet to purchase a first cut chop, try the breast of veal, which is succulent and delicious. Here are 5 of my favorite beef recipes (and for me, there are days that nothing beats a good Kosher hotdog, so I couldn't resist including them in one dish.)

1. Meet Chuck: He's a good friend of stew and a great way to stretch your meat dollar.  Whether you have your butcher grind the chuck to prepare a savory meatloaf or go for the best winter one pot wonder−beef stew−you can tame that inexpensive cut and make a wonderful dinner that will be hearty, nourishing and well priced.  This is a great place to substitute lamb shoulder or veal stew meat.  The slow braise brings out the natural meaty flavor and tenderizes the meat to buttery goodness.

Recipe: Beef Stew Provencal

2. You can take a ribbing when you choose the best cuts of kosher ribs.  Everyone is familiar with the short rib and its twin flanken, but some people overlook those gargantuan beasty bites that come from the rib section. Ribs can be very wallet friendly as you need really only 1-2 per person and the whole gnawing, chewing, salivating process makes them a fun alternative. I even love the little lamb riblets that are cut from the tips of the rib chops.  They make great little bites and cost next to nothing. I think that back beef ribs are the most luscious part of the animal; that's where we find the glorious standing rib roast.  The back ribs from that section can be slow roasted or tossed on your outdoor grill to create a meaty sensation.  The layer of fat that encases them helps lubricate them during the cooking process. These do not become fall off the bone ribs that we slow braise, rather we want a good char and a deep meaty flavor. Start the ribs at 450 degrees and after 20 minutes reduce the heat to 375 and roast until they are medium rare. If grilling, get your grill nice and hot and roast the ribs for about 7 minutes per side, then a final 7 minutes turning often to insure they have cooked to medium rare. They'll test your bicuspids, but they are worth the effort.

Recipe: BBQ Sauce, Bourbon Glaze and Meat Rub

3. You had me at pickling spice.  That's the intoxicating aroma that gets me drooling every time I walk into my local deli. Vats of corned beef, tongue and pastrami enjoying a Jewish steam bath fills the restaurant with warmth and homey goodness.  But that deli sandwich can run you upwards of $15, making it a rare and sometimes unaffordable treat.  That's why I prefer to prepare my own corned beef at home and enjoy it for dinner one night, corned beef hash the next day, and then sandwiches all weekend long.  If you cut that corned beef thin and trim the fat from the top layer, you will be rewarded with a delightfully cost efficient cut of beef that can keep you happy for days.

To cook the corned beef, simply rinse it in cold water (you can let it soak for up to 1 day, changing the water every several hours), but if you are in a rush, just give it a good cold water bath and place it in a deep braising pot, cover with fresh cold water, a generous tablespoon of pickling spices; which might include Cinnamon, Coriander, Mustard Seed, Allspice, Bay Leaves, Ginger, Dill Seed, Cloves, Chilies, Black Pepper, Mace, Cardamom.  I toss in a couple of carrots, an onion and some celery.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and cover and cook several hours or until fork tender.  Slice against the grain and serve or chop for hash.

Recipe: Corned Beef Hash

4. Ground beef is almost always going to be your most cost efficient cut, as it can be combined with so many other ingredients to stretch it to the limits.  I like using a blend of chuck/neck/shoulder and even a little ground brisket thrown in for added flavor.  Look for an 80/20 ratio of lean to fat for most preps, but a lower fat content when the ground beef cannot be drained after searing.  Fat does equal flavor, so don't rob your dish of this moisture- boosting, flavor enhancing component.  You can always substitute ground white meat turkey if you want a leaner alternative, or ground lamb for a gamier taste.  A nice treatment is to blend a little lean veal with your ground beef, it adds a delicate flavor and a nice texture.  You might think the veal would be more expensive, but generally all ground meats come pretty close to the same price.

Ground beef is perfect for chili, meatloaf or this authentic Bolognese sauce.  To make your meat dollar go even further, pile on the pasta, pair this with a big salad and a crusty loaf of bread and enjoy this spaghetti dish at your next Sunday supper.

Recipe: Spaghetti Bolognese 

5.  So, Victor, I am faced with your hotdog exclusion, and have to overrule you and include one sausage recipe.  That's right, hotdogs are sausages, which by definition are meats that are ground, spiced and encased.  One of my favorite ways to use hotdogs or sausage is to boost a bowl of soup with their presence.  Whether it's my grandmother's traditional Russian cabbage soup where the thick rounds of hotdogs add body and substance, or this delicious and very inexpensive to prepare, lentil soup where the hotdogs or sausage float happily turning a bowl of soup into a meal.

Recipe: Lentil Soup

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To inaugurate our new series, KosherEye is asking the first question: What various cuts can be used for London Broil factoring in:  Most tender? Cost? Preparation?

June Hersh, The Kosher Carnivore:
Despite what many of us think, "london broil" is not a cut of meat, but rather a cooking method – hence the pretentious quotes. What we term "london broil" has little to do with England, but lots to do with the preparation. The meat is generally cut as a long and thick piece ideal for grilling or broiling.  Your butcher will most likely create the piece to be at least 12 inches long and no less than 1–inch thick, although to achieve a nice char on the outside and a rare finish on the inside, I prefer at least a 2–inch thickness and a temperature reading of about 130–135 degrees.

I turned to an expert butcher to help get to the meat of the matter.  According to Park East Kosher in New York City, there are three preferred types of "london broil".  The first and most expensive they call a split filet and it is cut from the top of the shoulder.  The meat is lean and juicy and contains little fat.  Their next choice would be cut from the main portion of the shoulder and is from the same region of the shoulder as a shoulder steak. It is a bit chewier than the meat cut from the top of the shoulder and therefore less desirable and less expensive.  Their third choice would be a "london broil" cut from the neck area, what many butchers label shell steak.  It is a bit fattier than the other two cuts and its price reflects that difference.

No matter which "london broil" you choose, they will all benefit from a nice soak in a good marinade.  Be sure yours includes a solid base such as beef broth, soy sauce or oil and an acid to help flavor and tenderize the meat such as; lemon juice, orange juice or vinegar.  Toss in some fresh herbs, kosher salt and pepper and let the meat marinate in the fridge for several hours.  Always dry the meat off before cooking; wet meat will not brown as well. If broiling, be sure to keep it a safe distance from the heat source to avoid a flare up.  The best idea is to don a winter coat or for those of you in warmer climates, toss it on a hot grill and let the fire transform it into a delicious and savory piece of meat.  Simply cut it against the grain and enjoy!

I look forward to answering your meat & poultry questions and what I don't know, I will research and find an answer.  Fire away!

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