August 2019MAIN STORY

Backyard barbecue, kosher-style


By Ethel G. Hofman,

Barbecuing is primal, even dangerous. It’s looked on as a guy thing — all that fire, smoke, sharp implements and mountains of meat.

But hold on, folks! Women are drawn to that fire and smoke, too. Besides creating zesty marinades and scrumptious sides, complete with a dose of patience (thinxak long, tenderizing brisket), women of all ages are influencing barbecue at home, opening popular restaurants and winning big on the professional circuit.

To tap into this growing trend, Jewish-run, kosher barbecue festivals are held during the warm-weather months from Memphis to Kansas to Texas and beyond. In Philadelphia, Dr. Stu Gordon spearheaded an annual charity event called Hava NaGrilla. Sanctioned by the gold-standard, Kansas City BBQ Society, the event draws thousands of cooks and hungry eaters who come to sample the fare. Stacey Kurtz’s Onion Cabernet jelly from Israel’s Tishbi vineyards* and Blair Johnson’s Best Barbecue Rub* steered Len Lodish, professor emeritus of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, over the top. He and his family team won Hava NaGrilla’s 2017 Best Brisket Award.

Brisket — the cheap, tough cut of meat that has always been a star at Jewish holiday tables — comes with tenderizing recipes galore. It’s alleged that Central and Eastern European Jews ate brisket as far back as the 1700s, especially at Passover, when multiple courses are served. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, waves of immigrants to the Southwest and Texas area started to exchange ideas with ranchers on how to smoke the cheapest and most plentiful cuts of beef: brisket.

Brisket is no longer cheap, but the thrill of smoking, long and slow, and the resulting melt in the mouth meat is making smoked brisket the star of home barbecuing. It’s not for the faint hearted. Smoking brisket takes time, dedication and a whole lotta love. How else can you explain an all-nighter where the temperature must remain around the 220-degree mark, with the meat judiciously turned and basted. Barbecue teams competing at events will start low-temperature cooking in late evening, jealously guarded and tended until early morning, when samples are presented to trained judges.

Most anything can be cooked on the grill — from the wealth of seasonal veggies to chicken and fish. Barbecue corn with just a smattering of margarine or a touch of olive oil and seasonings, or jazz it up with your own fresh herb dressing. The same goes for zucchini, asparagus, onions, peppers or any other fresh vegetable (just make sure they’re all cut to a similar size so none burns). Simply toss in olive oil and garlic, and sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and kosher salt. Place in a grilling basket, char slightly to caramelize, and you have a colorful, healthy, delicious vegetable platter. If there are leftovers, which are unlikely, serve next day at room temperature.

To some joyful summer eating!


Smoked Brisket (Meat)

Serves 10-12

There are as many smoked brisket recipes as there are cooks. This one, adapted from Epicurious, is very straightforward.


Cook’s Tips:

*Order a whole brisket ahead of time.

*Fat should be trimmed to about ¼-inch thick to prevent meat from drying out.

*Soak wood chips in water overnight.

*To get more smoke, without increasing heat, add dry wood chips to soaked chips.

*Check wood chips often adding more soaked chips to keep smoke levels constant.

*May substitute a favorite store-bought rub.



*1/4 cup Blair Johnson’s Best BBQ Rub

1/4 cup brown sugar

7-8 pounds beef brisket

*Tishbi Onion Cabernet



  1. In a small bowl, mix the rub and brown sugar together.
  2. Place the brisket on a baking sheet. Season the brisket rubbing the sugar mixture all over. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.
  3. Heat the grill to 220 degrees. Adjust the heat as needed throughout cooking to maintain 220. After eight hours, insert an instant read thermometer into thickest part of meat. It should register 195-205 degrees. It may need to smoke a few hours longer.
  4. Transfer to a carving board. Spoon Tishbi Onion Cabernet jelly over top.
  5. Let rest before slicing against the grain, about one-quarter-inch thick.


Doc Hofman’s Sweet-and-Hot Chicken Thighs (Meat)

Serves 6-8


Cook’s Tips:

*Save time and use bottled chopped garlic.

*Chopped ginger root is available in jars.

*May use this marinade for chicken wings.



1/2 cup ketchup

1/2 cup chili sauce

1/3 cup honey, warmed

1/4 cup molasses

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons orange marmalade, melted

1 tablespoon grated ginger root

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

3 pounds chicken thighs



  1. Prepare sauce: In a bowl, combine all ingredients except chicken. Set aside.
  2. Place chicken in shallow glass bowl. Pour sauce over turning to coat all sides completely. Cover and refrigerate 4-6 hours or overnight.
  3. Heat grill to about 300 degrees.
  4. Remove chicken thighs from marinade and discard marinade. Place chicken on grill.
  5. Cook for about 30 minutes with lid down, turning occasionally. When juices run clear when pricked with a fork, chicken is done.
  6. Serve hot off the grill.

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