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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.


Labor Day has passed, the summer is officially over and the children are happily picking out their new lunchboxes.  That means…..

A) You wonder if you should put your white pants away or if there’s a really bright sunny day you can get away with wearing them one more time

B) Are lunchboxes environmentally friendly, or should you pack their lunches in recyclable bags, save a tree and avoid seeing Justin Bieber’s image every morning

C) You better start thinking about what you’ll be cooking for the holidays because they are a little early this year, not as early as they’ll be next year, but not as late as they were last year

If you answered all three, then you have way too much time on your hands, but if you answered (C) then you are like so many Jewish cooks this time of year and are scrambling to create the perfect holiday menu.  To help you out, or at the very least to distract and entertain you for a few minutes, I’ve created this quick quiz.  Your score matters little, but if it helps crystalize your menu, then my work is done.

1. You are considering making chopped liver for the first time you wonder if you should use chicken fat.  You decide to….

A) Buy 3 chickens and render their fat

B) Use canola or olive oil because it’s much healthier

C) Purchase a container of chicken fat found usually in the fresh meat section or frozen food section where the frozen chicken & turkey products are sold

If you answered (C) you answered correctly. Here’s the skinny on fat.

During the year as I am preparing chicken, I will cut away the excess fat and store it in a Ziploc bag that I keep in the freezer.  Eventually I will have enough clippings to make a batch of chicken fat.  But an easier solution is to buy chicken fat at the market.  Almost every market I checked out carries Empire chicken fat.  It truly adds that extra “tam” to chopped liver, and a little in your matzo ball mixture goes a long way. The good news is; it’s not bad for you- when eaten in moderation.  Because it is a naturally occurring fat it has a nice balance of fats: saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.  Additionally, it has a fair amount of Omega 3 fatty acids.  Duck & goose fat are actually a tad healthier, but canola oil- many people’s go to oil is often engineered so it is not always the best choice.  Olive oil’s flavor is too strong and its low smoke point makes it less desirable for frying the onions. For my money- and holiday chopped liver- I vote for chicken fat!

2. You want to make a central meat dish and feel brisket, while traditional has been there and done that so you…

A) Opt for a standing rib roast

B) Buy lamb shanks

C) Consider a breast of veal

D) All of the above

If your answered (D), I applaud you for taking the road less traveled.  A standing rib roast is an impressive choice.  It presents beautifully and roasts easily.  Have your butcher separate the ribs from the meat and then tie them back together, this makes carving the roast easier.  Figure 2 people per rib.  You might need to mortgage the house, but your guests will be very impressed.  Another great choice are lamb shanks.  I love any dish you can braise in one pot, leave on the stove or in a slow oven and not worry about over cooking.  As for the breast of veal, it’s elegant and succulent- a bit fatty and skimpy on the meat to fat ratio, but it works beautifully with stuffing (again getting two things done at once) and it is a yummy departure for the holidays.

3. You want to make a creamy and delicious side, but it needs to be pareve, so that means no butter, no cream, no kidding.  You decide to…

A) Bake a potato and steam your veggies

B) Buy an extra challah and serve it as a side dish

C) Try your hand at rich and sumptuous mashed potatoes

Duh, that’s an easy one.  While baked potato and steamed veggies are a very healthful route, they are boring for the holidays, so I strongly suggest you try a flavor packed mashed potato that can be made ahead and will compliment almost any main course you would want to serve.  The trick is to boil your potatoes in chicken or vegetable stock to infuse them with flavor, then mash them with lots of fresh herbs and roasted garlic. You will not miss the cream or butter, nor will your waistline. Try this Creamy Mashed Potato recipel.

4. You want to make 13 desserts and you only have 12 people coming you should

A) Ask your guests with what they might like to finish their meal

B) Make what you are comfortable with and throw in one new recipe just to keep things fresh

C) Keep it simple

If you scratched your head and were a bit perplexed as to the right answer, I can understand why.  All the above are good options.  I take my guests food habits into consideration.  You should know if this is a chocoholic crowd or one that likes to finish with fresh fruit.  If your guests are a bit adventurous, dessert is a good time to throw something new in the mix.  You can make almost any baked good ahead of time, freeze it and if it doesn’t turn out (literally, if it’s stuck to the pan and doesn’t turn out), you most likely have several other desserts to rely on.  But most of all, keep dessert simple.  A good meal should be punctuated by a good dessert not ruined by an overly heavy one.

5. Inevitably you have leftovers, you couldn’t resist making that brisket or an extra roast chicken.  The roast beef leaves you with a few choice slices, you….

