Food is at the center of traditional Rosh Hashanah celebrations, when friends and family ring in the Jewish New Year. This three-course holiday menu comes from Noah and Rae Bernamoff, the husband and wife duo behind Brooklyn’s Mile End Delicatessen.
When we asked Noah about his favorite Rosh Hashanah traditions, he didn’t hesitate: “Eating! At Passover we have a limited menu, and Yom Kippur is all about breaking the fast. But Rosh Hashanah is a food holiday.”
Keep reading for three special occasion recipes from The Mile End Cookbook, from the Bernamoffs: Spring Chicken, Knishes and Honey Cake.
Noah: The beauty of this dish is that you get not only the super-moistness of brined chicken breasts but also the snappy crunch of a high roast or sear. Since Rae and I love escarole, and since we’re obsessed with figuring out ways to use up old bread, we serve the breasts with a sort of savory escarole fricassee that’s thickened with pieces of stale rye. To give that sauce another layer of richness, we add pieces of chicken confit made from the same bird’s thighs and legs. But you can skip the confit if you want; this dish will still have plenty of flavor without it.
½ cup fresh English peas
5 tablespoons canola oil
4 portions roasted chicken breast*
3 scallions, chopped into 1-inch lengths
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
4 cups coarsely chopped escarole, washed and drained
2 cups chicken stock
4 heaping tablespoons Chicken Confit (optional)
4 teaspoons spicy brown mustard, such as Gulden’s
8 tablespoons vinaigrette
4 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
3 to 4 slices stale Rye Bread, torn into 1- to 2-inch pieces
Pinch of Diamond Crystal kosher salt
½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 200°F.
Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the peas. Return to a boil and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove 1 or 2 from the pot and taste them. When the peas have lost most of their starchiness and taste perceptibly sweeter, they are done. Strain them, and shock them in a bowl of ice water for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside. Heat 2 tablespoons of the canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and sear the chicken breasts, skin side down, until nicely browned, 3 to 4 minutes.
Lower the heat to medium, flip the breasts, and continue searing them until they’re heated through, 3 to 4 minutes more. Transfer the breasts to the oven to keep them warm.
Meanwhile, make the sauce: Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil in a very large skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the scallions and allow them to color slightly. Add the thyme and let it sizzle for a few seconds to flavor the oil. Then add the escarole; toss to coat the leaves with the oil and wilt them slightly, 10 to 15 seconds. Add 1½ cups of the chicken stock and let it come to a brisk simmer.
Add the chicken confit, mustard, and schmaltz vinaigrette; toss to combine thoroughly. Let the sauce simmer and reduce, stirring occasionally, until it’s thickened, 4 to 5 minutes. Then add the chives and rye bread. Add the remaining ½ cup of chicken stock and continue to toss and cook for another 20 to 30 seconds, then remove the skillet from the heat. Remove the chicken breasts from the oven and slice each of them crosswise on a deep bias into 3 roughly equal-size segments. Divide the sauce evenly among 4 serving plates, pooling it in the center of the plate, and place 1 sliced chicken breast on each plate.
In a small bowl, toss the blanched peas with the salt, lemon juice, and olive oil. Sprinkle the peas over the chicken breasts and serve. Serves 4.
*Note: this original recipe calls for smoked chicken breasts, which you can find in The Mile End Cookbook.
Noah: My Nana Lee made legendary knishes, and she was the inspiration for the kind we make at Mile End. Ours look a little different from traditional round knishes, but once you get the hang of rolling and trimming the dough, they’re easy to make. They’re adaptable, too: The standard potato filling can be enhanced with almost anything—truffled mushrooms, corned beef and cabbage, whatever leftovers you have in the fridge. And you can top your knishes with all sorts of savory garnishes: caraway seeds, fresh herbs, chopped nuts, and more.
For the filling:
2 pounds russet potatoes (about 4 potatoes), scrubbed clean
1½ pounds Yukon gold potatoes (6 to 8 potatoes), scrubbed clean
2 parsnips, peeled and roughly chopped
½ celery root, peeled, trimmed, and roughly chopped
2 medium white onions, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 fresh bay leaves
Diamond Crystal kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 large eggs
For the knish dough:
8 large eggs, beaten
¾ cup canola oil
5 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt
1 additional large egg, beaten, for the egg wash
Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, caraway seeds, or other toppings of your choice
Spicy brown mustard, such as Gulden’s, for serving
Make the filling: Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Bake the russet and Yukon gold potatoes on a 10-by-15-inch baking sheet until a small knife meets no resistance when piercing the center of the potatoes, 60 to 90 minutes. Set the potatoes aside to cool.
