Sunday, April 24, 2011

Passover Brisket

Hello blog readers! I have been a bit silent this month as Neil has been using my computer to edit his movie, but many blog-worthy things have taken place. Let us begin with preparing for Passover, shall we?

Preparing for a Jewish holiday in Copenhagen is not entirely simple. The grocery stores do not all carry matzah. There is no kosher for passover section. There is, however, a kosher store. A two-bus journey from my home, as far as I can tell it is the only kosher store in all of Denmark. I have to remind myself that before living in DC, I hadn't lived in a place with a kosher store, but DC spoiled me. Not only is Kosher Mart a store, it's the size of a regular super market and is filled with kosher food galore. Shopping for Passover there is so simple it's fun. Copenhagen Kosher on the other hand is more like the kosher closet.  It's great that it is here at all, but it's super tiny and has a small and very very expensive inventory.

I ended up with Matzoh from France, matzoh meal from Holland, Gefilte fish from the US, horseradish from Israel, wine from Israel, and the worst Kosher for Passover cookies known to man for about $150. Oy.

Because I went to the Kosher store well before the holiday, I hadn't really planned out my meal yet and wasn't read to buy meat. Also, since we eat non-kosher meat, I thought I would save a little money by purchasing our main dish from the regular grocery store. Oops.

When it came time to cook the Passover meal, I decided that brisket was what we had to cook. After visiting three grocery stores and realizing that I could not recognize any of the cuts of beef in the coolers, I ended up at the neighborhood butcher. To the best of my knowledge, this was the first time I'd ever visited a butcher shop and as I set foot in the tiny store, I realized that it's a bit different than the meat counter at the grocery store.

A young butcher shop employee asked if he could help me and I began to try to explain brisket. I was armed with a Danish word that I think meant brisket and a web page showing the cut of meat on a cow diagram. The man looked like he understood what I was asking, turned, walked into a big room full of meat and returned with what looked like half a cow.

"This?" he said, looking like he'd never ever sold anyone that part of the cow before.

"Um, I guess so." I said. How could I tell him that I had only cooked brisket twice before and I didn't really take a close look at the meat because I had gone to the store, asked for brisket and brought it home wrapped up in butcher paper. Nobody had ever presented half a cow to me before.

"How much?" he asked.

"Um, enough to feed five or six people?" I said nervously, while thinking, "What on earth am I going to do with a hunk of that animal?" But my helpful butcher shop employee was already sawing through the half cow on the counter right in front of me. Oh. My. God.

The next thing I knew, he was wrapping my hunk of scary looking meat in white paper and putting it in a bag for me. While doing this, he looked at his coworker with a "should we really sell this to her?" look on his face which did nothing to inspire confidence in me.

As I walked out onto the sidewalk, blinking in the sunlight and toting a heavy bag of cow, I felt a panic wash over me. I placed the chunk of cow in the stroller basket and thought about how I was supposed to be feeding people passover seder that night. How to get from terrifying cow part to brisket?

Thank goodness for my friend Norah who likes cooking and enjoys chopping and slicing. I don't enjoy touching raw chicken, raw meat, etc. so the thought of cutting up the "brisket" (if that is what it really was) was very unappealing to me. Norah on the other hand, was up for the challenge and trimmed the brisket like a pro.

Unfortunately, I didn't take a photo of the whole chunk of meat, but we did photograph the stuff Norah trimmed off and the part we cooked. See below:

Norah is holding the large chunk of bone she trimmed (no wonder butcher shop employee needed a saw!) and below it is all the fat she trimmed off

This is what we cooked. Does that look anything like brisket to those of you who know your cuts of meat?

I am happy to say that the dinner  came out edible. The brisket didn't get to cook for a long slow time and wasn't nearly as tender as I had hoped, but I also wonder if we got the best part or if that was even brisket that we ate. It's really hard to say.

The less-than-awesome brisket was worth my butcher shop story, though. And my homemade matzoh balls were pretty delicious.


  1. Entertaining story! Hosting guests for dinners in a new place is always a unique challenge. Once upon a time in Germany, we cooked Mexican food for friends and spent a pretty penny on tortilla chips and enchilada fixings. Trying to find limes over there was also an adventure. To this day, our Mexican fiesta holds a special place for the sheer effort involved in making it happen.

  2. Brisket, in danish "Oksespidsbryst"

    Doesn't recall if it's 100% the same cut but should be close to it.

    Link below, what the different cuts are called in danish (no english danish translation thou), cow, sheep, pig and chicken.