The ProsenPeople

Salmon and the Jews

Friday, October 12, 2012 | Permalink

Earlier this week, Rae and Noah Bernamoff wrote about some of their upcoming events and how they went from slinging smoked meat to writing a cookbook. They have been blogging here all week for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

Salmon is the quintessential Jewish fish—if you go to Russ and Daughters in New York City, there are a dozen different kinds for sale, cured and smoked, from all different parts of the world. The great thing about salmon is that it’s so forgiving. Any beginner cook knows this; even if you leave it under the broiler too long, it still comes out moist because of all that luscious fat. That fattiness is what makes salmon such a good choice for home-curing, too. It just won’t dry out.

Some varieties of salmon are fattier than others; we use king salmon for making lox at the deli, and always the farmed variety, not wild. That’s because wild salmon—especially if it’s caught during “running”—tends to be too lean for curing. Too little fat will cause the salt mixture to “burn” the surface of the salmon and stop the cure from penetrating. This recipe is a case where you really want to be selective about where you buy your fish, and where it came from. This is a pretty light cure, meaning the qualities of the fresh fish really come through in the finished product. So you want top quality salmon.

Allow the fillet to rest a day after rinsing off the curing mixture, sort of like you would with a fine steak after taking it off the grill (only longer). Resting allows the fish to continue “cooking”—that is, it lets the curing compounds distribute themselves evenly throughout the salmon after they've penetrated the flesh. Also note that using good kosher salt (we recommend Diamond Crystal) is absolutely essential.

At Mile End we use our house-made lox for two of our signature breakfast dishes, the Beauty and the Mish-Mash, but it’s great for lunch sandwiches, finger foods and all sorts of other preparations. One of my favorite simple pleasures is a thickly cut slice of challah (recipe posted yesterday) schmeared with cream cheese and topped with a layer of lox.

Recipe: Lox

1/3 cup whole black peppercorns
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup Diamond Crystal kosher salt
1 bunch of dill
1 2-pound boneless king salmon fillet, with skin

Combine the peppercorns, sugar, and salt in a bowl and stir to combine. Place 2 or 3 sprigs of the dill in the bottom of a nonreactive baking dish, and sprinkle about ¼ cup of the salt mixture evenly over the bottom of the dish.

Make 2 or 3 shallow cuts in the skin of the salmon fillet. Place the salmon, skin side down, on top of the salt and dill, and place a few more sprigs of dill on top of the salmon. Sprinkle the salmon all over with another ¼ cup of the salt mixture. Reserve the remaining salt mixture. Loosely cover the baking dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate it overnight.

Carefully pour off any liquid that has accumulated in the baking dish. Add another ¼ cup of the salt mixture to the bottom of the dish, and sprinkle ¼ cup more over the salmon. Replace the dill sprigs with new ones if they’ve wilted. Cover the dish and refrigerate overnight.

Repeat this process 2 more times over 2 more days.

On the fifth day, remove the salmon, rinse it thoroughly, and pat it dry with paper towels. Place the salmon on a small drying rack set inside a clean baking dish or over a couple of layers of paper towels. Refrigerate, uncovered, overnight.

To serve, slice very thinly and carefully at a shallow angle, working from the front of the fillet toward the tail.

Makes about 1½ pounds

Visit Noah and Rae Bernamoff's official website here.

The Future of Jewish Food

Thursday, October 11, 2012 | Permalink

Yesterday, Rae and Noah Bernamoff wrote about how they went from slinging smoked meat to writing a cookbook. Today, Noah writes about an upcoming some of their upcoming events, plus shares some great challah recipes. They will be blogging here all week for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

Last year in Berkeley, Rae and I attended the Deli Summit to discuss the direction of Jewish food and deli culture, and since then we've been working on a way to continue the conversation. On October 12th we'll be hosting a Shabbat dinner for the NYC Wine and Food Festival and we've invited friends from around the country to join us in preparing an epic nine-course meal. It only seems fitting since the Shabbat table and my Nana Lee's kitchen are my very first memories of food and cooking—Me, sitting on the counter, her, presiding over the stove like any great chef. That sense of time, place, and ritual gave meaning to my family's week as the Shabbat table has for so many Jews, both secular and religious. It is a place to ask questions, to air grievances, to express gratitude, and sometimes, to simply close the week at peace with a warm bowl of chicken soup. I hope this Friday's opportunity to gather around our Shabbat table will bring to light the potential for Jewish cooking as food that we eat during special occasions and everyday at home. Similarly, we wish to inspire those attending to question the core of Jewish foodways and to strengthen their commitment to its survival.

