‘Tis the season of endless Jewish holidays, back to school frenzy, an abundance of apples…and also niche Jewish cookbooks. With the releases of The Book of Schmaltz: Love Song to a Forgotten Fat and Nosh on This: Gluten-Free Baking from a Jewish American Kitchen we add two fascinating but narrowly focused cookbooks to the collection.
I love schmaltz, and so I was pretty excited to receive a copy of The Book of Schmaltz. You should know: I keep several kinds of schmaltz in my freezer at any given moment, and love to find ways to incorporate it into a variety of dishes, so this book couldn’t be more perfect for a fat-lovin’ gal like me.
The book contains recipes for all the classics you would expect including traditional chopped liver, chicken soup with matzo balls, and kreplach. Some of the more surprising recipes included in the book are schmaltz-roasted potatoes with onion and rosemary, chicken sausage and even oatmeal cookies with dried cherries (I will be trying this recipe very soon).
Ever heard of helzel? Well I hadn’t until I saw it listed under “Traditional Recipes.” Ruhlman’s version calls for stuffing kiskhe into chicken skin – yum! Though when my husband and I called the grandmothers to consult about this long–lost dish we heard that their versions of traditional helzel was prepared by stuffing a turkey neck. In fact, my Grandma Phoebe shared that her grandmother (my great-great grandmother) would include helzel in her weekly Shabbat cholent .
But before James Beard Award-winning author Michael Ruhlman gets into the recipes themselves, he actually gives a easy-to-follow guide to making your own homemade, perfectly rendered chicken fat – very useful indeed especially for the schmaltz virgin.
What a great gift for any of your family or friends who loves traditional Ashkenazi fare and isn’t afraid a little fat.
The Book of Schmaltz: Love Song to a Forgotten Fat, Michael Ruhlman and Donna Turner Ruhlman, (August 2013)
Schmaltz is not the only ingredient I gush over: I also gush for gluten. I have written before about my distaste for the gluten-free fad we are currently experiencing. But I do feel for my fellow gluten lovers who are unable to consume gluten-laden products due to medical reasons, which includes authors Lisa Stander-Horel and Tim Horel, two bakers dedicated to high-quality gluten-free baked goods. Their cookbook Nosh on This was also just released.
“The tragic irony is that we Jews are a people with an extensive repertoire of high-gluten delicacies, many of which we regard as cultural icons. We even have special prayers that we say before eating pastry.”
I never thought of it in this way but it is true: we are a people who value breads and sweets. So what is a gluten-free Jew to do!? In Lisa Stanger-Horel and Tim Horel’s case, they perfected a wide range of baked goods including Jewish classics like chocolate babka, honey cake, challah, rugelach and hamantaschen. Some other stand-outs? “Marizipany Gooey Brownies,” apple pie, and even éclairs and tiramisu.
Love eating matzo at Passover but can’t handle the gluten? They’ve got a recipe for that too.
For the Jewish baker the ultimate compliment is always, “it’s so good, it doesn’t even taste pareve.” These recipes look as mouth-watering as their gluten-laden counterparts. What a wonderful cookbook for the baker in your life who needs to stay away from gluten.
Nosh on This: Gluten-Free Baking from a Jewish American Kitchen, Lisa Stander-Horel and Tim Horel (September 3, 2013)
Don’t get me wrong: I love fresh fruits and veggies. But I also love schmaltz. Not everyday. Not in large doses. But when it’s appropriate, I enjoy taking that fatty, liquid gold and using it for good, not evil.
But you know what I also love? Chicken skin. That is, gribenes. (Yes, me and your grandmother both.) I am always trying to find new uses, including these Deviled Eggs with Schmaltz and Gribenes and my Ultimate Kosher Burger with Grilled Pastrami and Gribenes. Gribenes will never be bacon. But it’s not a bad substitute for something salty and greasy in kosher cooking.
So when I came across this recipe for Chicken N Waffles Cupcake, I was inspired: breakfast + dessert, sweet + savory, all wrapped up in a cupcake. How could I make this kosher?
And then I realized: I shouldn’t just make this cupcake kosher. I should make it Jewish. Really Jewish. And that’s how it was born: My pareve maple gribenes cupcake.
So when my husband came home from the butcher with 2 huge, free* bags of chicken skin I got straight to work. And I must admit, we were a bit frightened by the results.
The cupcake and the frosting are SO good and moist they don’t taste “pareve” at all. But I’ve got to be honest, while the gribenes looked very pretty, we couldn’t decide if we really loved it on top of a cupcake. But novelty wins the day, and this photo makes it all worthwhile:
I am so happy to have a great new pareve dessert recipe to come out of one my slightly nutty gribenes-inspired ideas. You can choose to include the gribenes, or leave it off all together, but either way, happy cupcake making!
Meanwhile, my quest to use gribenes continues!
How to make your own gribenes? Cut chicken skin into medium size strips. I don’t like cutting them too small, I like a larger piece of skin to crunch on. Heat a large skillet on medium heat and add a scant tsp of oil or chicken fat (schmaltz) into the pan. Add chicken skin and saute 20-25 minutes, scraping frequently with spatula or wooden spoon to avoid the skin sticking or burning.
When skin is a deep brown and appears crispy, remove with slotted spoon and place onto a paper towel. Sprinkle with a smidge of salt.
1 ¼ cup all purpose flour
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp baking powder
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 Tbsp maple syrup
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup almond milk mixed with 1 Tbsp vinegar
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
3 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 Tbsp maple syrup
pinch of salt
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place liners in a muffin tin and spray with non-stick spray.
Sift together the flour, cinnamon, salt, baking soda and baking powder in a small bowl. In another larger bowl, beat egg, sugar, vanilla, maple syrup and oil until combined.
Alternate adding flour mixture and milk mixture to the wet ingredients.
Fill muffin cups 3/4 way full and turn oven down to 325 degrees right before placing the pan into the oven. Bake the cupcakes around 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
To make the frosting, beat together shortening, sugar, vanilla, maple syrup and salt in a stand mixture until smooth.
When cupcakes have cooled completely, pipe or spoon frosting as desired.
Garnish with gribenes if desired and an extra drizzle of maple syrup.
*TIP: butchers often throw out all that chicken skin, so if you are hankering to make your own gribenes, you probably can do it for free. It's also a great way to render your own chicken fat.
Bon Apetit Magazine recently featured variations on deviled eggs that included a recipe for bacon deviled eggs which got me thinking about: how to make a more Jewish version!?
Shortly after reading through the recipes, I was munching on some crunchy gribenes from 2nd Avenue Deli in New York, and it came to me: deviled eggs with chicken fat and gribenes could be the perfect Jewey alternative!
So what is gribenes? I always describe this traditional Eastern European food as a “Jewish pork rind,” which Wikipedia agrees with. Never made it before? The Shiksa in the Kitchen has a great step-by-step schmaltz and gribenes guide.
1 dozen large eggs
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp chicken fat (schmaltz)
1 tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 batch gribenes
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Place eggs in single layer in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and when water comes to a full boil, cover and remove from heat. Let eggs stand in water for 15-17 minutes. Allow eggs to cool.
Peel shells from eggs carefully, and cut eggs in half lengthwise. Remove egg yolks.
In a small mixing bowl mash egg yolks, chicken fat, mayonnaise, salt and pepper. Add egg yolk mixture to piping bag or plastic bag with the tip cut off, and pipe into egg white halves.
Garnish with pieces of crispy gribenes and fresh parsley.