A) Invite everyone back for another meal

B) Settle into your food coma and avoid the kitchen

C) Use the leftovers in creative ways

If you answered (A), you should seek medical counseling, if (B) was your answer, you are not alone.  But I prefer (C) as the right answer.  Leftover brisket can be shredded and added to a meatloaf mix, tomorrow’s meatballs or a great chili.  Leftover chicken pairs so nicely with tarragon, mayo and green grapes for a light salad and leftover roast beef can be chopped finely and made into a fabulous hash.

I like to call leftovers Bonus Meat, so use them wisely and enjoy the holiday meal again and again.

On a serious note, we welcome the New Year with great anticipation and hope.  We look for a year of miracles for ourselves, our family and our global community.  We pray for sound leadership, wise choices and the blessing of good health.  For me, for the past few years our New Year always begins with our sharing a story from my first book, Recipes Remembered, a Celebration of Survival.  We read about a Holocaust survivor who shared their story and recipe with me.  We then enjoy their cherished dish that nourished and nurtured their family for generations.  This is our way of honoring this remarkable community and preserving food memory.  I would encourage you to do the same.  The book is available through the Museum of Jewish Heritage who benefits from ALL proceeds.  It is also available on line from Amazon and most major booksellers. Recipes Remembered is a perfect example of how to Eat Well-Do Good.

L’Shana Tovah
June Hersh
AKA The Kosher Carnivore

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Why a Kosher Chicken says Pluck, Pluck
Instead of Cluck, Cluck


Q: What is the easiest way to defeather chicken? Jennifer Pearlman 

A: There are several not so paltry facts about kosher poultry. The most important is, it tastes better.  That’s not just my opinion, but the opinion of an independent taste comparison conducted by America’s Test Kitchen.  This is great news for those who choose kosher chickens as they start with a drumstick up. The reason is simple. Kosher chicken is essentially brined from the kashering process.

A chicken isn’t born Jewish, it is made kosher by how it is handled. After it is slaughtered according to kosher guidelines, the bird is plunged into a cold bath, salted and soaked again. While this might be refreshing on a hot afternoon at a day spa, it has one obvious problem. Working with our spa metaphor, just as a good facial is preceded by a steaming, to open your pores, non kosher chickens take a warm water bath to open theirs. This makes for easy plucking and an efficient removal of the feathers. But, because kosher chickens go for a cold–water plunge, their pores remain closed and their feathers are harder to pluck. The result is a tastier, healthier kosher bird in dyer need of electrolysis.

This is where your kitchen tweezers come in very handy. You should invest in a pair to have on hand in your gadget drawer for plucking feathers and deboning fish. Your urge will be to place the chicken in warm water to make the plucking easier; I am begging not to do that.  First of all, the USDA strictly warns against rinsing a chicken after you bring it home. The fear is the bird will contaminate your sink and surroundings and the rinse you give it will do little to make the bird any cleaner. I agree with this edict for both practical and culinary reasons.  A dry bird yields a crisper skin and a tastier less water logged chicken.

Upon getting it home, I carefully unwrap my bird and dry it off with paper towels. I then get out my tweezers and I pluck. It takes just a matter of minutes to go from unsightly feathers to clean–shaven.  I then place my bird on a plate and put it in the fridge – uncovered.  The rest in the fridge gives the bird a chance to dry out.  Be careful it does not come in contact with anything else.  Take your bird out when you preheat your oven and prepare it according to your favorite recipe. The Kosher Carnivore has many great ones to choose from; arroz con pollo to a Moroccan version. But, nearly every week I make a perfectly roasted chicken sprinkled simply with Kosher salt and black pepper, garlic powder and Hungarian paprika for both color and flavor.  A good squeeze of lemon (then toss the lemon into the pan) and some unpeeled garlic cloves scattered in the pan complete the prep.  Add some chicken stock or water during the roasting process to help encourage a pan sauce. Roast your bird at 425 degrees for 1–1 1/4 hours.  Remove the bird from the oven and let it rest, make a gravy from the pan juices and serve.

Enjoy your feather free bird with its crispy skin and juicy meat and don’t forget to invest in a good pair of kitchen tweezers, they will become your chicken’s best friend.

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         Photo: Ben Fink, The Kosher Carnivore

I love a slab of prime rib, sometimes have a hankering for charred lamb chops, or get a yen for Korean ribs; but there’s only one food I can actually say I crave – and that’s a burger. The trickle of juice that oozes from a perfectly prepared burger is a badge of honor as it runs down my chin and lands smack dab in the middle of my shirt.  I don’t even stop the motion of the bun to my mouth to wipe it off; I plow through and take that first anticipated bite. It almost never disappoints. So, when I tell you, as The Kosher Carnivore, that I can guide you to a great grilled burger, you will have to trust me.

