When breaking Yom Kippur fast, think quick, easy — think breakfast
If you boil down the concept of breaking the Yom Kippur fast to its culinary essence, two basic rules become clear — make it easy to prepare and make it easy on the stomach.
That's because one of the major aspects of this holy day of atonement, which comes at the end of the Jewish new year celebration, is a 25-hour fast. The day is spent in prayer and contemplation. And when it's finally time to eat, nobody wants to be rushing into the kitchen to make a complicated meal (or sitting and waiting for it when you're starving).
Plus, after an extended period of not eating, you want to ease the stomach back into satiety with a light meal.
Many families treat this meal, literally, as a breakfast and eat the kind of foods you might find at a Sunday brunch. So it's no surprise that all kinds of gentle dairy dishes, like eggy noodle or potato kugels and cheese blintzes, are served. Many of the convenient deli favorites such as smoked fishes and bagels with cream cheese show up, as well.
Meat guru Bruce Aidells, author of "The Great Meat Cookbook," which comes out next month, had a childhood steeped in this tradition. His grandfather was president of their conservative synagogue and his grandmother owned and ran a Jewish deli in the Boyle Heights section of Los Angeles.
Aidells recalls Yom Kippur "breakfasts" that included deli foods such as smoked salmon and cheese strudel, as well as a standard dish that was always served consisting of boiled potatoes and sour cream. He remembers that his own mother went much more directly toward convenience and would prepare something as simple as tuna fish salad or even, in a pinch, kosher hot dogs.
For Noah and Rae Bernamoff, owners of The Mile End Jewish-style delicatessen in Brooklyn and authors of a new cookbook bearing the same name, memories of the deli play an important role in their respective Yom Kippurs as well.
The two met at Montreal's McGill University in 2003 at a Sabbath dinner and quickly realized they shared a passion for ritual, history and tradition, particularly as it related to the foods of their Jewish upbringing.
Both grew up in a delicatessen culture, he in Montreal and she in New York. In a phone interview, Rae recalled Yom Kippur breakfasts replete with smoked fishes, cheeses and baked goods from the legendary Russ & Daughters of Houston Street in Manhattan.
After college, while Rae was working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and Noah was in law school, the two began the process that would turn their passion into a profession.
Noah, with a nostalgia for the great Jewish restaurants of his childhood, such as Schwartz's and Beauty's Luncheonette, had been distracting himself from a second year of law school by trying to re-create smoked meat (Montreal's excellent take on pastrami) using a Weber grill on his Brooklyn rooftop. By the next year, he and Rae had signed a lease on a small storefront in the Boerum Hill section of Brooklyn as a location for their now wildly successful restaurant, which features handmade Jewish deli and home-style dishes.
For Yom Kippur, the Bernamoffs offer takeout platters of house-cured and smoked salmon along with a wide selection of handcrafted deli favorites, such as egg, chicken or whitefish salad.
This twice-baked challah from "The Mile End Cookbook" is a perfect dish for Yom Kippur. The French toast-like dish can be assembled ahead of time, then baked just before serving.
If your stomach is up to it, you can serve it with some of their light and mild veal and turkey breakfast sausage patties (see www.deseretnews.com for the recipe), which also can be prepared ahead. Just be sure to substitute margarine for the butter in the topping of the twice-baked challah if you are serving the two dishes together and keeping kosher.
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