The next day, on Saturday October 13th, along with Tablet Magazine and ABC Home we're presenting the Future of Jewish Food, a tasting and talk with the country’s foremost practitioners, thinkers and critics. From 5:30 - 9 PM at the ABC Home Mezzanine we'll bring together Gail Simmons, Mitchell Davis, Jordana Rothman and Josh Ozersky for a panel moderated by Joan Nathan about Jewish food in the home and then we'll have a second panel with the deli men from Wise Sons (SF), Kenny & Zuke's (PDX), Saul's (Berkeley), and Mile End moderated by David Sax. Unlike the night before where the food will do the talking, this discussion is an amazing gathering of some of the finest practitioners of Jewish cooking — people who have committed themselves to examining and celebrating our rich culinary history while simultaneously innovating and moving forward the conversation about its future. With a variety of opinions and perspectives, I'm expecting a very lively conversation.

After all the eating and talking there will be more eating with a tasting of house made pastrami and smoked meat from each of the delis plus a book signing with all of the panelists.

To read more and purchase tickets for the Shabbat dinner, please visit and to read more and purchase tickets for Saturday's discussion, please visit

Recipe: Twice-Baked Challah

Serves 4

Noah: Like so many delicious foods, this challah was born of thrift and necessity. We found that on any given morning we had plenty of leftover challah, but not enough room on our griddle to make French toast with it. So we took a cue from the French boulangerie tradition of using day-old brioche for a sweet pastry and came up with a rich syrup and topping for the bread that would take well to baking. We like to serve it with fruit Compote (page 193). (Note: You can make the topping ahead and refrigerate it for up to five days; the syrup will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.)

For the syrup:
½ cup sugar
1 cup water
½ cup orange juice
½ tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup maple syrup, plus more for serving

For the topping:
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ pound almond paste, broken into pieces
½ cup slivered almonds, plus more for garnish
¼ teaspoon almond extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup all-purpose f lour
1 cup dried cherries
8 1-inch-thick slices of stale Challah (recipe follows), preferably day-old or older

Make the syrup: Combine the sugar, water, orange juice, vanilla, and maple syrup in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool; set the syrup mixture aside.

Make the topping: Put the butter in the bowl of a stand mix er and, using the paddle attachment, mix on medium speed for a few seconds. Add the almond paste and mix on low speed for a few seconds, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Mix on medium speed until the mixture comes together, about 1 minute. Add the sliced almonds and mix on medium speed for 20 to 30 seconds, stopping to scrape down the bowl if necessary. While the mixer is still running, add the almond extract and mix until it’s incorporated, a few seconds more.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and then restart the mixer at medium speed. While the mixer is running, slowly pour in the eggs; continue mixing until they’re fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Add the flour and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds more. Add the dried cherries and use a spatula to fold them in by hand.

Assemble and bake the challah: Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a 10-by-15-inch baking sheet with parchment or grease it with canola oil or cooking spray.

Quickly dunk the slices of challah into the syrup mixture, shake off any excess, and lay them on the prepared baking sheet. Spread about ½ cup of the topping onto each slice of challah, distributing it all the way to the edges of the bread. Sprinkle with slivered almonds.

Bake the challah, rotating the tray 180 degrees halfway through cooking, until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve either warm or at room temperature, and for extra sweetness drizzle some maple syrup over the challah before serving.

Tip: It’s important to use stale bread; it should be crisp to the touch. You can even slice the challah and leave it out to dry overnight.

Recipe: Challah

Serves 4

Noah: The best challahs, in my opinion, are the ones that straddle bread and cake; they should have a sweet, super-moist crumb—you should be able to squish a piece into a dense little square, like my sister and I used to do as kids—and a glossy crust. It’s a celebratory Shabbos bread, after all. The challah dough also makes our Pletzel and our Cinnamon Buns. This recipe will yield just the right amount of dough for either of those preparations, though you can also easily double the recipe and divide the dough into two batches prior to rising. Leftover challah is also great for French toast and for its delicious cousin, Twice-Baked Challah.

1¼ cups lukewarm water
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon canola oil
¼ cup sugar
4 cups bread f lour
1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
1 additional large egg, beaten, for the egg wash (if making a braided loaf)
¼ cup sesame seeds or poppy seeds (if making a braided loaf)

Make the dough: Combine the water, egg, egg yolk, yeast, oil, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer; whisk the ingredients by hand for a few seconds until combined. Add the flour and salt and, using the mixer’s dough-hook attachment, mix on medium speed until the dough comes together, 3 to 5 minutes. (You can add a little more f lour if the dough seems too sticky.)

Let the dough rest in the bowl for 5 minutes, then continue mixing, sprinkling on more flour if necessary and stopping once or twice to scrape down the dough hook and the sides of the bowl, until the dough is fairly smooth, 3 to 5 minutes more.

On a well-floured surface, roll and tighten the dough into a ball. If you’re freezing the dough, wrap the ball of dough tightly in plastic wrap and place it in the freezer; it will keep there for up to 1 month. If you’re going to make the challah (or pletzel or cinnamon buns) right away, place the dough in a bowl that’s lightly greased with oil or cooking spray, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and let the dough rest in a warm, draft-free area until roughly doubled in size, about 2 hours, before proceeding with the recipe.

