If you’re the sort of person who books their holiday around food, you will probably enjoy reading Secret Restaurant Recipes From The World’s Top Kosher Restaurants by Leah Schapira and Victoria Dwek, says Alex Galbinski
How many times have you eaten a meal in a restaurant and wished you could eat the same thing at home?
Sadly the chef who prepared the dish is unlikely to ever pick up a pan in your kitchen, particularly if they happen to live overseas.
But there’s nothing stopping you recreating it yourself, thanks to Leah Schapira and Victoria Dwek, who have produced Secret Restaurant Recipes From The World’s Top Kosher Restaurants as a result of the many restaurant dishes they have enjoyed.
The recipes, comprising starters, mains, sides and desserts, come from restaurants throughout the US, Panama, Mexico, Canada, Italy and three in London. ”I can think of lots of my recipes that were inspired by something I ate in a restaurant,” explains Leah.
“People love to go out to eat, and lots of people enjoy recreating their favourite dishes at home. So why not go directly to the chefs and give credit where credit is due? Plus we love learning from others. It’s so cool to hear different culinary perspectives and learn the secrets of the pros.”
Indeed, how exactly did they manage to persuade the professionals to share their top tips? Surprisingly, Victoria says: “It wasn’t hard to convince them to share a recipe – it was hard to get them to actually write it down [as they are exclusively in the kitchen]. I found that the bigger and more famous the chef, the more willing they were to share. They’re proud of their craft and aren’t paranoid that someone is going to copy them.”
Leah adds: “Sometimes we had to go into the restaurant and watch them being prepared because lots of chefs don’t even cook with measurements. In those cases, I took a video so I can watch over and over again. When I watched the Mongolian beef being prepared, I saw the chef add a ladle of this and a ladle of that. He didn’t measure at all. So I had to measure how much a ladle holds.”
Nir Wienblut, owner/chef of La Gondola, in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles – the state’s longest-standing kosher meat restaurant – shares his recipe for beef tinga sliders (see right). “We had been waiting for a burger like this,” says Victoria.
The pair hope the cookbook will be used for everyday cooking as well as special occasions. “We specifically included both casual and fine dining restaurants so readers could prepare everyday foods too,” explains Victoria.
“Dishes that don’t cost a lot in a restaurant – such as a chicken sandwich – can also affordably be prepared at home. Of course, duck isn’t something we prepare every day (even though those duck spring rolls are worth the expense and time!)… but dishes such as sesame chicken, the Cedarhurst sandwich, or a fish and dairy dishes like the Terra-Chip tilapia or penne rosa definitely are.”
Perhaps surprisingly, not all the chefs are Jewish.
Katsuji Tanabe, the half Mexican half-Japanese chef and owner of Mexikosher runs one of the most successful kosher restaurants in the US, is no exception.
“There are plenty of chefs from all background who work in kosher kitchens,” explains Victoria.
“You might think, why would they want to be limited? But I think they enjoy the challenge – their culinary skills are honed when there are certain limitations. Plus, it’s a job where they could enjoy Friday night and Saturdays off!”
The seasoned food writers (pardon the pun) learnt many new techniques themselves. “Most importantly: start with a hot pan,” shares Leah.
“If you walk into the back of a restaurant, the pans are waiting there, hot on a stove, ready to cook. They’re completely clean and empty. Add oil and your protein and that dish will be ready quickly.” There were recipes the pair wanted that that the chefs were not prepared to part with. “But we’re going after them for volume two!” laughs Victoria.
Beef Tinga sliders
3-4 lb fatty brisket (second cut is the best for this dish)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp onion powder
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh garlic
1 tsp fresh thyme
3 Tbsp oil
2 red onions, in ½-inch slices
2 carrots, in ¼-inch slices
3 celery ribs, in ¼-inch slices
2 cups red wine
5 cups veal stock, divided
3 Tbsp tomato paste
Lamb & Beef Sliders
1 lb ground lamb
1 lb ground beef
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
4 tsp chopped garlic
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp white pepper
1½ tsp cumin
24 Mini Slider Buns
1. Prepare the Tinga: Preheat oven to 350ºF. If the brisket is too large for your pan, cut meat into 2 even pieces. Rub brisket with salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic, and thyme. 2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add meat and sear on both sides. 3. Place vegetables into a large roasting pan. Place seared brisket over vegetables. Pour wine and 3 cups stock over meat. Cover and bake 3½-4 hours. 4. Remove brisket from roasting pan and place on a cutting board. Using two forks or your hands, pull brisket apart (it should be very tender). 5. Place liquid and vegetables from roasting pan into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. In a medium bowl, whisk together tomato paste and remaining 2 cups veal stock. Add to food processor; blend. 6. Combine the sauce and pulled beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes (add roux if you would like to thicken the sauce further). 7. Prepare the sliders: In a medium bowl, combine lamb, beef, parsley, dill, garlic, salt, pepper, and cumin. Form into 24 equal-size patties, about ½-inch thick. Place patties onto a baking sheet and refrigerate for 1 hour. 8. Grease and heat a grill or grill pan. Add patties and cook until medium rare, about 3 minutes per side. 9. To serve, place each slider into a bun. Top with pulled brisket and pickles.
Mini Slider Buns
1 cup warm water
¼ cup sugar
1 Tbsp instant yeast
2 Tbsp margarine
1 large egg 3½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1¼ tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp margarine, melted
1 Tbsp poppy or sesame seeds
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine water, sugar, and yeast. Mix to combine. Add margarine, egg, flour, and salt. Knead until dough is soft and smooth and does not stick to the sides of the bowl. Remove dough from mixer. Place into a large bowl. Cover and let rise 1-2 hours, until doubled in size (this will happen faster in a warm area of the kitchen). 2. Lightly grease a baking sheet or line with parchment. Gently deflate the dough and divide into 24 even-sized pieces. Shape each piece into a ball. Place balls onto prepared baking sheet. Flatten, using the palm of your hand or a second baking sheet. Allow to rise, 45-60 minutes. Buns will puff up again. 3. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Brush buns with melted margarine and sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds. Bake for 12-16 minutes, until golden. Let cool. 4. To serve, slice cooled buns and enjoy with sliders and pulled beef. For perfectly sized mini burgers and mini buns, each of your sliders should use about 1⅓ ounces of meat and buns about 1¼ ounces each.
• Recipes reprinted with permission from ArtScroll/Mesorah Publications www.artscroll.com/Books/srrh.html