Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, begins on the evening of September 15.
Chef Mark Strausman of Mark's Off Madison shared High Holiday cooking advice and mistakes to avoid.
The key to a perfect brisket is cooking it "slow and low," and club soda makes fluffy matzah balls.
Chef Mark Strausman spent over two decades as the executive chef at Freds inside Barneys New York before opening his own restaurant, Mark's Off Madison, in 2020. Serving a mix of Italian dishes and Jewish deli classics, Mark's Off Madison offers catering for Jewish holidays such as Rosh Hashanah, the new year celebration that kicks off the Jewish High Holiday season.
This year, Rosh Hashanah begins on the evening of September 15. Strausman spoke with Insider to share his High Holiday cooking tips and common pitfalls to avoid.
'Poor planning gives you poor results'
As an award-winning chef, Strausman knows the importance of staying organized and planning ahead. When it comes to crafting your Rosh Hashanah menu, it's important to know not only what you're going to cook, but when.
"Poor planning gives you poor results," Strausman said. "It's really about planning the meal, knowing when you're going to cook it, knowing how you're going to reheat it, things like that. That is just as important as flavor and adding salt to the food. It's really making sure that your meal is planned out so you can enjoy it as well."
When hosting a meal, don't get stuck working in the kitchen
If you're hosting guests for a festive meal over the holiday, you want to have time to enjoy their company. Strausman says the best way to free yourself up while cooking for a crowd is to make dishes ahead of time and include some items that you can serve at room temperature.
"Don't cook everything to order," he said. "We make things that we can reheat so we're not slaving away at the stove and dripping while people are sitting in the dining room. Make things ahead of time."
Avoid dense, sinking matzah balls by using club soda instead of water
Matzah balls are best served airy and light. To achieve this texture, Strausman uses a secret ingredient: club soda.
"It adds a little fluffiness and a little air, plus there's salt in the club soda," he said.
Cook brisket properly — 'slow and low'
Brisket, a cut of meat often served on Jewish holidays, can become tough unless it's cooked slowly enough to break down the connective tissue.
"I think one of the biggest mistakes is cooking the brisket at too high a temperature, and then also not long enough," Strausman said. "The fork has got to go through the brisket like a hot knife through butter."
Strausman advises cooking brisket "slow and low" with the oven set at 325 degrees until the meat is fork tender. If the recipe says otherwise, he says it's best to ignore the instructions and keep testing the brisket yourself until it feels ready.
"Don't listen to the recipe," he said. "The person who wrote the recipe doesn't have the same oven you do."
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