Considered one of the holiest days of the year in the Jewish religion, Rosh Hashanah—which marks the beginning of Yamim Noraim (“Days of Awe”), or the High Holidays—begins at sundown tomorrow, September 28, and ends at nightfall on September 30, marking the New Year 5772.
The holiday is a time to repent for sins and seek reconciliation, based on the belief that God has “books” in which he writes about what will happen to people over the next year. A person’s teshivah (repentance), tefilah (prayer) and tzedakah (good deeds, i.e. charity) during the holiday can alter these decrees before they are sealed on Yom Kippur, 10 days later.
And while it’s a time to look seriously at the past and plan for the future, it’s also a time to gather and celebrate with a delicious, traditional meal. WE turned to Israeli-born and James Beard award-winning chef, Michael Solomonov of Zahav Restaurant in Philadelphia, for recipes paired with wines from the motherland that are perfect for ringing in the New Year.
“I really love how Israeli wines, with their rich fruit and herbaceous character, marry beautifully with the rustic flavors of our modern Israeli cuisine,” says Solomonov. “Varietals like Syrah, Carignan and Petite Sirah are influenced by the wild rosemary, thyme and sage that grows wild all over Israel and do a great job complementing Middle Eastern dishes like our Lamb Shoulder with Persian Rice.”
L’shanah Tovah! To a good year!
Michael Solomonov’s Whole-Roasted Lamb Shoulder With Pomegranate and Persian Rice
For the house brine:
1½ gallons water
1 pound kosher salt
5 ounces sugar
½ pound whole garlic, heads cut in half
¼ cup whole allspice
¼ cup black peppercorns
¼ cup fennel seed
1 bunch parsley
1 bunch savory
For the lamb shoulder:
1 whole lamb shoulder, bone-in, approximately 6 lbs
Entire portion house brine (see recipe)
5 cloves garlic, peeled, germ removed
3 whole carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 Spanish onions, peeled and roughly chopped
2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in water with 1 teaspoon baking soda, drained
16 ounces freshly squeezed pomegranate juice
4 cups chicken stock
2 mint sprigs
¼ cup Italian parsley, roughly chopped
For the Persian rice:
4 cups plus ¼ cup water
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon turmeric
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 pinch saffron (approximately 10 threads)
1 cup Persian or Egyptian rice (available at Middle Eastern groceries)
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
To prepare the brine: Combine all of the ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, remove from the heat and chill thoroughly before using.
To prepare the lamb: Using a fork, puncture the lamb shoulder on all sides, spaced ½ inch apart per prick. Submerge the lamb in the brine for 48 hours, using a weight if necessary to make sure the lamb is completely submerged. Remove the lamb shoulder from the brine and pat dry.
Prepare a charcoal fire and grill the lamb shoulder over indirect heat for approximately 45 minutes on each side, being careful to avoid flare-ups from the dripping fat.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the lamb from the grill and place in a deep roasting pan. Add the garlic, carrots, onions, chickpeas and pomegranate juice to the lamb. Add enough chicken stock to barely cover the lamb. Cover the roasting pan with a double layer of foil and place in the preheated oven. Braise the lamb in the oven for approximately five hours, or until the meat is easily separated from the bone, making sure to baste the lamb with the braising liquid at least once per hour.
Remove the lamb from the oven and allow it to cool in the braising liquid for one hour.
Remove the lamb from the roasting pan and transfer the braising liquid and vegetables to a large saucepot. Simmer the liquid over medium-high heat, skimming regularly to remove excess fat. When the braising liquid is reduced to the point that it coats the back of a spoon—yielding approximately 4 cups of liquid—remove it from the heat and stir in the mint sprigs and parsley.
Increase the oven temperature to 450°F. Return the lamb to the roasting pan and spoon one cup of the reserved braising liquid on top of the lamb. Place the roasting pan in the oven for approximately 5 minutes or until the surface of the lamb is caramelized.
Remove the lamb to a warm platter. Spoon the reduced braising liquid and chickpeas on top of the lamb and serve with a side of Persian rice. Serves 4.
To prepare the Persian rice: Bring the 4 cups of water to a boil in a medium sauce pot with the salt, tumeric, black pepper, cumin and saffron. Add the rice and return the water to a boil. Continue to boil for approximately 7 minutes or until the rice is just al dente. Drain the rice in a colander, stirring carefully with a wooden spoon to cool the rice and remove excess water.
Remove any remaining moisture from the saucepot with a paper towel. Return the pot to a low flame and add the drained rice.
In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and ¼ cup of water and drizzle evenly over the rice. Wrap the lid of the saucepot with a clean tea towel and secure to the handle with a rubber band. Place the lid on the saucepot and cook over the lowest possible heat for one hour.
Remove the pot from the heat and let stand, covered, for 20 minutes. Remove lid and invert pot on a serving platter to release rice. The top of the rice should be golden brown and crispy. Serve immediately. Serves 4.
90 Carmel 2007 Mediterranean Kosher Red (Shomron); $60: An interesting blend of 37% Carignan, 26% Shiraz, 20% Petit Verdot, 15% Petite Sirah and 2% Viognier, this is a delightful red that offers tons of complexity and character. Black plum, cherry and currant fruit flavors are integrated with herbal notes of sandalwood, cigar spice and licorice root. Round and full but structured with gripping tannins and balanced acidity, and everything carrying through the long finish. Drink now through 2014. Royal Wine Corporation. –L.B.
90 Binyamina 2007 Reserve Kosher Shiraz (Upper Galilee); $25: A very attractive and decadent-smelling Shiraz with interesting notes of black tea, cigar tobacco and tanned hide among the rich ripe fruit aromas. Black raspberrry and cherry flesh fill the palate, while the crushed velvet texture conquers the mouth and stays through the close. A hint of smoked meat unfolds on the very end of the finish. Royal Wine Corporation. –L.B.
For more Israeli wine reviews, visit buyingguide.winemag.com