December 12, 2023

Not Your Mother's Tsimmes

A French porcelain soup plate is filled with luscious roasted beef and stewed prunes, sweet potato, new potatoes, and carrots in a savory sauce.

When I first started dating Donald in the mid 70s, his Mom used to make dinner for me from time to time, and one evening she served two things I'd never had before -- a salad with Green Goddess dressing, which I thought amazing, and tsimmes. The Green Goddess is a story for another time; tonight I'm writing to tell you about tsimmes.

Until that evening, I couldn't have imagined what magic would be made with succulent stewed chuck roast, prunes, and sweet potatoes. Sure, my Dad would add pineapple to beef for a grilled teriyaki steak-on-a-stick in the summer, but those cubes of alternating salty/dry and sweet/tart morsels were a world away from the voluptuousness of tsimmes glistening on my plate on a cold winter night. Tsimmes is soul food of the highest and most immediate order for me. 

My mother-in-law left this world decades ago, but I have Donald to carry on his Mom's cooking for me, albeit with more refined technique and presentation. This is a meal that transports me in communion with centuries of Eastern European hearths. If warms my home, I share it now to warm yours.



  • Liz on December 14, 2023

    Hola Señora Gail, both are excellent questions, so I spoke to Donald and here is what he had to say:

    “The reason I recommend discarding the fat after browning the meat is because it’s mostly beef fat, and that’s not a healthy fat. It also makes the resulting stew feel too fatty in the end. Yes, I do indicate that folks should use EVOO to brown the beef, however, I also advise that they select beef with some fat because of the long braise, and fat does add flavor. As a result, there will be a good amount of beef fat in the pan, and oftentimes that fat and oil can take on a burnt taste from browning. You’ll note that I also instruct you to skim off the cold fat after refrigerating the stew. That’s because, depending on how fatty the beef was, there still could be a good amount of fat that rises to the top after braising.

    The cinnamon in the mirepoix won’t be very strong so is ok for a beef stock; it might be a little too noticeable for a light chicken or veg stock. It is also nice added to a hearty soup like minestrone or a tomato meet sauce. The only reason I suggest taking it out is for looks. Leaving it in will make the stew cloudy as apposed to glossy and translucent. It does have a good flavor so if you want a more rustic stew it is okay to leave it in."

    I hope that’s helpful! Please do be in touch should you have further questions.

  • Gail on December 14, 2023

    Hi Liz, can you ask Donald:
    1. In step 1 he advises to discard the oil and rendered fat. And then in step 2 to add more oil to the pan. My question – is there a reason to discard the original oil? Wouldn’t that be full of flavor?
    2. On the day of serving- does he think I could use the mire poix in a vegetable/beef stock or would the flavor of the cinnamon stick be too powerful?
    Thanks ! Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas!!

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