Tonight's brisket, latkes and BYOB

Written by Melissa McCart on

The demo space at Marty's MarketTonight at 6 p.m. at Marty's Market, Hal B. Klein will hold a cooking class during which he will demonstrate how to braise brisket and reveal how to make latkes fried in beef tallow. 

I caught up with Mr. Klein to find out more about the class he'll conduct in the demo space in the photo.

Q: Why you for a cooking demo?
Mr. Klein: I've been teaching formal and informal cooking classes for a few years now: First in Los Angeles, and now in Pittsburgh. I even shot a few cooking show episodes right before I moved here.

What sets me apart from a lot of other people teaching cooking classes is I'm a home cook. Cooking in a restaurant requires a slightly different skill set than cooking at home. I can teach those skills because they're the ones that I use. I come from a family of teachers, too, so I think this sort of thing is in my genetic makeup.

On a more nerdy level, I have a master's degree in food studies, so I'm full of all kinds of tidbits about our food system.
Q: Why this particular menu for this time of the year?
Mr. Klein: It's part of a pretty traditional Eastern European Jewish meal. Brisket and latkes are dishes my mom used to make for Hanukkah when I was a kid.

When you think about it, the meal makes a lot of sense. As the weather gets colder, it's natural to crave comfort foods and a slow braised cut of beef is a perfect meal for satisfying those cravings.

The latkes have cultural significance, too. The oil used to fry them is representative of the oil that burned in the temple during the eight days of Hanukkah. 
Q: Talk to me about buying a brisket cut. What should I look for or ask for?
Mr. Klein: Briskets come from the lower chest of a cow, which means they were pretty active muscles. This makes for what could be tough cut of meat.

Briskets aren't for grilling or broiling. But if you slow cook it, the toughness melts away into something tender and unctuous.

Brisket is also the muscle that's used to make corned beef and pastrami. It's not, however, something a lot of people cook at home, probably because they're massive.

There are two cuts to a brisket: the flat and the point. I like the flat better for braising. For smoking you'll want the whole brisket. If you're smoking a brisket, you also want to make sure the fat cap (literally, a layer of fat the protects the brisket) is intact. This isn't as important if you're braising (though it sure is nice).
Q: Beef tallow. Where do you get it and what makes it so great?
Mr. Klein: Beef tallow is rendered beef fat. It can be hard to find, which is why I was so excited to see it at Marty's Market, where they make it in-house. Normally, latkes are fried in chicken fat or olive oil, but I couldn't resist the tallow temptation.

It's fantastic for a number of reasons. First, it's delicious. Second, by rendering and using the fat you're not wasting a perfectly useable part of an animal you're already eating. Finally, it's good for you. Tallow is full of B-vitamins.

Cooking with animal fat isn't popular for a number of reasons (mostly to do with the industrialization of our food system) and that's a shame. Hopefully, I'm doing a small part to bring the fat back! 
Q: Can we eat or drink at your demo?
Mr. Klein: Yes. I'm a booze writer, and it would be a shame to have Prohibition at my class, especially so close to Repeal Day on Dec. 5.

So BYOB and share! There will be samples of everything I cook, but it won't be a full meal. Dinner and a demo might happen sometime soon though, so stay tuned. 

Flickr photo

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