If you’ve ever strolled down Lafayette Street in Manhattan on a Sunday afternoon and wondered what the crowd of stylish, iPhone-jabbing people just south of Spring Street were waiting for, the answer is Jack’s Wife Freda. Opened by New York City food scene veterans Maya and Dean Jankelowitz in 2012, Jack’s Wife Freda has been dubbed the “cool kid’s Jewish restaurant,” and serves food affectionately—and accurately—described as “South African Israeli Jewish Grandmother Cuisine.” It makes sense: the restaurant’s namesake Freda is Dean’s grandmother (her husband, Jack, is Dean’s grandfather).
The restaurant is part of the recent wave of trendy, Jewish-inspired—though decidedly not kosher—restaurants in New York City that have nostalgic 20-somethings banging down their doors for brunch (see: Shalom Japan, Baz Bagels, Black Seed Bagels, Mile End, Russ and Daughters Cafe). Jack’s Wife Freda sets itself apart, however, in that in doesn’t offer your typical Ashkenazi-chic fare. The Jankelowitz’s, who met met more than a decade ago while both working at Balthazar, drew on their personal backgrounds—Dean is from South Africa and Maya is from Israel—for the menu, which features items like green shakshuka, a Mediterranean breakfast (eggs, Israeli salad, labne, avocado, and pita), rosewater waffles with Lebanese yogurt, and, for dinner, a Peri-Peri marinated chicken.
This week Jack’s Wife Freda will be serving their trademark Rosh Hashanah dish: Freda’s honey and red wine braised short ribs, along with carrots and potatoes, apples with honey, pomegranate seeds, and challah. They’ve graciously shared the recipe with Tablet, so you won’t have to wait on the inevitably long line for dinner.
Freda’s Honey and Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs
10 whole black peppercorns
2 dried chilies
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste
4 1/2 – 5 lbs. short ribs, cut into 3- to 4-inch pieces
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large onion, chopped (about 3 cups)
5 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
2 large carrots, peeled, trimmed, and chopped (about 3 cups)
1 celery stalk, trimmed and chopped (about 1 cup)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 750 ml. bottle dry red wine
3 cups beef or veal stock
3/4 cup honey
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Wrap peppercorns, chilies, and bay leaves with cheesecloth, tie with kitchen twine and reserve.
Sprinkle short ribs on both sides with salt and pepper.
In a large, heavy skillet, heat oil over high heat until very hot but not smoking. Sear ribs until browned on both sides, about 6-7 minutes total. Remove ribs to a plate to cool, then arrange in one layer in a large, heavy roasting pan.
To the same skillet add onions, garlic, carrots and celery and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 10 minutes. Add tomato paste, stir to incorporate and cook an additional 5 minutes. Add wine, and bundled spices and bring to a boil. Cook until liquid is reduced by half, about 15 minutes. Add beef stock and honey, return to a boil and cook an additional 10-15 minutes, until liquid is reduced by about 3 inches.
Pour liquid over ribs, seal tightly with aluminum foil and bake until ribs are fork-tender, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
Remove roasting pan from oven, uncover, and remove meat to a platter to cool. While meat is cooling, strain braising liquid from solids over a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl, pressing down on solids to release all liquid. Discard solids.
Return liquid to a small saucepan, skin fat from top and bring to a boil; boil until liquid is reduced to about 1 1/2 cups, about 15 minutes; season with salt and pepper to taste.
Separate meat from bones and fat and arrange on a platter. Serve with warm gravy over mashed potatoes or parsnip puree.
Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.