For your Passover Seder: Prairie Street Prime's Baja brisket recipe; kosher wine explained

Mackensy Lunsford
Southern Kitchen

Passover begins on April 15, commemorating Israelites' exodus from Egypt. Observant Jews kick off the weeklong holiday with a seder that calls for reading, drinking plenty of wine and eating a traditional, festive meal.

Hewing to tradition still allows for a bit of creativity in what goes on the seder table, however. Here, Kendra Lee Thatcher, recipe developer for luxury kosher meat company Prairie Street Prime, shares her recipe for Baja brisket, inspired by the flavors of a Mexican birria. The recipe uses Prairie Street Prime Brisket, but another high-fat marbled brisket could be substituted.

Below the recipe, find a guide to excellent Passover wines.

Baja-style brisket.

Ingredients

1 Prairie Street Prime Kosher USDA Prime 2nd Cut Brisket, cut in half

1 teaspoon ground cumin, divided

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided

4 cloves garlic

1 serrano chili, chopped (remove seeds for less heat)

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 8-ounce can chipotles in adobo, divided

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 cup kosher dry red wine, and extra if needed

1 16-ounce can crushed tomatoes

1 large white onion, quartered

3 carrots, quartered

2 ribs celery, quartered

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon kosher salt

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 275. Using a paper towel, remove any extra moisture from each piece of your brisket. Generously season each side with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, and then about a half teaspoon each of cumin and cinnamon. Allow the meat to rest while you prepare the base of the braise.

In your mortar and pestle (or using a small food processor), crush your garlic cloves with kosher salt into a rough paste. To that add your serrano chili, fennel seeds, oregano, ½ teaspoon cumin and ½ teaspoon cinnamon, and grind to break down and incorporate. Add two to four chipotles with sauce to the mortar and incorporate into a paste.

Over a medium flame, heat a heavy bottom cast iron skillet and add your extra virgin olive oil. Sear both sides of each piece of the brisket. Once a nice caramelization has formed on both sides of the brisket, place them both in the skillet and reduce the heat to low-medium.

To the skillet add your kosher dry red wine, crushed red tomatoes, white onion, celery and carrots around the meat.

Top the brisket with all of your Baja-esque paste. Cover your skillet with a tight-fitting lid and cook in the 275 oven for about 3-4 hours. Check your brisket for an internal temperature of about 205.

Remove the brisket from the sauce and allow to rest on a cutting board for about 30-40 minutes. For the braise, carefully puree it into a smooth sauce in the skillet using an immersion blender. Slice your brisket into thinnish slices against the grain and serve over white rice with plenty of sauce, spring onion, cilantro, and wedges of lime. 

A selection of Kosher wines for Passover.

Kosher wine explained

What's the difference between kosher and non-kosher wine? Tastewise, nothing, said Jay Buchsbaum, director of wine education at Royal Wine Corp., the top kosher wine purveyor in America.

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“In fact, many kosher wines are award-winning, beating out their non-kosher competitors for top varietal prizes, including cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and rosés as well," he said.

The urban legend that wine is rendered kosher after being blessed by a rabbi is just that — legend. For a wine to pass as kosher, grapes must be strictly supervised, with purity guidelines put in place from the moment the grapes enter the winery to the bottling process.

To be considered kosher, Sabbath-observant Jews must supervise and sometimes handle the entire winemaking process, from the time the grapes are crushed until the wine is bottled, Buchsbaum said. Any ingredients used, including yeasts and fining agents, must be kosher.

When kosher wine is produced, marketed and sold commercially, it will bear kosher certification granted by a specially-trained rabbi who is responsible for supervision from start to finish.

Wine expert Gabriel Geller, director of public relations for Royal Wine Corp., recommends the following bottles:

  • For those who love a luxurious, bold, layered red, Geller recommends Jewel, Psagot’s new flagship wine (suggested retail price $150). “It’s an impressive bottle of wine with notes of rich black fruit, cedar and vanilla," he said.
  • White wine enthusiasts will enjoy Rimapere ($23), “a delicious, fragrant, floral, citrusy sauvignon blanc," according to Geller.
  • He also suggested the Baron Herzog Rosé ($12), described as fruit-forward, light, flavorful and crisp.
  • Of special interest to the wine world is the return of a kosher batch from the very prestigious Château Pontet-Canet, 5th Cru Pauillac ($225). Geller warns that it may be very difficult to find this fine Bordeaux.
  • However, it will be easy to sample a good selection from Baron Herzog, the historic entry-level quality kosher wines from Herzog Wine Cellars. “They recently underwent a complete revamping,” Geller notes. “Reasonably priced at $9 to $13, Baron Herzog showcases the best in California wines.”
  • Gessa also recommends ESSA Winery, a South African boutique winery that "produces arguably the best quality kosher wine to ever come out of South Africa," he said. ESSA offers a white Bordeaux-style blend, a red Bordeaux-style blend, a malbec and a cabernet franc, all ranging from $20-50. 
  • Carmel Winery’s new Carmel Special Reserve 40th Anniversary Edition 2016 ($80) is also high on Geller’s list. Carmel, the pioneer of the modern Israeli wine industry, was founded by Château Lafite’s Baron Edmond de Rothschild in 1882.
  • Rounding out Geller’s recommendations are Rothschild’s Rimapere Sauvignon Blanc 2021 from New Zealand (SRP $25) and semi-dry rosés and pinot noir sfrom Tura, the estate winery in the heart of biblical Israel (SRP $25-$90).

Mackensy Lunsford is the food and culture storyteller for USA TODAY Network's South region and the editor of Southern Kitchen.

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Reach me: mlunsford@southernkitchen.com