As a purist, I don’t like burger gimmicks.  Straightforward freshly ground beef, a pristine roll, possibly a slice of a beefsteak tomato or a ring of red onion is all I need, and it’s all you’ll need if you choose the beef correctly.  For those with a good Kitchen Aid standing mixer and a grinder attachment, you can easily grind your own.  Make sure the meat is very cold, even pop it into the freezer, makes grinding easier.  For the remaining 99%, here’s what you ask your butcher for.

  • I like a blend of ground chuck from the top of the shoulder and brisket, a balance of 70% chuck to 30% brisket is perfect.  You’ll get just the right fat content and a terrific flavor from both meats

  • Form your patties from about 1/3-1/2 pound of the freshly ground meat.  You’ll want to gently handle the ground beef (I’m begging you not to call it chop meat). I like volleying it between my palms so it is loosely packed.

  • For me, kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper is all it needs, but you can add a dash of Worcestershire Sauce for a sweet/spicy kick

  • Make sure your grill is hot and place those burgers down on the heated grill and then only turn the burger once per side.  4 minutes should do it for medium rare.  Resist the urge to push down on the burger with your spatula, all you will do is release the precious juices into your grill, making your coals angry and your burgers dry.

  • Cook on the flip side till done (internal temp should be at least 165 degrees), but you can always eat it more rare at your own discretion.

  • For a change of pace, substitute bison (buffalo) meat for the ground beef.  It is leaner and has a slightly gamier taste.  But, because the fat content is low, you’ll want to cook it for less time and be sure to keep it medium rare to rare or it will be dry and its texture will have a strange mouth feel.

  • Another great choice is lamb.  I love making lamb sliders and adding grated garlic, oregano, salt and pepper as well as chopped parsley, chopped scallions and a dash of cumin to the meat.  Cook them till pink and serve them in mini pitas or on slider buns, with your favorite middle-eastern toppings.

If you need some ideas for toppings, here are two of my favorites…

Guacamole Cream Aioli:  Like it’s cousin a Mexican staple of chunky guac, this simple to make aioli (a fancy term for a mayo with garlic), starts with a ripe avocado.  You can choose your avocados by color and feel.  They should be brownish green with a few wrinkles on the outside, too brown and they’ll be too soft, too green and they’ll be too hard.  They should feel soft but not mushy to the touch, the way a ripe peach feels.  Please don’t be that person who indents 12 avocados to find the one perfect one.  Don’t cut them ahead of time, they will brown, so use them immediately after opening them.  Try cutting them around their circumference and then twist them open.  The pit can be scooped out, or for the brave, hack your knife into the pit, it should grab your knife easily.  Wrap a towel around the pit to release it safely from your knife.

Pit and scoop out 1 avocado, drop it into a blender or food processor along with 1 large garlic clove, juice of 1 lime, ¼ cup mayo, ¼ cup cilantro or parsley, salt and pepper.  Process till smooth and generously spread on the toasted buns.

Tomato Jam: Way better than ketchup, but so easy to prepare, make extra to keep in the fridge. The plum (Roma) tomatoes should be firm to the touch, but not hard, a warm red/orange color.

Peel, core, seed and dice 1 1/2 pounds of plum tomatoes.  Drop them into a saucepan and add 1 cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice, 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, pinch cayenne pepper.  Bring everything to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to low and simmer about 45 minutes.  Remove the cover, give it a good stir and cook until it thickens to a jam, 15-30 minutes longer.

So, stoke those coals, ignite the propane or pull out your indoor cast iron skillet – but get your grill on and enjoy a burger.  Beer, flip flops and onion rings are optional.

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Q: Often when the white meat is cooked to perfection the dark meat is underdone &, when the dark meat is cooked to perfection the white meat is overcooked & dry. What tips do you have for cooking poultry in a way that insures that both the light meat & the dark meat are cooked to perfection? Naomi


A: Naomi, I am a huge roast chicken fan and your question poses one of the challenges of making a really moist and juicy chicken.  When preparing chicken parts, it's easy to control the doneness.  I usually start the legs and thighs first or place them in the hottest spot in my skillet, giving them a leg up (sorry for the pun, I couldn't resist), this helps insure the dark meat will be cooked through and the white meat will not dry out.  But, when roasting a whole bird, it is not as easy.  Here are a couple of things you can do to increase your odds of keeping both the fans of white and dark meat happy, without having to make 2 chickens.

