For years the Sussman brothers have been telling us about their dad’s legendary Passover seder — an annual Jewish tradition of telling the story of Israelites escaping slavery through wine (four glasses of it, minimum), traditional food and song (dayenu!). As Eli tells it, Marc Sussman “loooooovvvvvveeeeeesssss him some Passover.”
So much so that each year the elder Sussman decides on a particular theme, which he emails to a dozen or so family members a month prior to the festive meal. One year the seder table became a game show (Eli describes it as a cross between Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune); another year the family moved all the furniture out of the living room and erected a Bedouin tent (the meal was served while everybody was seated). One year Marc asked everybody to write a poem to read aloud during the meal.
Last week, a little more than a week before Passover (it begins April 3), Marc hosted a very Sussman Seder at the Saveur test kitchen. Wearing a matching matzo-print tie and yarmulke, Sussman broke down the historical story, explained the seder plate and made some sweet dad jokes, but also let his sons prepare a totally exciting seder feast — which in pure Sussman form merged classic flavors with inventive, chef-y technique. There was salmon fried in olive oil dotted with a Tunisian chermoula sauce, and a mashup of crispy potato kugel and tender beef brisket (yeah, that’s right, prepared together and there is nothing you can do about it!). It was heavenly. The boys’ mother, Lynne Avadenka, also got in on the action with some serious macaroons drizzled with chocolate. “She was a little nervous beforehand,” said Max of his mother, whose legit pastry skills were clearly passed down to her pita-baking son.
The dinner served as a bit of a preview of the Sussmans’ latest cookbook, Classic Recipes for Modern People. The conceit is to attack so-called “classics” from all directions — classics from their own childhood (their dad’s lamb stew, also served at the dinner), classics from their friends (duck à l’orange) and future classics, which is basically a fun way for the boys to present their recent genius. But when it came down to it, we had to ask them for the brisket-kugel recipe.
Brisket and Potato Kugel
From Classic Recipes for Modern People
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds beef brisket, cut into 1-inch pieces
Pinch of kosher salt
1 yellow onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp firmly packed light brown sugar
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2 cups chicken stock
Pinch of red-pepper flakes
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 yellow onion, minced
7 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1. To make the brisket, in a wide pot, heat the olive oil over high heat. When the oil is very hot, add the brisket and salt and cook, stirring, until browned, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion and sauté until the onion is softened and caramelized, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic, brown sugar and tomato paste and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add the stock and red-pepper flakes and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the meat is falling apart and tender, 2-3 hours. Add water if the pan begins to seem dry. The meat should be just barely covered with liquid when it is ready. If there is too much liquid at the end, transfer the liquid to a small saucepan and simmer over medium-high heat until reduced. Set the brisket aside.
2. Pour the vegetable oil into a 9-by-13-inch baking pan and place in the oven. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the potatoes and cook for 3 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold running water.
4. Working in batches, pulse the potatoes in a food processor, leaving them slightly chunky, with pieces no larger than 1/4 inch. (Be careful not to overprocess, or they will be gluey.) Transfer to a large bowl and add the onion, eggs, 1 tablespoon salt and the pepper.
5. Remove the pan from the oven and spoon in half of the potato mixture, spreading it evenly to the edges of the pan. Spread the brisket evenly on top, then cover with the remaining potatoes.
6. Bake until the potatoes are tender and the top is crispy, about 1 1/2 hours. Let cool slightly before serving.
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