As the Jewish High Holy days approach, forget the sweet Kedem or Manischewitz. There’s a whole new crop of kosher wines landing on top restaurant wine lists not simply for their sacred status but on merit alone. Some of the best are out of Israel, where the trend is high acid, blended and food friendly. Made by indie-minded winemakers, these young guns are shifting from traditional Baron Rothschild’s first Bordeaux vines to spunky Mediterranean varietals that thrive in Israel’s extreme climate.
Kosher food is turning just as edgy with chefs taking the same farm-to-table tack as their gentile peers; after all, fresh fruits and vegetables are kosher. Here are a few kosher dishes and pairings that represent the new face of this crowd-pleasing cuisine that’s steeped in a rich culture and tradition.
Smoked Turkey Latkes with Spiced Apple Compote
Recipe courtesy Zeke Wray, executive chef at Bistro at Canyons in Park City, Utah
1 medium onion
3 pounds russet potatoes (about 6)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
½ pound smoked turkey (meat only, shredded)
⅓ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
About 1 cup vegetable oil, for frying
Preheat oven to 200˚F. Cut the onion lengthwise to fit in the tube of a food processor, then grate with the medium shredding disk. Transfer the onion to a large bowl. (Do not clean processor.) Peel the potatoes and put them in a bowl of cold water. Cut the potatoes lengthwise to fit in the processor’s tube, then grate and add to onions. Toss with the lemon juice and shredded smoked turkey, then with the flour, salt and pepper. Add the eggs and stir to coat. Transfer to a colander set over a bowl. (Potatoes will release their juices.)
Heat ¼ inch of oil to 360˚F in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat. Using a ¼-cup measure, scoop 4 or 5 mounds of potato mixture into skillet. Flatten with a fork to form 3½- to 4-inch pancakes. Cook until golden brown, 2½ to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while making more latkes. Makes 24 latkes.
THE APPLE COMPOTE
⅓ cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, halved
⅛ tablespoon brandy
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 pinch salt
8 golden delicious apples, peeled, cored and cubed
In a large saucepan, combine 2 cups of water with the sugar, vanilla bean, brandy, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt. Boil gently until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture thickens slightly. Add the apples and return to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the apples are very tender and the mixture thickens, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and remove the vanilla beans. Let cool to room temperature before serving with the latkes.
Hagafen 2011 Devoto Vineyard White Riesling (Lake County)
The Riesling grape has a nuanced petrol smokiness that dovetails nicely with the smoked turkey, as well as spiced-apple fruit flavors that flatter the apple compote, says Sean Marron, a Salt Lake City-based sommelier and former beverage director at Canyons. “The wine’s natural food affinity—being relatively low in alcohol, high in acidity and without oak—offers a palate-cleansing effect that contrasts the bold flavors of the caramelized onions,” says Marron.
Recipe courtesy Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff Gray, owners of Equinox Restaurant in Washington, D.C., and authors of The New Jewish Table (St. Martin’s Press, 2013).
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon mustard seed
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 3-pound beef brisket, trimmed
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh thyme
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 carrot, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 quart veal stock
2 cups dry kosher red wine (such as Cabernet Sauvignon)
½ cup balsamic vinegar
Preheat oven to 325˚F. In a small bowl, combine the salt, paprika, mustard seed and pepper. Rub the spice mix all over the brisket. Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat and brown the brisket on both sides, turning once, 5–7 minutes per side.
Transfer the brisket to an ovenproof baking dish just large enough to hold it snugly and add the rosemary, thyme, garlic, chopped vegetables, veal stock, wine and vinegar. Cover the dish with heavy-duty aluminum foil and bake until fork tender, approximately 3–4 hours. Transfer the brisket temporarily to a plate while you pour the liquid through a mesh strainer into a small saucepan, discarding the herbs, vegetables and garlic. Wash and dry the baking dish.
Return the brisket to the clean baking dish. Place another heavy dish on top to press the brisket down. (To achieve the ideal weight of 2½ pounds, you may top it with canned goods.) Wrap the whole assemblage, weights and all, in tinfoil and refrigerate overnight.
