The New Jewish Table by Chef Todd Gray and his wife Ellen Kassoff Gray (written by the uber talented David Hagadorn) is first and foremost a feast for the eyes. It is also a practical and inviting cookbook. I love the fact that the recipes are divided by season and that the authors have taken great care and pains to ensure that the recipes work. I have always been a supporter of books that offer modern renditions of traditional recipes and this book just does that.
Chef Todd and Ellen own and operate the highly acclaimed restaurant Equinox in Washington D.C. Chef Todd isn’t Jewish but his wife his and this book reflects not just her Jewish background but is also seasoned with his Italian background.
Ellen shares why they chose to write this book: This book really represents the blending at our table in the truest sense, a culinary convergence, as our dear friend and mentor, Joan Nathan, refers to it. The New Jewish Table would not have come to be were it not for Joan, who penned an article in The New York Times in 2009 entitled, “At Hanukkah, Chefs Make Kitchen Conversions,” highlighting culinary blending in marriages between Jews and non-Jews. Joan was the one who actually recognized that ours would be an interesting story to tell. Until she wrote that piece, we never realized how different, yet similar, our backgrounds were.
And then, of course, talks to me about the spice blend used in the recipe below:In my recipe for Baked Veal Roast, I use a traditional Mediterranean provincial aromatic spice blend of coriander, fennel, and cumin. I choose this blend because the combination of the coriander, cumin and fennel imparts floral notes into the meat and provides a rich mouthful of spice. The coriander and fennel complement each other so well because coriander is almost citrus-like and the fennel drives a sharp anis undertone. The addition of the onion and garlic powder round out the blend, so that it is not as overwhelming. To make the blend use (fresh) dry ground spices. Often times dry spices in your cabinet are months if not years old – it is preferred to use spices within 6 months of purchase.
The shoulder is a secondary cut of meat, which is traditionally a tough cut of meat and needs to be cut several hours in order to be tender, therefore a good hearty spice blend such as this is perfect for long cooking times.
When the blend is rubbed on the meat before roasting, it enhances the meat’s caramelization. In a roasting technique such as this, it is important to turn the oven on high heat at first to enhance carmelization and then reduce the heat in order to evenly roast. The end result is a bit sweeter, aromatic and pleasant flavor.
Baked Veal Roast
Adapted from THE NEW JEWISH TABLE: Modern Seasonal Recipes for Traditional Dishes(St. Martin’s Press, 2013) by Chef Todd Gray and his wife Ellen Kassoff Gray. Recipe and photo used here with permission. Photo by Renee Comet.
Todd: This is really an upscale version of pot roast. Veal is a bit lighter than beef, but still hearty and flavorful, so it’s a good choice for a fall dinner. Fennel, cumin, and coriander add some complexity to the meat, which, by virtue of being younger than beef, has a subtler flavor. The shoulder is a good piece of meat to use because it has interior fat that melts during the cooking process, imparting tenderness and preventing the meat from drying out. You may have to put in a special request with the butcher to get this cut, but it’s worth doing.
3 pounds boneless veal shoulder roast or veal top round
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Aromatic Spice Blend (see below)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
6 button mushrooms, chopped
1 cup dry white wine (such as Chablis or Sauvingnon Blanc)
2 springs fresh rosemary
2 springs fresh sage
2 cups Roasted Chicken Jus (see below)
Prep the roast. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Wash the roast under cold water; pat dry with paper towels. Trim off any unwanted fat. Rub the roast all over with the olive oil, and sprinkle with the Aromatic Spice Mix and some salt and pepper, patting into the surface to adhere.
Mix a mirepoix. Mix the carrots, celery, onions, garlic, and mushrooms in the bottom of a roasting pan large enough to hold the veal. Add the wine to the pan and spread the vegetables evenly. Lay the rosemary and sage on top.
Roast the veal. Place the veal on the vegetables in the pan and place in the oven. After 5 minutes, lower the oven temperature to 350°F. Cook for 20 minutes more; remove the pan from the oven and baste the roast with the pan juices. Rotate the pan 180 degrees and return to the oven; cook, basting occasionally, until the internal temperature of the roast reads 135°F to 140°F on a meat thermometer—about 30 minutes more. Remove the pan from the oven; transfer the roast to a platter, cover with foil, and keep warm.
Make the sauce. Discard the rosemary and sage sprigs from the roasting pan. Transfer the vegetables and cooking juices to a small pot, and add the chicken jus. Heat to simmering over medium heat and cook for 15 minutes, skimming off any grease. Pour the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a serving vessel, using a wooden spoon to press the vegetables through the mesh; keep warm.
To serve, cut the veal into 1/2-inch thick slices. Arrange the slices in a fan on each diner’s plate and drizzle with sauce.
Aromatic Spice Blend
Makes 1/2 cup
This mix of ground toasted spices is great to rub on meat or poultry before cooking. Use a mortar and pestle to grind the seeds after they cool.
2 tablespoons ground toasted cumin seeds
2 tablespoons ground toasted coriander seeds
1 tablespoon ground toasted fennel seeds
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Whisk together all the ingredients in a small bowl.
Store airtight for up to 3 months.
Toasting Seeds and Nut: You can toast seeds and nuts in a toaster oven or your regular oven. Ellen likes to spray them with olive oil and sprinkle them with salt before tasting—this gives them a flavor boost and helps them to brown. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spread the seeds or nuts on a baking sheet and bake until nicely toasted, stirring or shaking as necessary so they evenly brown—for about 5 minutes. Let the seeds or nuts cool before you crush them or add them to room temperature or cold ingredients. That’s all there is to it.
Roasted Chicken Jus
Makes 2-1/2 cups
This is a brown chicken stock cooked in the oven and then reduced to a glaze consistency.
2 pounds uncooked chicken bones
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 garlic cloves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
12 black peppercorns
1 cup dry red wine (such as Cabernet Sauvignon—an inexpensive one is fine)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Place the bones in a roasting pan and drizzle with the oil. Roast, stirring several times so they cook evenly, until the bones turn light golden-brown—30 to 40 minutes total. Leaving the oven on, transfer the bones to a paper towel-lined plate to drain and wipe the pan dry. Return the roasted bones to the pan; add the celery, onions, carrots, garlic, thyme, and peppercorns. Pour in the wine and stir in the tomato paste and salt. If appropriate, add water to cover. Return the pan to the oven and cook for 4 hours, adding water as necessary to keep the bones covered.
Pour the liquid from the pan through a mesh strainer into a small saucepan; discard the bones.
Bring the liquid to boiling over medium heat and boil gently until it is reduced to 2-1/2 cups, skimming off any impurities. Transfer the jus to a food storage container; it will keep in the refrigerator for 1 week or in the freezer for up to 1 month.