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4 Mistakes to Avoid When Cooking for the High Holidays, According to Chef Mark Strausman

The High Holidays are an important and celebratory time in the Jewish calendar. With Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, approaching on the evening of September 15, Chef Mark Strausman, owner of Mark’s Off Madison, shares invaluable advice to ensure your holiday meals are memorable for all the right reasons.

1. Inadequate Planning:

  • Mistake: Not planning out your menu or understanding when and how to prepare each dish.
  • Solution: Always plan in advance. Knowing not just what you’re cooking, but when and how you’re going to cook and reheat it, is essential. “Poor planning gives you poor results,” Strausman points out. A well-thought-out plan ensures a seamless meal preparation experience.

2. Being Absent from the Festivities:

  • Mistake: Spending all your time in the kitchen and missing out on the joy of the celebration.
  • Solution: Prepare dishes ahead of time, and include options that can be served at room temperature. Strausman suggests making dishes that can easily be reheated, rather than cooking everything from scratch during the gathering. “Make things ahead of time,” he recommends.

3. Dense Matzah Balls:

  • Mistake: Using water which can result in heavy, dense matzah balls that sink.
  • Solution: Use club soda instead of water. The salt in club soda, combined with its carbonation, adds lightness to the matzah balls. “It adds a little fluffiness and a little air,” Strausman says.

4. Improper Brisket Cooking:

  • Mistake: Cooking the brisket at too high a temperature and not for long enough.
  • Solution: Cook the brisket “slow and low.” Brisket should be tender enough that a fork can easily pass through it. Strausman suggests using an oven set at 325 degrees and cooking the brisket until it’s fork-tender. More importantly, he stresses the importance of relying on your senses rather than strictly following a recipe, as ovens can vary. “The person who wrote the recipe doesn’t have the same oven you do,” he mentions.

Following these guidelines will not only ensure delicious results but will also allow you to fully immerse in the festive spirit of the High Holidays. Chag Sameach!

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