1. Create a filling for the breast meat that you sneak under the skin so the breast is basted from the inside out.  I like to saute shitake mushrooms with chopped shallots, minced sage and thyme.  I then separate the chicken skin by carefully slipping my fingers in between the skin and the breast meat.  Tuck some of the mushroom mixture under the skin and season the rest of the bird as you would normally with lots of kosher salt, freshly cracked black pepper, garlic powder, paprika and rub the outside with some oil. If you like, place a half a lemon or an onion, peeled and cut in half in the well-seasoned cavity. The breast will remain juicy as the dark meat cooks to an internal temp of 165-170 degrees.

2. Trussing the bird not only makes you look like a pro, but you will cook like one too.  By bringing the legs up across the breast you expose them to more heat on their surface area and you protect the breast from that same heat source, so you are killing two birds with one truss (sorry, that's two puns and my limit). Trussing sounds complicated, but it is really nothing more than bringing the legs up and across the bird and then tying those legs together.  There are now cooking bands that you can buy and simply tie the legs together as you would with a rubber band- it's that easy.

3. Turn your bird over midway during cooking.  Using your roasting pan like a tanning bed, start the chicken breast side up at 425 degrees.  This helps lock in the moisture and begins developing a crisp skin.  After 20-30 minutes,(size does matter, so cooking times will vary) carefully turn the bird over, by inserting a spoon in the cavity- you don't want to tear the skin or pierce the bird.  Let it rest on its tummy for another 20-30 minutes.  This helps the juices flow back into the breast and gives the bird's backside a chance to cook more evenly.  For the final 20-30 minutes, turn the bird back over, baste with its juices and voila- a perfectly cooked and moist bird.

In The Kosher Carnivore I offer many more tricks and tips and lots of yummy chicken recipes.  From a beer can in the tush, to a combination of frying then steaming the bird for perfect fried chicken – you will make a chicken worth crossing the road for every time!

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Q: What meat (and bones) would you suggest rather than flanken for cholent and meat soups? Helene Wallenstein

A: Thanks for the great question  No bones about it, when you want to add flavor to soups and stews, bones and cheap cuts of meat are essential.  They are an easy and affordable way to bring bold flavor to a dish. I have to admit, I am not a cholent girl. I didn’t grow up with it, yet in writing my first book, Recipes Remembered, I certainly received my fair share of cholent recipes and heard great stories about huge pots of cholent slow roasting the night away to reveal a warm and welcoming dish the next day.  One of my Sephardic contributors to Recipes Remembered talked endlessly about a bean dish she would prepare in the outskirts of Athens that featured only bones and beans.  She would suck on the marrow bones to extract their rich, soft centers and used giant lima beans to hold the dish together.  Noting that meat was customary for Shabbat, their poor village couldn’t afford that luxury so they cooked only the bones with the beans and the result was a decadently delicious stew. While Ptcha is not a stew, it is a dish derived from the bones of calves feet and knuckles and for some it is a delicacy beyond compare.

Much of the appeal of cholent and hearty soups is that you can toss into the pot, along with beans, barley, veggies and sometimes eggs, inexpensive cuts of meat that melt into the mix and produce a flavorful dish. Today, variations of cholent from many cultures dot menus of some of the most trendy and exotic restaurants. The French cassoulet is nothing more than a cholent made with duck confit and sausage. The traditional Baeckeoffe, an Alsatian specialty which means "baker's oven”, is essentially cholent studded with cuts of meat that peasants would place in the oven on Sunday and enjoy Monday after a hard day’s work.

So I propose that there is almost no cut of meat that will not work in this cherished and sometimes sacred dish or most soups. Try adding chunks of lamb shoulder that remain on the bone or portions of chuck roast that have great fat content. That’s crucial when choosing meat to slow cook as it will not dry out after the many hours required to produce this dish or a bold soup. I find shin bones are filled with flavor and bones cut from veal in the osso buco style would work great. Osso buco literally translates to mean “hole in the bone”, and that savory goodness from the center of the bone oozes into the dish and adds immeasurable goodness.  Many who are shunning meat add poultry to cholent, and while it shouldn’t cook as long, there’s nothing wrong with tossing in chicken thighs, necks, gizzards and backs or turkey cut osso buco style or drumsticks and wings to make a flavorful stew.

The choices are endless and affordable.  With summer coming, the days of slow roasting in the kitchen are probably coming to a close, but don’t forget to add those flavorful bones and cuts of meat to soups that you serve cold such as Ukrainian borscht with chunks of chuck floating in the ruby red broth.

Enjoy the column, keep your questions coming in, and together we will get to the meat of the matter.

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