‘Filet Minyan’



Sun, blue skies, green fields shaded by leafy trees. Add to that basketball, swimming and boating on the lake — everything for a day of family fun. What better setting for the Hava NaGrilla Kosher Barbecue contest, held recently at Willow Grove Day Camp in Hatboro?

The event was the first of its kind in the Philadelphia region, and one of just a few to be held anywhere in the United States. It was sponsored by the Golden Slipper Club, a philanthropic organization that besides other charities sends underprivileged children to summer camp.

Categories in such contests sponsored by the nationally recognized Kansas City Barbecue Society include beans, chicken, brisket and ribs — pork, that is.

But co-chairs Howard Levin and Mike Demar, Philadelphians and former Golden Slipper campers, decided it was time to "go kosher." They were inspired by the first kosher barbecue contest in Memphis, Tenn., back in 1989 after several members of the Orthodox Anshei Sphard-Beth El Emeth congregation could not compete in the grand "Memphis in May" contest, and so decided to hold their own kosher event.

Yet organizing such a contest isn't easy. Simply substituting kosher beef for pork doesn't simply make the contest kosher.

No, everything from the grills to the cooking utensils to every ingredient used must be certified kosher. The 17 teams signed up sent in a complete list of ingredients needed, including a host of spices for their "secret" rubs. Brand-new, shining appliances were purchased from Old Smokey Grills in Texas.

Local businesses pitched in. Pickles were donated by Mrs. Marty's Deli in Broomall, and the Brown Family ShopRite donated beans, charcoal and a limitless supply of bottled water. To make sure everything was strictly kosher, maschgiachs Rov Kandler and Eliasar Adman were constantly running between booths as part of supervision.

By 8 a.m. on Sunday, June 7, the teams were hard at work. Lawyers, contractors, cooks and businesspeople came together in a spirit of camaraderie. Booths were set up and decorated with wild and clever banners: "Kosher Kashanah From the L'Chaim Islands," "Filet Minyan," "Jew-B-Que" and "Wish It Were Bacon."

For the record, I was a judge — and was in good company with chef/restaurant owner Derek Davis, Fred Robinson from KCBS (Kansas City Barbecue society) and, to ensure good weather, NBC chief meteorologist Glen "Hurricane" Schwartz. In two hours, everything from beans to brisket had been judged.

At the end of the day, cars loaded with happy children (there was plenty to eat and activities for the younger set) and parents rolled out of the park. The word was out: "What a great day; we'll be back next year."

Mike Demar's Grilled Watermelon

6 watermelon slices (1/2-inch thick)

Mint-Lime Syrup:

4 Tbsps. honey
1 Tbsp. water
juice of 2 limes
4 mint sprigs
pinch of salt

Preheat the grill on high.

Take the mint leaves off of the sprigs and chop.

Mix all syrup ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Brush it on the watermelon slices.

Turn the grill down to medium heat. Gently place the watermelon on the grill until the watermelon starts to brown and caramelize. Turn the watermelon to complete the second side (roughly 1 minute on each side).

Once complete, take the remaining syrup and drizzle over top. Serve immediately.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 43; protein, 0 g; carbohydrate, 12 g; fat, 0 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 13 mg.

Tandoori Chicken, Kosha'style

Joel Rosenwasser and Kenneth Brown

3 Tbsps. finely minced Serrano, jabanero or other hot peppers
olive oil
2 small kosher chickens, cut into serving pieces, skin and all visible fat removed
2 cans (16-oz.) coconut milk
juice from 10 limes
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 Tbsp. peeled and grated ginger root
2-3 Tbsps. curry powder
1 Tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. coriander
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 tsps. salt or to taste
red and yellow food coloring

Place the hot peppers in a small dish. Pour enough olive oil to cover. Refrigerate overnight.

Prick the chicken flesh all over with a fork. Using a sharp knife, cut slashes into the flesh to allow the marinade to penetrate. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the coconut milk with all the remaining ingredients except the food coloring. Stir well.

Add just enough food coloring to create a classic Tandoori chicken color, adding a few drops at a time. Stir to mix.

Add the chicken, spooning the marinade over top and rubbing into the flesh. Turn to coat all sides. Cover and refrigerate for 3 to 5 hours. Remove from fridge at least 30 minutes before cooking.

Position the grill rack 5 inches from the fire; bring to moderate heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade, pressing lightly to extract excess marinade.

Place on a well-oiled grill rack. Grill, covered, with vents open, for 45 minutes. Turn 3 or 4 times. When done, juices should run clear when pierced near the bone with a sharp knife.

Serves 4 to 6.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 287; protein, 7 g; carbohydrate, 2 g; fat, 29 g; cholesterol, 43 mg; sodium, 422 mg.

Elon Kaplan's Brisket

Packer's Cut brisket is a whole brisket with the flat and point together.

Rub Ingredients:

1/4 cup smoked paprika
3 Tbsps. garlic powder
3 Tbsps. celery salt
2 Tbsps. celery seed
3 Tbsps. dark-brown sugar
2 Tbsps. cumin
2 Tbsps. chili powder
1 Tbsp. oregano
1 Tbsp. coarsely ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. ground white pepper
1 tsp. cayenne

Mop Sauce Ingredients:

1 quart apple cider
2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup water
2 Tbsps. salt
1 cup barbecue sauce
3 Tbsps. ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. smoked paprika
3 Tbsps. Worcestershire sauce

1 Packer's Cut brisket (12- to 15-lb.), untrimmed
vegetable oil

Mix all the rub ingredients together. Set aside.

Whisk all the mop sauce ingredients together and set aside.

The night before cooking, remove any visible membrane from the nonfatty side of the brisket. Trim, leaving on about 1/2- to 1/4-inch thick fat. (The attached fat keeps the brisket moist during cooking.)

Rinse brisket and dry with paper towels. Rub a thin layer of vegetable oil all over the brisket. Liberally apply the rub to all surfaces. Refrigerate in a covered foil pan overnight.

Brisket takes from 1 to 11/2 hours per pound to cook perfectly.

Prepare your smoker or charcoal grill for indirect cooking. Heat to 250°.

Place a foil pan with some liquid underneath where the meat is placed. This keeps the smoke moist and catches any drippings. If using a charcoal grill, add 4 to 8 soaked hickory chunks (not chips) on top of the coal.

Place the brisket on the grill, fat-side up. Close the lid, leaving the vent wide open; walk away! All that's needed now is to make sure the temperature stays at 250° and that you baste with the mop sauce every 2 hours.

The meat is done when a fork slides out easily when inserted into thickest part.

Serves 20 to 25.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 368; protein, 45 g; carbohydrates, 7 g; fat, 16 g; cholesterol, 135 mg; sodium, 610 mg.

Howard's Hawaiian Chicken

2 whole chickens, butterflied

Brine Ingredients:

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tbsps. grated fresh ginger
1 quart water
2 cups low-sodium soy sauce
1 cup pineapple juice

Basting-Sauce Ingredients:

1/4 cup dark-brown sugar
1 cup pineapple juice
8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger
1 Tbsp. Szechuan peppercorns

Heat the oil in a small pan over medium heat.

Add the garlic and ginger. Stir for 30 seconds.

In a bowl, combine the water, soy sauce and pineapple juice. Stir in the garlic and ginger.

Wash chicken and pat dry. Place in a large plastic bag. Pour the brine over to coat thoroughly. Marinate for 1 to 8 hours — the longer the better.

Mix all ingredients for the basting sauce and set aside.

Prepare charcoal in the grill for direct heat. Fill two small aluminum pans with mesquite chips and fill with water (this will keep the meat moist). When the grill is hot, pour half the water out of the pans and place directly on the coals.

Place the chicken on the grill, skin-side down, and cook for 10 minutes. Turn chicken and baste with the basting sauce. Turn and baste often until chicken is done, about 30 minutes, or until juices run clear when pierced with a fork in thickest part.

Serves 6 to 8.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 574; protein, 44 g; carbohydrate, 15 g; fat, 36 g; cholesterol, 173 mg; sodium, 963 mg.

Hofman Family Baked Beans

This was not an entry, but is always requested for a potluck side dish at summer barbecues.

2 Tbsps. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 Tbsps. dark molasses
3 Tbsps. catsup
2 Tbsps. Dijon-style mustard
1 can (16-oz.) vegetarian baked beans
1 can (16-oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions. Sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, until softened.

Add the garlic; cook for 1 minute. Add all the remaining ingredients; mix well.

Reduce heat to simmer. Cover and cook for 10 minutes longer, stirring often.

Serves 8 to 10.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 122; protein, 4 g; carbohydrates, 20 g; fat, 3 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 360 mg.