If you’re making a Pullman loaf, shape the dough: Transfer the dough ball to a well-floured surface and press and stretch it into a roughly 10-by-8-inch rectangle. With the short edge of the rectangle facing you, start rolling the dough forward into a cylinder. Coat your hands with f lour a few times if necessary to keep the dough from sticking to them. Tuck in any loose edges or ends so that you have a snug, even-sided loaf; transfer the rolled dough to a standard-size loaf pan that’s greased with oil or cooking spray. Lightly grease the top of the loaf and cover the pan with plastic wrap; let the dough rest in the pan in a warm, draft-free area until it has risen roughly to the top edge of the pan, about 1½ hours.

If you’re making a braided loaf, shape the dough: Transfer the dough ball to a well-floured surface and divide it into 3 equal portions. Working with 1 portion at a time (and using plenty of f lour to keep the dough from sticking), use the f lat of your hands to roll the dough portion into a narrow, roughly 12-inch-long strip that’s slightly tapered at the ends and slightly fatter in the middle. Repeat with the remaining 2 dough portions so that you end up with 3 strips of roughly equal length.

Arrange 1 strip of dough perpendicular t o the edge of the table in front of you, then arrange the other 2 strips at a 45-degree angle to the middle one, so that the far tips of each strip are just overlapping. Squish the overlapping tips together with your fingers so that they’re well stuck together.

Braid the challah: Gently lift one of the outer strips, bring it over the middle strip, and lay it down alongside the other outer strip. Next, gently lift the other outer strip and bring it over the middle, laying it down alongside the opposite strip, gently tugging the strips taut so there aren’t any gaps. Repeat this braiding process until you’ve reached the ends of the strips; pinch together the ends. Tuck both pinched ends of the braided strips under the loaf and transfer the loaf to a 10-by-15-inch baking sheet that’s been greased with oil or cooking spray. Lightly grease the top of the loaf, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rest in a warm, draft-free area for about 1½ hours.

When you’re ready to bake, remove the plastic wrap and brush the top of the braided dough with the egg wash. Place the sesame seeds or poppy seeds on a plate, moisten your index finger in water, and press it into the seeds. Then press your finger onto the top surface of one of the braids; the seeds should come off onto the dough. Repeat so that each braided segment has a decorative patch of seeds on it.

Bake the challah: Preheat the oven to 350°F during the final rise.

Bake the challah for about 25 minutes, rotating the pan or tray 180 degrees halfway through cooking, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the bread reads 180°F.

If you’re making the Pullman loaf, let the bread rest for 5 minutes before unmolding it.

Makes 1 pullman or braided loaf

Check back tomorrow for Noah and Rae Bernamoff's final post for the Visiting Scribe and visit their official website here.

Mile End: From Deli to Cookbook

Wednesday, October 10, 2012 | Permalink

Noah and Rae Bernamoff are the owners of Mile End deli and the authors of the cookbook The Mile End Cookbook. They will be blogging here all week for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

We just wrote a cookbook filled with recipes, stories and ideas from our restaurants.

When we opened Mile End Delicatessen in January of 2010, we had little sense of how our style of Jewish comfort food from scratch would resonate. The decision to open a 430 square foot deli on a side street in Brooklyn was a gamble for a couple of twentysomethings with no industry experience. With all of the other operational elements outside of our comfort zone, the food was the intensely personal and familiar constant.

If we didn’t foresee how deep the love of liver ran prior to opening, we soon found out. The warm memories and harsh critiques were aplenty from our Jewish and non-Jewish customers alike. We didn’t put chicken soup on the menu for the first few months for fear of treading on Bubbie’s sacred tablespace.

With nearly 3 years of slinging smoked meat sandwiches behind, us we recognized that we had hundreds of recipes and countless more stories about where they come from, how we use them and why we love them. The hope is that we summarized generations of tradition and years of kitchen experience into a handy and timeless guide to cooking Jewish comfort food. Obviously that’s a tall order, and only time will tell if the recipes and techniques are adopted and utilized by our peers and progenitors.

The process of putting together a cookbook is a trying one. Of course conceiving of a format that's friendly to casual and advanced cooks alike, while scaling down recipes usually made by the boat load, is challenging, but even more so was striking the balance between reverence for history and tradition, personal anecdote and modern relevance.

In all truth, it took us a couple strikes to finally hit the look, feel and focus that we were going for. In fact, much fell into place once we agreed that it should be called 'The Mile End Cookbook'. For months we attempted to come up with an alternative name that would be descriptive to browsers unfamiliar with our brand, one that wasn't as regional or restaurant specific. We loved the humor in 'A Nice Jewish Cookbook' and felt like 'Schmaltz' really represented our approach to cooking, but after literally hundreds of attempts on the title and cover design we finally concluded that we should roll with our namesake.

Check back all week for more posts from Noah and Rae Bernamoff and visit their official website here.

Book Cover of the Week: The Mile End Cookbook

Tuesday, April 24, 2012 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

The Mile End Cookbook: Redefining Jewish Comfort Food from Hash to Hamantaschen (Noah and Rae Bernamoff) will be published by Clarkson Potter in September: