The expansive nature of the Passover seder gathering can present a fantastic opportunity to use food to bring together the different elements that are part of each family's history.
Since Jews have spread to all parts of the world, dishes that may be traditional at Passover for many families often take on regional characteristics that can make the meal downright exotic, said Jewish cooking expert Joan Nathan, author most recently of "Quiches, Kugels and Couscous."
When it comes to the main course, Nathan plans to include an Algerian-style beef cheek stew with cilantro and cumin that she discovered from a friend in Paris. One benefit of this exotic stew is that it is meant to be made a day ahead, then reheated. This not only improves flavor, but also frees up the host during dinner prep.
AP Photo - - Beef Cheek Stew With Cilantro and Cumin
The low and slow cooking results in an incredibly tender meat with tons of flavor. It also is a particularly versatile recipe. If you have trouble finding beef cheeks, use beef or veal shanks, beef stew meat or flanken, a cut of beef from the same area as short ribs.
Beef Cheek Stew With Cilantro and Cumin
Start to finish: 2 hours 15 minutes, plus overnight in the refrigerator (15 minutes active). Serves 4.
5 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
3 large yellow onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 pounds beef cheeks, beef or veal shanks, beef stew meat or flanken, cut into 2 pieces
2 bay leaves
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon cumin
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
2 cups chicken broth
In a large skillet with a cover or a large Dutch oven over medium, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer the onions and garlic to a plate and set aside.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan and increase heat to medium-high. Add the meat and brown on all sides.
Return the onions and garlic to the pan. Stir in the bay leaves, salt, pepper, cumin and all but 2 tablespoons of the cilantro. Pour the chicken broth over the meat. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer over low heat for 1 to 2 hours, or until the meat is very tender. Remove the pan from the heat, let cool, then remove the meat with a slotted spoon and cut into 1-inch cubes.
Return the meat to the pan, cover and refrigerate over-night.
The next day, remove any fat that has accumulated and reheat the stew over low, adjusting the seasonings if necessary. Serve topped with the reserved fresh cilantro.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 608 calories; 357 calories from fat (59 percent of total calories); 41 g fat (11 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 100 mg cholesterol; 12 g carbohydrate; 48 g protein; 2 g fiber; 666 mg sodium.