Passover at Gracie Mansion

I had never fully prepared a Passover Seder until I was 24 years old and my first one was a doozy.  As the first chef to Mayor Ed Koch in 1978 and living at Gracie Mansion, I was asked to make the Seder for Hizzoner and his family.  I called everyone I knew, including my mother who made very delicious but extremely hard matzoh balls which my family loved but I doubted the Mayor’s family would.  What to do?  I asked the Mayor for his recipe!  He suggested putting seltzer in the mixture, telling me that would make them light and fluffy.  I recently consulted my 25-year old diary for the rest of the menu, and here it is: Friday, April 21, 1978  Passover Seder at Gracie Mansion 15 guests – 5:00 p.m.

Crudites with Curry Dip Kosher Rumaki Chopped Liver with Plum Tomatoes Matzoh Ball Soup (with seltzer!)

My Mother’s Pot Roast with Dry Vermouth & Bay Leaf Slow-Roasted New Potatoes Sweet Potato, Prune & Glazed Carrot Tzimmes Haricots Verts with Lemon Matzoh, Leek and Herb Kugel

Sponge Cake with Strawberries A selection of homemade Macaroons Passover Candy Coffee Service

This year, however, I won't be cooking.  We are guests at two different Seders -- the first night with the Cohens in West Orange (I will be bringing a flourless chocolate cake in honor of my daughter's 15th birthday the day before) and the second night at the Shinders in Manhattan, with lots of teenagers and lots of ruach (spirit!)  I will be bringing my Cauliflower-Leek Kugel.  I know that the food maven, Arthur Schwartz, will also be making it for his Seder.

But today I bring you a recipe I created for Bon Appetit that many readers have told me has become a new tradition in their homes. I originally made it with tamarind paste but was told that it wasn't kosher for passover.  Interesting.  There is much discussion about what is and isn't appropriate for Pesach!  Enjoy!

My Sweet-and-Sour Brisket with Shallots & Dates This can be prepared two days ahead; its luscious flavors improve with age.

1-1/2 cups orange juice 6 large soft pitted Medjool dates 4 large peeled garlic cloves 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves 5 tablespoons olive oil 2 pounds onions, thinly sliced 16 large whole shallots, peeled 2-1/2 cups chicken or beef broth 5-pound flat cut (also known as first-cut) brisket, trimmed of all but 1/4-inch fat 1-1/2 cups tomato puree 16 very small red skinned potatoes, scrubbed

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Put first four ingredients in food processor or blender and process until smooth. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large wide ovenproof pot over medium-high heat.  Add onions and whole shallots and cook until onions and shallots are deep golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Transfer shallots to a small bowl; set aside.  Add broth to onions and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits.  Pour into a large bowl.  Add remaining oil to the same pot.  Season brisket with salt and pepper.  Add to pot and brown well, about 5 minutes per side.  Turn brisket fat side up.  Return onion mixture to pot.  Add orange juice mixture and tomato puree.  Bring to a boil, stirring to blend sauce.  Cover pot; bake 2 hours. Add shallots and potatoes.  Cover, bake 1 hour.  Uncover; bake until brisket is tender, occasionally spooning sauce over meat, about 1 hour longer.  Let rest 30 minutes.  Scrape sauce off brisket.  Transfer brisket to a board and thinly slice across the grain.  Return to the pot with the sauce and heat gently.   Serves 8