Jake Cohen didn’t care much about Jewish food when he went to culinary school and worked in high end restaurants. But when he met his future husband, Jake was introduced to the Middle Eastern Jewish recipes of his in-laws, like tahdig and kubbeh. Soon, he was mining his own family’s Eastern European Jewish recipes, and putting his spin on matzo ball soup and kasha varnishkes. Earlier this year Jake published his first cookbook, Jew-ish: Reinvented Recipes From A Modern Mensch, and he’s become a social media star. Ahead of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), Dan and Jake talk about the controversial ingredient Jake adds to tahdig, whether Rosh Hashanah brisket is overhyped, and why personality is so important in online food videos.
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- "Secret Handshake" by Hayley Briasco
Photo courtesy of Jake Cohen.
Dan Pashman: You have a recipe in your cookbook for a homemade Chex Mix...
Jake Cohen: Yes.
Dan Pashman: Cooked with schmaltz.
Jake Cohen: Yes.
Dan Pashman: Which for folks who don't know, is rendered chicken fat, very common cooking fat in Jewish cooking.
Jake Cohen: Yes.
Dan Pashman: It looks incredible. I'm a big fan of Chex Mix.
Jake Cohen: Big fan.
Dan Pashman: But you pick out the pretzels.
Jake Cohen: So there's a saying for every three Jews, you have seven opinions…
Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS]
Jake Cohen: It's like, I have a lot of opinions when it comes to my snacks...
Dan Pashman: I respect that. This is a safe space, Jake.
Jake Cohen: Chex Mix is a top-tier snack. The only thing is the pretzels are so chalky. They're not good, don't like them. So at the end I would have a bag of just the pretzels that I would give to someone....or whoever/someone wants them.
Dan Pashman: Here are the hand-me-down pretzels that I personally picked through with my grubby fingers.
Jake Cohen: Exactly. Exactly, exactly. So when I was developing this recipe. What I found is that the gluten-free pretzels are perfect. They're super crunchy. They're just...
Dan Pashman: They're almost brittle.
Jake Cohen: They're brittle. They shatter...
Dan Pashman: Yes.
Jake Cohen: Which I love. So I call that out in the book that that's what you should use.
Dan Pashman: The pretzels in Chex Mix or any snack mix, to me, they're kind of like the connective tissue. They're like a good worker bee of the equation.
Jake Cohen: Are pretzels and in party mix, as well?
Dan Pashman: I think... I think often. Yes.
Jake Cohen: You know, what would be exceptional? Is if they took out the pretzels and replaced it with Chex.
Dan Pashman: This is The Sporkful, it’s not for foodies. It’s for eaters. I’m Dan Pashman. Each week on our show we obsess about food to learn more about people. The person delivering these hot takes on Chex Mix is Jake Cohen. He’s the author of the cookbook Jew-ish: Reinvented Recipes from a Modern Mensch. The cookbook came out in March and has been a huge hit. Jake’s a self-proclaimed “nice Jewish boy.” And if you’re one of his 400,000 Instagram followers, or 1 million Tik Tok followers, you’ve seen Jake baking challah, or black-and-white cookies, or drizzling sriracha on a spinning piece of avocado toast. That last one isn’t at all Jewish, but it was recently shared by, one, Britney Spears.
Dan Pashman: What I really like about Jake’s cookbook is that it’s expanded my idea of what Jewish food is. Most American Jews are Ashkenazi, meaning of central or eastern European descent, and that includes me. Growing up, Ashkenazi food was all I knew of Jewish food: Bagels and lox, brisket, potato knishes. Yeah, I knew there were Jews in other parts of the world but I didn’t know anything about their food cultures. Jake really expands the idea of what Jewish food in America is, and what it can be. It’s my grandmother’s cooking but it’s also a lot more.
Dan Pashman: The Jewish high holidays are coming up, Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, and Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. So I figured it would be a good time to sit down with Jake in his apartment/test kitchen, and hear about his approach to Jewish food, including by the way his idea that it shouldn’t just be for Jews. Jake did not set out to make Jewish food such a big part of his work. In fact when he was growing up...
Jake Cohen: We were high holiday Jews. So of Passover every year, fast for Yom Kippur, break fast Rosh Hashanah. But we didn't go to shul on Fridays. We didn't keep a kosher home and do Shabbat. It was just very much all of the cultural elements.
Dan Pashman: Shul is the Yiddish word for synagogue. So that means Jake and his family didn’t go to temple much, they didn’t keep kosher, they didn’t observe shabbat, the Jewish day of rest. In other words, when Jake was growing up in New York City and then the Long Island suburbs, Jewish identity was not a big part of his life. The thing that was big? Food.
