The Austin Chronicle

Classic Jewish Comfort Food Elevated With Modern Techniques

Reviewed by Amy Kritzer, September 14, 2012, Food

The Mile End Cookbook

by Noah and Rae Bernamoff
Clarkson Potter, 224 pp., $27.50

Named after the Montreal neighborhood where co-owner Noah Bernamoff's grandparents grew up, the Mile End Delicatessen, in Brooklyn, N.Y., is a nod to the traditional Jewish comfort cuisine of generations past. Noah, along with his wife Rae, does not try to compete with Bubbe's beloved kugel, matzo ball soup, and rugelach in The Mile End Cookbook. Rather, all of those classic recipes which appear in this, their first book, emphasize using from-scratch techniques and quality, organic ingredients. The recipes included are mostly deli favorites like potato knishes and latkes, but they take traditional Jewish cooking to the next level by depicting the methods for homemade pickling, meat smoking, bread baking, and homemade condiment creating. Bubbe will be comfortable with the schmaltz-heavy classics, and totally verklempt over modern updates such as smoked-meat hash and chicken confit.

For the husband and wife team, food is all about the memories – from reminiscing about one's first pastrami on rye to remembering grandmother's brisket. Their goal is to connect to the past and their families through food. Not surprisingly, the book and its 100-plus recipes are dedicated to the duo's grandmothers. It starts off with an introduction from each Bernamoff, including how they met, their food influences, and a brief homage to all things schmaltz. Part I starts with a "do-it-yourself delicatessen," from curing lox to pickling onions. Next up is the main event, with recipes ranging from a refined golden-beet salad with – wait for it – schmaltz vinaigrette, to challah cinnamon buns. You read that right. They end with a brief list of holiday menu ideas. Touching family stories and expert anecdotes are interspersed throughout, along with mouthwatering photos of food worth their weight in gelt.

Even if borscht and kreplach don't sound up your culinary alley, as a fellow member of the tribe, I can honestly say this book is worth its purchase for the kosher lamb bacon recipe alone. The Bernamoff clan has a real love for food and family, which shows in their recipes. They pay homage to tradition, while elevating Jewish food to a refined level it deserves.

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