Tzimmes has its origin in medieval Germany where it was the custom to have meat stews that contained fruit and vegetables. Perhaps the Persian and Western Asian culinary habit of using fruits with meat made it up the Rhine? The sugar beet growing region of southwestern Poland surely influenced the addition of sugar to the recipe, and the use of sweet potatoes is only a few centuries old as the sweet potato was introduced to Eastern Europe from America.
Since the Tzimmes requires long, slow cooking, it is a perfect dish for Shabbat. Its use of carrots and sweetener makes it very appropriate for Rosh Hashanah as well.
This dish, like all stews, tastes better the next day. It also freezes beautifully. Just freeze the meat separate from the vegetables and gravy. Slice the defrosted meat and place in a casserole with the vegetables and gravy and reheat.
- 1 pound pitted prunes
- 1 Tablespoon peanut oil or cottonseed oil
- 4-5 pounds brisket or boneless chuck roast
- 1 small onion (about 3″ in diameter) finely diced
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 4 carrots, pared and sliced into 1 1/2 inch chunks
- 2 sweet potatoes pared and cut into eighths
- 1/4-cup sugar
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice (or to taste)
- Cover prunes with cold water. Microwave on high for 3 minutes and then let soak for ½ hour or longer until soft.
- Heat a large Dutch oven for 20 seconds. Add the oil and heat for another 10 seconds. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for a few minutes until the onion is golden. Do not let the garlic brown or it will become bitter. Add the meat and sear on all sides. The meat probably won’t lay flat, don’t worry just sear all sides.
- Transfer the meat to a large roasting pan, preferably one with a lid (if not use heavy duty foil to cover) Add prunes and soaking water to the meat and bring to a boil on your cook top. Add salt and pepper. Cover roasting pan and transfer to a preheated 300F oven. Cook the meat for 3-4 hours depending on the size and thickness of your brisket.
- Remove the meat and prunes from the gravy. Place the potato and carrot chunks in the bottom of the pan. Replace the meat and prunes on top.
- Sprinkle sugar and lemon juice into the pot. Stir and cover.
- Place the roasting pan in a 350F oven for 45 minutes to an hour or until the meat and potatoes are tender. Adjust the seasonings if necessary.
- Remove the meat and allow it to cool, preferably overnight in the refrigerator.
- Slice the meat when it is firm and then return to the vegetables and gravy to reheat.
- Note 1: This recipe has been adapted for the modern cook so intervention is periodically required during the cooking process.
- Note 2: If your meat is small enough to fit into a large Dutch oven or pot, you may cook it on the top of the stove for 2 hours and then proceed to step 6.