To celebrate the release of Classic Recipes for Modern People: A Collection of Culinary Favorites Reimagined, their fourth cookbook together, brothers Max and Eli Sussman held a Passover seder in New York City last week. Their parents flew in from Detroit and their father, Marc Sussman, donned his trademark matzoh tie and yarmulke and led a crowd of about two dozen friends and foodies through abridged, if still impressively informative, seder proceedings. Max and Eli shuttled in and out of the test kitchen at Saveur, which hosted the event, bringing out platters of dishes from their cookbook, many of which were inspired by meals they ate growing up. Their mother, Lynne Avadenka, a visual artist who’s been featured on Tablet’s podcast, beamed with pride. Max and Eli noted, with equal pride, that on this night their mother was seated as far as possible from the kitchen (though she did make the macaroons).
That should tell you everything you need to know about the Sussman brothers’ warm, welcoming, family-centric cooking philosophy. It’s likely also the key to their skyrocketing success in the New York City food scene. Max, most recently the executive chef at the Cleveland, was the chef de cuisine at consummate Brooklyn hotspot Roberta’s when the New York Times gave it two stars. Eli was the former executive chef at Mile End Deli. They were each semifinalists for the James Beard Rising Star Chef Award, in 2012 and 2014.
The cookbook displays their trademark creative spin on classic dishes, featuring recipes for things like Gefilte Fish Terrine Duck à l’Orange, and Kibbeh and Tzatziki. It’s decidedly not kosher (see: Pork Burger with Apple Ketchup, Shellfish Shells), but it speaks to the contemporary trend of repurposing traditional Jewish foods to make them shine in a modern context.
At the seder they served Matzoh Ball Soup with Oxtail, ‘Our Dad’s Lamb Stew’—a Passover staple in their home—and a Brisket and Potato Kugel that completely blew my mind. They’ve kindly shared the recipe with us.
Brisket and Potato Kugel
Reprinted with permission from Classic Recipes for Modern People, by Max and Eli Sussman, Weldon Owen 2015.
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 lb beef brisket, cut into 1-inch pieces
Pinch of kosher salt
1 yellow onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp firmly packed light brown sugar
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2 cups chicken stock
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 lb russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 yellow onion, minced
7 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
To make the brisket, in a wide pot, heat the olive oil over high heat. When the oil is very hot, add the brisket and salt and cook, stirring, until browned, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion, and sauté until the onion is softened and caramelized, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic, brown sugar, and tomato paste and sauté for 3—4 minutes. Add the stock and red pepper flakes and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the meat is falling apart and tender, 2—3 hours. Add water if the pan begins to dry. The meat should be just barely covered with liquid when it is ready. If there is too much liquid at the end, transfer the liquid to a small saucepan and simmer over medium-high heat until reduced. Set the brisket aside.
Pour the vegetable oil into a 9-by-13-inch baking pan and place in the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the potatoes and cook for 3 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold running water.
Working in batches, pulse the potatoes in a food processor, leaving them slightly chunky, with pieces no larger than 1⁄4 inch (6 mm). (Be careful not to overprocess, or they will be gluey.) Transfer to a large bowl and add the onion, eggs, 1 tablespoon salt, and the pepper.
Remove the pan from the oven and spoon in half of the potato mixture, spreading it evenly to the edges of the pan. Spread the brisket evenly on top, then cover with the remaining potatoes.
Bake until the potatoes are tender and the top is crispy, about 1 1⁄2 hours. Let cool slightly before serving.
Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.