Meanwhile, place the parsnips, celery root, and onions in a food processor and pulse them until finely chopped. Heat the schmaltz or oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat, add the chopped vegetables and the bay leaves, and season with salt and pepper t o taste. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are completely tender, then uncover and cook for another 10 minutes to let the liquid evaporate. Remove from the heat; discard the bay leaves.
When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them and pass them through a ricer into the sautéed vegetable mixture. Add the eggs and season with more salt and pepper; stir with a wooden spoon until the ingredients are thoroughly mixed together. Let cool before forming the knishes.
Make the dough: Place 8 beaten eggs and the schmaltz or oil in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl and add the mixture to the bowl of the stand mixer. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are mostly incorporated. Increase the speed to medium and mix until the dough has a smooth, consistent texture, about 1 minute more.
Wrap the dough loosely in plastic wrap and f latten it into a disk. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or as long as overnight. (The dough can also be frozen for up to 3 weeks; thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before proceeding.)
Roll and trim the dough:
1. Portion the dough approximately into thirds.
2. Flatten one third with a rolling pin or the palm of your hand to approximately ¼ inch thick.
3. Pass it through a pasta machine at the widest setting. Fold the dough in half, if necessary, and pass it through the rollers 1 or 2 more times until the results yield a piece that is close to the width of the machine (about 6 inches).
4. Adding flour as necessary to prevent sticking, continue to pass the dough through the machine, making the setting more narrow with each pass until you achieve a piece that is approximately inch thick.
5. Place the dough on a floured surface and cut it into squares. Reserve the trimmings and incorporate into the next piece of dough to be rolled. Repeat with the other two-thirds of the dough.
Stuff and bake the knishes: Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly oil a 10-by-15-inch baking sheet.
6. Distribute about 1 cup of the filling evenly along one edge of a trimmed dough piece.
7. Roll the dough around the filling to make a cylinder, using a spatula to help lift the bottom of the dough from the work surface where the dough is sticking.
8. Brush the seam of the rolled knish with the egg wash and press lightly to seal it. Place the knish seam-side down on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough pieces and filling. 9. Make 4 or 5 diagonal slashes across the top of each knish to allow for expansion while cooking. Brush each knish with a little of the egg wash and sprinkle it with the topping of your choice. Bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before serving. Slice each knish into 4 small logs and serve with the mustard. Makes 12.
Noah: We adapted this recipe from a version by baker extraordinaire Marcy Goldman, who used to live down the street from my parents in Montreal. It’s actually based on an old gingerbread recipe.
1 cup orange juice
1 cup honey, plus more for drizzling
½ teaspoon baking soda
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 cup sugar
¾ cup canola oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
Toasted almonds (optional)
Powdered sugar (optional)
Crème fraîche (optional), for serving
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Combine the orange juice and honey in a large saucepan. Place it over medium-low heat, bring it to a simmer, and simmer until the liquids have come together and you can no longer feel any honey sticking to the bottom of the pan, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the baking soda; stir to combine, then set the pan aside.
In a large bowl, combine the eggs and sugars and whisk vigorously until smooth. Then add the oil and whisk until the mixture is completely emulsified and smooth. Pour the reserved orange juice mixture into the egg mixture and whisk for a few seconds to combine.
In another large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt; mix together with a spatula. Pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk, scraping down the sides with a spatula, until any lumps are eliminated, 10 to 15 seconds. Grease a Bundt pan with oil or cooking spray and dust the pan liberally with f lour, tapping out any excess. Pour the batter into the pan and bake on the middle rack of the oven until the surface of the cake starts turning a dark golden brown, about 15 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees and tent it lightly with aluminum foil. Continue baking until a thermometer inserted into the center of the cake reads 200°F, another 20 to 25 minutes. Cool the cake completely on a wire rack. Invert it onto a serving plate and drizzle it with honey. Top with toasted almonds and powdered sugar, and serve with crème fraîche, if you like.