Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Friday Night Dinner Project: Nostalgia Dinner

For this week’s Friday Night Dinner Project, we made the Nostalgia Dinner.  This week, at least for me, it was all about the challah.  More on that later.  This is a wonderful dinner, featuring both Sephardic and Ashkenazi dishes.  It is the perfect meal for the cold, snowy day we are having here in Ontario. 
Before I dive in – if you do not have a copy of Friday Night Dinners you can purchase one here.

Whiskey Sours
The first thing on this menu is a drink, which I actually did not make.  I do not drink whiskey, and I cannot imagine how to make a non-whiskey Whiskey Sour….so I cannot comment on this recipe.

Lentil Soup with Caramelized Onions

This soup is quick andeasy to make.  It is flavourful (thanks to the onion, garlic, and cumin) but not hot which is just how I like it.  The soup pairs wonderfully with the challah.

Friday Night Brisket
This recipe reminded me of one of the truly special things about this book – Bonnie Stern’s thoughtful commentary which is woven into each recipe.  She provides excellent tips to help the reader as he or she works through the recipes, she offers great suggestions for using leftovers or substitutions.  However, the thing I like the most is reading her memories of family dinners with everyone from friends, to children, to parents and grandparents.  Any regular readers of my site know how important the family meal is to me.

This was my first time cooking a brisket.   I am pretty sure it was also my first time eating one.  I have to confess that my husband actually cooked this recipe (I prepped everything for him but then my little one had to go to bed.  My husband stepped in and finished the recipe, he did a great job.  He’s not a cook – at all – but he followed the instructions as written and it turned out wonderfully.)

With regards to the brisket – whenever I need a special piece of meat and I am downtown Toronto, I go to Carnicero’s in the St. Lawrence Market.  Unfortunately I was not able to get there this week, so I purchased our brisket at Costco.

Our dutch oven was not big enough to hold the brisket (now I know what I need for Christmas!) so we cooked the stovetop portion in a large skillet, and then transferred everything to a 9x13 stone dish for the oven portion.  Bonnie Stern suggests cooking this a day or two ahead, so my husband cooked this the night before we ate it. We reheated it (as instructed in the book) the next day and served it with salad and mashed potatoes (the potatoes were the only dish not actually in this menu, but I just love them).  We also made the roasted broccoli to have with leftovers. 

The brisket was delicious.  The meat was so tender and the sauce poured over it as well as the potatoes made it the perfect meal for a winter day.

Pierogi with Potatoes and Caramelized Onions
Well, this is my first Friday Night Dinner Fail.  It was not the fault of the recipe though.  It was the cook.  I had the pierogis all prepared, lined up beautifully on my parchment lined baking sheet, about to go in the pot when….CRASH!!!  Someone (not naming names) knocked it off the counter and they went all over the floor.  I tried to piece them back together, but I did not have enough time to do it properly, so many of them leaked in the pot.  I still ate them (not wasting food!) and even took a picture of them with the salad, but they were definitely not as they should be.  I am hoping to make them again sometime soon as I still have leftover wonton wrappers and the filling was very easy to whip up.

At least they look good in the picture!

Roasted Broccoli
So simple.  So good.  Not much to say about this recipe - straightforward and good.  Somehow salt makes everything (including broccoli) taste better.

Anna’s House Salad
One of the most pleasant surprises of my project so far is all these great homemade salad dressing recipes.  There are so many salads in this book that I had not made before, and every time I am really impressed with the dressings.  I have made my own dressing before, but the variety of different dressings in this book is great.  I am never going to buy pre-made salad dressing again – except for Ranch because I love it. 
The sweet Asian style dressing (recipe here, scroll down) that tops this salad is great.  I served it plain on green leaf lettuce, but it would be wonderful on a salad topped with cashews, chicken and peppers or snap peas.  

Jenny Soltz’s Challah
This recipe begins with a beautiful introduction Bonnie (can I just call her Bonnie? I don’t actually know her…) wrote about her grandmother who raised eleven children and “kept her family in bread all winter by winning first place in the county fair with her amazing challahs” (Stern 94).  Bonnie says she likes to think this was her grandmother’s own recipe. 

This challah is amazing.  It is hands down the best challah recipe I have tried.  I have made this challah, many, many times and it is always loved by anyone who tries it.  (Note: There is also a sidebar here which includes a recipe for French Toast Casserole, made using the challah, which I have made numerous times topped with a raspberry sauce.  It is divine and always gets rave reviews.  It is wonderful for a brunch.  I digress…)

If you are not a bread baker do not feel intimidated, the instructions are very clear and easy to follow.  You need time to allow the dough to rise (twice) but it is not a complicated recipe.  The other thing I love about this recipe is that it uses all purpose flour – no special bread flour kneaded.  Ha!  Get it, kneaded instead of needed.  Sorry, I know I am the only one laughing.  Anyway, this is a beautiful bread.  I usually add about 5 ½ cups of the recommended flour in the bowl, then take it out and start kneading, adding flour as necessary.  Oh it is so, so good.  Do not take my word for it – make it for yourself.

First rise

The three sticks, as I call them

The braid

Brushed with egg


Patti’s Apple Cobbler
This apple cobbler is sort of a cross between apple cobbler and apple crisp.  At least that is what it reminded me of, the topping has sort of a crispy cake like texture.  If ever there was a dessert for Nostalgia menu this is it.  You can drizzle the top with oil (to keep your menu Kosher) or butter.   I used butter and I served Patti’s Apple Cobbler with Breyer’s Creamery Style Maple Walnut Ice Cream.  It was excellent and a wonderful comfort food dessert.

And that’s a wrap.  Until next week.  

You can view previous menus here:

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