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, 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.
VEAL AND TURKEY BREAKFAST SAUSAGE
At Mile End, these kosher-style sausage patties are called "breakfast burgers." Veal is a great substitute for pork in a recipe such as this. The patties also can be prepped the night before and cooked in the morning. The recipe calls for 1 pound each of lean veal and turkey, but 2 pounds of just one of the meats can be substituted.
This recipe calls for grinding the meat for the patties yourself. This can be done using either a grinder (such as those that attach to a stand mixer) or a food processor.
Start to finish: 4 hours
1 1/2 pounds lean veal (such as tenderloin or leg cutlets)
1 pound lean turkey (such as tenderloin)
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more if needed
1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar or maple syrup
2 teaspoons ground black pepper, plus more if needed
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
5 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
Canola oil, to fry
1. Cut both meats into 1-inch pieces, then combine in a large bowl. Add all remaining ingredients except the canola oil. Toss well to coat, then cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
2. If using a meat grinder, place the pieces in the freezer until needed. If using a food processor, place the blade and bowl in the freezer.
3. When ready to cook, use the cold grinder to grind the chilled meat according to your grinder's directions for a coarse grind. If using a food processor, place half of the meat in the chilled processor bowl and pulse until coarsely, but thoroughly chopped, about 8 to ten 1-second pulses. Repeat with the second batch of meat.
4. In a large skillet over medium-high, heat just a splash of oil. Pinch off a small piece of the ground meat, then flatten and cook until browned on both sides. Taste to check for seasoning and adjust as needed.
5. Divide the ground meat into 8 portions and form them into patties. At this stage, the patties can be refrigerated for up to 4 days or frozen for 2 months.
6. Heat just enough oil to coat the pan or skillet, then cook the patties, flipping once, until they are browned and cooked through, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 200 calories; 60 calories from fat (30 percent of total calories); 7 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 95 mg cholesterol; 2 g carbohydrate; 31 g protein; 0 g fiber; 590 mg sodium.
The syrup and topping can be prepared ahead of time. The syrup can be refrigerated for up to a week; the topping will keep for up to five days.
Start to finish: 1 hour
For the syrup:
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup maple syrup, plus more for serving
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
For the topping:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or margarine, room temperature
8-ounce can almond paste, broken into pieces
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup slivered almonds, plus more for garnish
2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup dried cherries
Eight 1-inch-thick slices of stale challah, preferably day-old or older
1. To make the syrup, in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the sugar, water, orange juice and maple syrup. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Set aside off the heat to cool. Once cooled, stir in the vanilla.
2. To make the topping, in a large bowl use an electric mixer on medium to mix the butter or margarine for several seconds. Add the almond paste and almond extract, then mix on low speed for a few seconds, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Increase speed to medium and mix until the mixture comes together, about 1 minute.
3. Add the almonds and mix on medium for 20 to 30 seconds, stopping to scrape down the bowl as needed.
4. With the mixer running at medium speed, slowly pour in the eggs; continue mixing until they're fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Reduce speed to low and add the flour; mix for about 30 seconds. Add the dried cherries and use a spatula to fold them in by hand.
5. Heat the oven to 350 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or coat it with canola oil or cooking spray.
6. Quickly dunk the challah slices into the syrup, shake off any excess, and lay them on the prepared baking sheet. Spoon about 1/2 cup of the topping onto each slice of challah, spreading it all the way to the edges of the bread. Sprinkle with slivered almonds.
7. Bake the challah, rotating the tray halfway through cooking, until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. If desired, drizzle with maple syrup just before serving.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 605 calories; 230 calories from fat (38 percent of total calories); 25 g fat (9 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 95 mg cholesterol; 84 g carbohydrate; 11 g protein; 5 g fiber; 220 mg sodium.
Recipes adapted from Noah and Rae Bernamoff's "The Mile End Cookbook," Clarkson Potter, 2012.