FR Thanksgiving Interview: Noah and Rae Bernamoff
Canadian Thanksgiving might just have America beat
Brooklyn's Mile End Delicatessen has won an intense, Momofukian following for Montreal-style smoked brisket sandwiches and other awesome things from Canada — poutine, ice-cold cans of Labatt Blue and pre-helmet-era Canadiens photos lining the bathroom. Noah and Rae Bernamoff opened the popular restaurant in 2010 and recently published The Mile End Cookbook. We sat down with the couple at the Food Republic Test Kitchen to find out about all things Canadian Thanksgiving (which landed this year on October 8) as well as tips for those celebrating in the good old U.S.A.
So you don’t believe in Thanksgiving or something?
Noah: No, no, I don’t not believe in it. I just don’t do it. Canadian Thanksgiving is this coming weekend and if you’re a Jewish Canadian, you’ve already sustained a month-long string of Jewish holidays, which of course means getting together with your family and eating too much food a couple times. By the time you get around to Canadian Thanksgiving, it’s like, ehhhh, I don’t want to fucking come see my aunts and uncles for the sixth or seventh time. You have Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot.
So if you’re celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving, what did you prepare?
Rae: My aunt always makes it and prepares an epic feast. She lived abroad for a number of years and my mother snuck in and stole her pumpkin soup recipe while she was gone and it was probably the biggest family feud that was ever had because my mother tried to replicate it in her absence, which was not appreciated. Since we’ve opened the restaurant, we’ve been doing smoked turkeys, which was something that was never traditional for our family and adds a really nice dimension.
Do you even like turkey?
Noah: I like it if it’s well cooked. Turkey is one of those things that can be awesome or also really terrible. A piece of beef, even when it’s poorly cooked, I can chew it down. But a dry turkey is just disgusting.
Are you a gravy person?
Noah: I love gravy, yeah.
Rae: I’m more of a cranberry person.
Noah: I like the cranberry sauce. But I don’t like it when it’s sweet. I like it really tart. I think fresh cranberries are generally very tart and the stuff that comes out of the can is always really weird – but there’s a weird thing that’s always kind of good about that.
Do you have any tips for our readers who might be new to the kitchen?
Noah: I would recommend roasting the turkey the day before – I assume most people aren’t going to smoke their turkeys. I’m always amazed that people think that they are going to just roast the turkey and then pull it out of the oven just as the guests arrive and it’s going to be perfect. Stop playing that game – you need your oven to warm up or roast your sides and turkey usually takes up the whole oven. Roast the turkey the day before and roast it to a temperature that allows you to put it back in the oven for a good hour. Let it finish cooking and then let it rest and slice it. I’m always flabbergasted when people think that they can pull everything off with one oven in a regular home.
Yeah, you’re just sitting around for way too long.
Noah: Right. Make your sides fresh. Make your sweet potatoes fresh in the morning, roast your brussels sprouts fresh.
Do you guys have any advice about buying turkeys?
Noah: It’s interesting. I kind of drank the Kool-Aid on heritage turkeys and then I talked to Tom Mylan [of The Meat Hook in Brooklyn] pretty extensively about it, and he doesn’t see any benefit to them. In theory, it’s nice to know that your turkey is a special breed and someone is keeping it alive and preserving history. But I think that the best thing to do to get it on the plate is to get a large organic turkey. I don’t think you need to go that extra step and order it from some turkey day care center in North Carolina.
Can you talk about main proteins outside of turkeys that you’d focus a Thanksgiving feast around?
Noah: I’ve always thought that standing rib roasts make sense for secular holidays. It’s really easy to do and once you put the rib roast in the oven after you have seared it off, you can literally set the oven at any temperature between 140 to 200 degrees and leave it in there indefinitely.
Why? The meat won’t toughen?
Noah: If you do it at like 140, it will just sit there in the heat and keep cooking really slowly to rare. It’s really good.
How long does it rest?
Noah: Let it rest for an hour, hour and a half. Just have the butcher butcher the bones off and then tie the bones back on. Sear it off and drop it in the oven – I usually put something like that in at 250 [Fahrenheit] for three to four hours and then drop it down to 140 and let it chill in there for a long time.
Let’s talk about the day after. Do you have a favorite way to do leftovers?
Noah: I usually stand at the fridge with the door open and just pick at it [laughs].
Rae: Maybe we should try like a turkey hash.
Noah: I don’t know. I’d do a leftover turkey knish – that sounds good. It’s already a potato-based thing, so just take the sweet potato or squash, throw some turkey bits in or even some cranberries, and that sounds good to me. Even some shredded brussels sprouts.
Rae: Everyone makes simple turkey sandwiches. I can almost see making a stuffing after Thanksgiving with all the leftover stuff from the day: a post-Thanksgiving stuffing.
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