Jake Cohen: I was in high school, probably like the real peak of new age Food Network. And I would come home from school every day and watch in succession Ina and Giada and Rachael Ray and I was mesmerized. The whole concept behind it, I thought, was — it was everything I ever wanted.
Dan Pashman: What was it about it?
Jake Cohen: The exchange of food for for love, for family, for bonding, for connection. It was the effort that you put in, the investment in cooking paid back ten-fold in the joy that you bring to others around you.
Dan Pashman: So while Jake’s high school classmates were out probably doing shots of tequila behind the 7-11, he was hosting dinner parties for his friends. Jake fell in love with cooking, and more importantly, entertaining. So, when he graduated high school, he went straight to the CIA, the Culinary Institute of America. After he completed the three-year program, he snagged a job at Daniel, the famous high end New York City restaurant.
Jake Cohen: It's ingrained in you to go work at the best, like that was the whole thing. It's like, you have to end up in the three Michelin star restaurant. It was so intense. It was just very much exactly what you expect in that kind of caricature of a fine dining restaurant That was the life. But it pushed me. It made me a better cook. It made me more aware of a sense of urgency and best prepared me for then going to the hot restaurant, which was ABC Kitchen.
Dan Pashman: But you pretty quickly decide that restaurants — that world was not for you.
Jake Cohen: Yeah.
Dan Pashman: Why not?
Jake Cohen: I just never saw myself owning one or running one. You're creating an experience for the guests, but you're not necessarily like with them. And that was — I fell in love with food, with this kind of personal relationship to you're cooking for someone. It was very clear and I think given the fact that that I've always had this obsession with media, I've always had this obsession with pop culture. I was — people always ask, like, "What are your interests outside of food?". I don't have any. It is food and pop culture.
Dan Pashman: Right.
Jake Cohen: That's it. That's it. I mean, getting high. I would say those three things. Yeah, and I’m typically eating when I’m high. I’m typically consuming pop culture, also.
Dan Pashman: Right. You're just doing all at once.
Jake Cohen: All at once.
Dan Pashman: Bring it on.
Jake Cohen: Yeah. Yeah.
Dan Pashman: Jake left the restaurant world and got a job at the food magazine, Saveur. That was also grueling.
Jake Cohen: It was very much like I was seen but not heard, like very much ingrained to not speak up, not say anything during tastings. You had to be silent, let the editors give their opinions, and just shut up and take notes. The whole idea of like in Devil Wears Prada, where she's running around the city getting all this stuff. That was me with groceries. I got a hernia from the like physical labor that was pushed to do.
Dan Pashman: Eventually, Jake wrote a couple of small pieces for the magazine. And seeing his name in print kept him going. But he was more interested in seeing his name and face online. So he left Saveur, which is kind of an old-school print magazine, for the digital-first food outlet Tasting Table. If Saveur is Prada, Tasting Table is Uniqlo. And this was right when a certain type of super quick cooking videos was taking off on social media.
Jake Cohen: I was in digital at the beginning of, like, the hands and pans phenomenon and...
Dan Pashman: Hands and Pans? That's a good industry terms for...
Jake Cohen: It's an industry term.
Dan Pashman: For those overhead shots...
Jake Cohen: The Tasty videos.
Dan Pashman: Right. Those super quick cut like.
Jake Cohen: Hands and pans. It's all you see.
Dan Pashman: Right. I got it. Got it. OK.
Dan Pashman: Jake was the hands for a bunch of those videos but you’d never know it, because you don’t see his face. So Jake had gone from being in a restaurant behind the kitchen door to a media outlet behind the camera. He still felt cut off from the people he was cooking for.
Dan Pashman: But in his personal life, Jake was connecting. In 2015 he met his future husband, Alex Shapiro. Alex and Jake are both Jewish, but as I said Jake is Ashkenazi Jewish, so his roots are in central and eastern Europe. Jake’s great-grandmother fled Germany during the Holocaust, first settling in Cuba, then in the U.S.
Dan Pashman: Alex’s family is Mizrahi, meaning Jews from the Middle East. Generations of Alex’s family lived in Iraq. Then in the ‘50s Jews were forced to leave, so the family went to Iran. But with the Iranian revolution in 1979, it became unsafe for many Jews to live there. Alex’s family fled, again, this time to the U.S.
Dan Pashman: Now, even though Ashkenazi and Mizrahi Jews are all Jewish, they have very different cultures. They speak different languages, have different customs around holidays, and of course, the food cultures are very different, influenced by the countries they lived in.
Dan Pashman: At first, Jake wasn’t sure how he’d fit in with this new culture, being Ashkenazi and being gay.
