Sweet Brisket for a Sweet New Year

The “Jewish Judy” tab in My Judy the Foodie binder has gotten a lot of use. There’s no denying that Mom’s Sweet and Sour Brisket is always our celebrated main course.  This meat graced the table at most Friday night dinners at my grandma’s apartment. Even though my husband, a serious carnivore, claims he doesn’t actually “like” the taste of brisket, I feel obligated to cook the meat.  As a consolation prize, I’m also offering up Mom’s Rosemary Baked Chicken which has been served to accolades  around the table.  I still secretly need to be assured that at least one meat dish will turn out.

Here are some of my favorite menu planning tips for the holidays to help you avoid any undo stressers:

Once your main course is decided, it’s easy to round out a holiday meal with other signature Jewish sides.  If you tried Mom’s Kugel Recipe, you know that you can use this tasty noodle dish as a side to any main course.

It’s also ok to take some short cuts in  meal prep.  While Mom certainly has many Matzoh Ball soup recipes, I do happen to live on the same block as the world-famous Zabar’s, which boasts some of the best homemade matzoh balls ever! Zabar’s is a long-standing one-stop-shopping hub for most Jews on the Upper West Side. I predicted there would be heavy traffic in the store leading up to the holiday so I purchased any items I needed early on in the week to avoid any (additional) headaches.

Pre-holiday rush at Zabar’s— photo credit: Katherine Weber

House/Apartment Prep:

You better make sure you have enough flatware, plates, bar ware, baking pots, pans, etc…  This might seem obvious but, after I bought the most intimidating 4lb slab of first-cut brisket, I realized I had something to serve it in but I didn’t have anything to cook it in!

Planning out the serving dishes

Invest in the heaviest, sturdiest “dutch oven pot.”  It’s built to last a lifetime, and I always joke that it could even function as a bunker for my family during any threat of violence.

Meal Prep:  Map everything out to avoid any guessing:

Look at your menu and be aware that you will be juggling different oven temperatures, defrost times, bake times, cool times.  Make working timetable to keep track of each item’s cooking duration to be certain we’d be able to eat together as a family. Don’t want to spend your entire night in the kitchen.  You’ll want to be able to sit and enjoy the meal and conversation too.

Somehow, Mom always managed to have a nice rhythmic flow to her meals.  She allowed ample time for her guests to enjoy each course and every dish was miraculously ready at the same time her guests appeared eager for the next item.  It’s a bummer when you’re mentally ready to eat your main course and you’re stuck eating the vegetables and sides, waiting in anticipation.  I always have to post my crude timetable on my cabinets as it gives me much-needed direction to help navigate through the various instructions for each dish.

The Dinner Blueprint


Be Present – Savor the Meal:

You work hard enough in the kitchen, it’s only fair that you be present at the meal to get live feedback (whether good or bad).  Sometimes, when you’re satisfied to have pulled off such a bountiful home-cooked dinner, you can become oblivious to all the other nuances happening at your table (like my kids arguing over the last piece of Challah, my son getting his greasy hands all over the dining room chairs).  Try to take in the moment, the company, the conversation, the food.  Before long, you’ll be clearing the table, washing the dishes and focusing on bedtimes and the next days’ routines.

My stove top— fully used!

I truly admire the commitment my family has made to recapture meaningful dinner times together.

Providing homemade meals for my family makes me feel like I’m not only feeding their stomachs, I’m nourishing their minds and their souls.

Table set and ready to please


Delicious Brisket ready to be cut(against the grain) and served


Do you have any tricks you use to help facilitate preparing for dinner parties?


  1. Yum, this sounds really good. My sister always makes the holiday brisket, and it is delish, but I’m going to have to give this one a try.

Speak Your Mind