passover 2015 ala slow cooker

This year's menu....made in the slow cooker and much better than Passovers of years past.

Mile End Deli’s Matzoh Ball Soup
(adapted from recipe by Noah Bermanoff)

6 cup chicken stock (stock made in slow cooker from Smitten Kitchen's recipe)
2 cup matzoh meal
1 1/2 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt, plus more for seasoning
1/2 tsp. black pepper
7 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup schmaltz

Bring stock to a simmer in a 3 quart pot. Meanwhile,in a large bowl combine matzoh meal, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Stir in eggs and schmaltz. Using a 1/4 cup measure,scoop out matzoh mixture and roll between palms into balls. Drop matzoh balls into simmering stock. Cover pot and reduce heat slightly to maintain a medium simmer. Cook 15- 20 minutes until balls are puffy and uniform in texture.

Brisket from Cooks County
(better than last year's brisket recipe from Smitten Kitchen)

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 large onions, halved and sliced 1/2-inch thick (about 2 pounds)
  • tablespoon light brown sugar
  • salt
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  •  2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  •  3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 3⁄4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  •  1 (5 lb) flat-cut beef brisket trimmed of exc ess fat
  •  3 sprigs fresh thyme
  •  3 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar


    1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil until shimmering. Saute onions, brown sugar, and 1-4 teaspoon salt (to taste) until onions are golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Clear a space in the middle of the pan. Add tomato paste and flour to open space and cook, stirring constantly, until darkened, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in broth and cook until sauce thickens, about 4 minutes. Off heat, stir in 2 tablespoons vinegar and transfer mixture to bowl. When cool, cover tightly with plastic and refrigerate.

    2. Whisk together 1 teaspoon salt, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, and cayenne in a small bowl. Prick brisket with fork, evenly all over both faces. Rub spice mixture over brisket and wrap tightly in plastic. Refrigerate brisket and onion mixture overnight.

    3. The next morning, add half of onion mixture to slow-cooker. Add thyme and bay leaves and place brisket, fat side up, on top. Spread remaining onion mixture over brisket. Cover slow cooker and cook on low until brisket is fork-tender, 9 to 10 hours (or cook on high for 5 to 6 hours). If brisket it especially thick, cook an extra hour. Turn cooker off and allow brisket to rest for 30 minutes.

    4. Remove brisket to cutting board. Cut across grain into 1-to-2-inch slices, and transfer to serving platter. Tent with foil.

    5. Pour sauce into large skillet, discard herbs, and simmer over high heat until slightly thickened, 8 to 10 minutes. Skim off as much fat as possible, add remaining vinegar, then pour half of sauce over brisket. Serve with remaining sauce on side.


more about me and my slow cooker


So I'm kind of obsessed with my slow cooker (some people call it a crock pot but I think those people bought theirs between 1940-1980.) I bought one a couple of years ago, originally for my mother-in-law who does not cook. She can boil — pasta and eggs. She can microwave takeout containers and she makes a mean salad but actual cooking (sauteeing, roasting, baking, broiling, braising, grilling, frying) is not her thing.

Of course she never used it and it stayed at her house gathering dust from the one time I used it there. (On Passover I made Smitten Kitchen's Tangy Spiced Brisket which was tasty but despite all that slow cooking, it was still a little tough. I might even try this recipe again, in the oven.) I also tried Sara Moulton's short ribs which was recently published by the AP News. This was really good but a little too rich for me. And not actually all that easy.

And this is my thing with the slow cooker. If you're already sauteeing onions, garlic, adding spices, browning meat on the stove before you put it in the cooker, why not just cook it on low in a pot ON the stove. I like being able to turn the thing on and forget about it. It's kind of exciting to see it transform over time. But I can cook without it so either 1. there's something unique about the actual vehicle and the way it cooks the food or 2. it's a throw-everything in and let it rip so you can't do it fast and easy.

I started experimenting with Cooks Illustrated's Slow Cooker Revolution. Those guys cooked a million briskets before nailing down the perfect recipe. (They even invented a technique of microwaving onions and spices before adding to sauce.) I've now made Mexican Chicken, Everyday Chili, Tortilla Soup with chicken, Tequila and lime Turkey Chili and Cauliflower and Cheese sauce (which was just dense and clumpy and wound up in the garbage disposal.) Basically I've made every kind of Mexican stew. And Michael has kindly suggested I move on.

And I'm trying to figure out a new angle for the slow cooker because I'm not done with the thing yet. The stews benefited from long and slow because the meat got tender and the flavors melded. That said, the prep was fairly intensive and they were all somewhat similar. I've seen Sara Lee of the Food Network literally throw a raw roast into a slow cooker and pour in some canned broth and voila-dinner. But is the roast any good? If so, this might be a new direction.