Jake Cohen: I think and in any conservative culture, there is unfortunately a lot of misogyny. And I think it was much easier, given the fact that we are men, and even though we are a gay couple, I think is a huge population of lesbian cousins. And I feel that I was welcomed in faster.
Dan Pashman: So a few months after you start dating Alex, you get a gift from his mother.
Jake Cohen: Yeah.
Dan Pashman: Tell me about the gift.
Jake Cohen: It's right behind you. It's a copy of Food of Life by Najimy Batmanglij, who is the most iconic Persian cookbook author ever. So she sent me that and a Persian rice cooker. Pretty much it's just like these to....
Dan Pashman: You're going to need these.
Jake Cohen: Every, every in-law gets this. It was so funny because that was something for so many Ashkenazi readers, who have married into a Persian family. They all say, like, "That's so funny. I got the same thing from my mother-in-law."
Dan Pashman: I guess you could read that gesture as sort of like a — because you were all you were still dating this time.
Jake Cohen: You and Alex were not engaged.
Dan Pashman: So this is on one hand, seems like it bodes well.
Jake Cohen: Yeah.
Dan Pashman: Like there's a level of — this seems like a symbol of a certain amount of acceptance, like you're being welcomed into the family because — but there's also sort of like, there's some things you're going to need to learn.
Jake Cohen: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I agree with it. That's exactly what it is. And most of them put it away in the cupboard and they never — it's like, "Oh, thank you!", and they never look at it again. But that wasn't an option for me.
Dan Pashman: Jake immediately put the Persian rice cooker to use. He started learning to make the Persian and Iraqi Jewish dishes that his then-boyfriend, Alex, had grown up with. Only the women in Alex’s family cooked, so Jake asked all of them to share what they knew. While they were unsure of what to make of Jake at first...
Jake Cohen: The hesitations were pretty much just immediately ended when I showed an interest in cooking with these women. I just think that it’s so uncommon to show any interest in someone’s culture, because even they — I would ask like, I want a recipe for this — “Who’s gonna wanna make that?” — "But you make it all the time." — "Well, yeah. I make it because we eat that."
Dan Pashman: Right.
Jake Cohen: And it’s that kind of mentality.
Dan Pashman: One classic Persian dish that was Jake’s top priority.
Jake Cohen: I started making Tahdig. That was the first thing I wanted to master. that and ghormeh sabzi, which is this Persian stew of chopped herbs and dried lime and kidney beans. And it's Alex's favorite from growing up. And I — tahdig was a process.
Dan Pashman: I'm sure a lot of folks are familiar with it but for the folks who aren't?
Jake Cohen: Crispy Persian Rice. Traditionally, just rice that's then — the bottom of the pot gets nice and crispy. And it's like rice and oil and salt is all you need.
Dan Pashman: But it's — so but the key is that you put some kind of cooking fat in the bottom of the pot and which browns and crisps the rice that is on the bottom of the pot.
Jake Cohen: Right.
Dan Pashman: And then you turn it upside down on your plate. So you have this like golden brown, crispy shell.
Jake Cohen: Yes.
Dan Pashman: But it's difficult. It's my understanding that, you know, maybe at least at first, like getting it just right, getting it to hold together when it comes out of the pot and not break into chunks…
Jake Cohen: I mean, it might still taste good but getting it to look beautiful on the plate — that is not easy.
Jake Cohen: So it's my mother-in-law who taught me a trick, which I put in the book, which is kind of the fool-proof method. Ugh, the the crust itself picks up the rice underneath it. And it's just — it's heaven. It's so good. It’s so, so good. And every time you make it, it’s like a tableside flambe.
Dan Pashman: Jake’s mother in law’s trick involves adding yogurt to the bottom of the pan, which he says is controversial, because some people will say that means it’s no longer tahdig. We’re not gonna wade into that debate today. Anyway, Jake didn’t stop with tahdig. He continued to ask Alex’s family for recipes,
Dan Pashman: Is there a difference between Persian and Iraqi, Jewish food and Persian and Iraqi food more broadly?
Jake Cohen: So yes and no. So in Iraq, Jews were the players that handled the spice trade with India. So Iraqi Jewish cuisine is this incredibly gorgeous blend of Indian ingredients and techniques with Middle Eastern flavors and traditions. So I think of the most iconic thing to come out of Iraq is amba, which is this pickled mango sauce. Iraqi Jews had dishes that they have created and they also had dishes that were just part of the cuisines of their neighbors in the region that they use for specific Jewish rituals.
Dan Pashman: All over the world, but especially around the Middle East, because so many groups have come and gone and traveled through that place over the centuries, I think it's kind of crazy for any one group to claim full credit for anything. All these things have been intermixed and intermingled and adapted and evolved and...