Heat the strained braising liquid over medium flame until reduced to about 2½ cups and it has a glaze-like consistency, about 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and refrigerate until ready to reheat the brisket.
To serve, cut the brisket into 3-inch cubes, irregular size is fine, and place in a pan large enough to hold pieces in a single layer. Pour in enough sauce to cover (you may need to add stock) and heat until warmed through, about 10 minutes. Spoon the brisket onto a serving platter and cover with sauce. Serves 6–8.
Ramot Naftaly 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon (Kedesh Valley)
This dry, dark purple wine, with a hint of tobacco, is from Israel’s Kedesh Valley, in the Upper Galilee bordering Lebanon. Barrel-aged for 24 months, it’s the kind of full-bodied red that can stand up to but not overpower the brisket.
Quince and Apple Crustada
Recipe courtesy Gabe Garcia, head chef at Tierra Sur at Herzog Wine Cellars in Oxnard, California
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons salt
1 pound butter or margarine, chilled, cubed
cup ice-cold water
Combine all the dry ingredients and butter in a mixer bowl. Process at low speed to the size of large peas, then add cold water slowly until the dough starts to form. Mix another 30 seconds, then remove from mixer. Wrap with plastic and chill in refrigerator for 1–24 hours.
½ cup granulated sugar
2 cups orange juice
2 pounds quince, washed, peeled, cored and cut into 1⁄4-inch-thick slices
3 strips of orange peel (2 inches long, no pith)
1 whole large star anise
2 pounds Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
1 large egg, beaten
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Combine 2 cups of water with the sugar, orange juice, quince, orange peel and star anise in a pot. Slowly bring to a soft simmer. Cook covered for 30–40 minutes or until the quince is fork tender. Remove the quince and strain the liquid. Cool the quince and mix with the sliced apples. Reduce the liquid to a syrupy consistency and save for finishing sauce.
ASSEMBLE THE DISH
Place a piece of parchment paper on your rolling surface, then roll out the dough into a ¼-inch-thick circle or a rectangle. Spray a sheet pan with nonstick spray, then transfer the rolled dough to the sheet pan dough side down so the parchment paper is on top. Peel away the paper, and spread the quince and apple mix onto the dough, leaving a 3-inch border. Flip up the border and apply egg wash. Sprinkle with sugar.
Bake in 350–375˚F oven until golden brown, about 35–40 minutes. Serve either hot or cool with reduced syrup, vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Serves 8–10.
Herzog 2012 Late Harvest Orange Muscat (California)
“I love the pairing of fennel and orange, which I try to mimic with the star anise and Orange Muscat,” says Garcia. “This wine has hints of pineapple and passion fruit which complement the dish and add complexity. The light finish adds brightness without overpowering the delicacy of the fruit.”
What Makes a Wine Kosher?
The techniques used during kosher production are almost identical to those used to create other wine, there are just a few more rules to observe.
First, kosher wine can only be handled by Sabbath-observant Jews during the entire winemaking process, from harvesting of grapes through fermentation and bottling.
Interestingly, it’s not necessary for the winemaker at a kosher winery to be Jewish. Many are not, they simply rely on Jewish staffers to actually handle the materials and equipment.
Second, and most obviously, all the ingredients must be certified kosher. While the basic ingredients (like grapes) are already kosher, several modern-day items—certain yeasts and animal-based fining additives, such as gelatin or isinglass—are prohibited.
Third, tools and storage facilities must remain kosher. This means no officially designated kosher equipment can be used for the production of non-kosher wine.
Fourth, all production must be overseen by a mashgiach, who ensures all is, well, kosher.
Fifth, if a kosher wine is handled by a non-Jew, the wine loses its sacred status—unless the wine is mevushal. The term, which literally means “boiled,” refers to a kosher wine that is heated, which then preserves its kosher status regardless of who handles it.
Heating wine can often bring out those not-so-pleasing raisiny, rubbery or stewed fruit flavors once found in many old-school commerical kosher wines. But thanks to recent innovations in flash pasteurization that lessen the impact on the wine’s flavor profile, those screw-face-inducing notes may soon be a thing of the past. —Lauren Buzzeo