Jake Cohen: The thing is, a lot of people, a lot of times, the conversation is focused on what did the Jews actually do? What do they actually own? And that's not it, because most Jewish books are not claiming ownership. All they're doing are telling stories of Jews and how they celebrate our rituals. And it involves food because there's always food involved. So I think the storytelling, this preserving, it's not gatekeeping. It's not saying that's like, oh, this is Jewish. Hmm, step away! Though, I will say, I get angry when people use — they do challah and they like braid a brioche.
Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS]
Jake Cohen: Or like babka. It's a twisted, twisted bread, twisty bread. But that being said that's like their — something like babka, like there are very similar things in different cultures, so there's no owning it.
Dan Pashman: Jake immersed himself in Alex’s family’s Mizrahi Jewish food traditions, which were totally foreign to him before. Then Jake started collecting his own families’ recipes, too. When he was still at Saveur, he wrote about his great-grandmother’s apple cake.
Jake Cohen: It was this press-in crust and my great grandmother would do it, make it for Rosh Hashanah. And since she's making it in Havana and they would use apples or because Rosh typically falls around the time for like Italian plums, she would use plums. The main thing I add to all these recipes are salt because no one uses any salt. It was the first actual thing I wrote about that surrounded Jewish food that was like this is it. I have to do more of this.
Dan Pashman: Coming up, Jake figures out how to combine his budding interest in Jewish family recipes with his professional training, and turn it all in to the career in food he always wanted. Plus, I’ll watch him shoot a video for his social feeds about how to make his classic chocolate chip cookies. Stick around.
+++ BREAK +++
Dan Pashman: Welcome back to The Sporkful, I’m Dan Pashman. On last week’s show, we venture back into pasta-land with The Bucatini Dialogues: A Debate About Pasta Shapes. This was the live event that launched me on my pasta-inventing journey. And while you heard a tiny bit of it in our Mission: ImPASTAble series, most of it was unreleased until now. We cover a range of shapes, and things get pretty heated
CLIP (EVAN KLEIMAN): You pack it into your baking dish covered with Parmesan, you put it in the oven and then for some reason, the lichi stays more — it has more form precisely because it hasn't absorbed as much sauce as the rigate. What do you say to that, Mr. Pasta Engineer man?
CLIP (FRANCIS LAM): Oooh.
CLIP (DAN PASHMAN): I would say that's a good point. I would take that under advisement.
CLIP (FRANCIS LAM): For those of you at home you can't see Dan's guts falling all over the floor from that complete evisceration. Oh, my god.
Dan Pashman: Plus, I share a cascatelli shipping update. That episode's up now, check it out. Back now to my conversation with Jake Cohen, author of Jew-ish . And just a quick note that there’s a little bit of profanity coming up.
Dan Pashman: As we've said, Jake connected deeply with his husband’s family and his own, through the Jewish family recipes that had been passed down through the generations. But he was still coming into his own when it came to his career. He got a job at The Feed Feed, a digital food media outlet. And remember, the trend a few years ago was hands and pans. Jake was craving more of a connection with the people he was cooking for.
Jake Cohen: I was a big pusher in terms of like personality driven — same thing like the Bon App-era of personalities. People want to know who's cooking, what the recipes are from. Same thing with New York Times, like people want the face.
Dan Pashman: And a storytelling element.
Jake Cohen: A storytelling element but I think it's actually — it's less about the story about the recipe. It's more about the story of the person.
Dan Pashman: Right.
Jake Cohen: People want to make it because X-person is telling you to do it. And there's a little anecdote about their life because you don't know a lot about what happens outside of the kitchen from them. And these little tidbits are what kind of connects you to them in a way that makes it deeper.
Dan Pashman: Meanwhile, Jake was also growing his own social media following. He grew his instagram audience to 100,000 before the start of the pandemic. But things really took off when he joined TikTok, where he now has a million followers. Instagram Reels helped him reach 400,000 followers there.
Dan Pashman: And In those videos, you’ll see hands, and pans but you’ll also see Jake’s face. Like in this video of peach upside down cake…
[CLIP JAKE COHEN'S PEACH UPSIDE DOWN CAKE]
CLIP (JAKE COHEN): If you're anything like me, you are losing your shit right now for peach season. So let's celebrate with my go-to upside down cake. It's one of my favorite summer desserts. Slice your peaches into wedges. Throw them in the bottom of a nice…
Dan Pashman: He’ll flash a goofy smile as he dumps flour or butter into the mixing bowl. His captions always include silly puns. And at the end, he eats with gusto.
CLIP (JAKE COHEN): Cut yourself a big slice, once it cools completely, and then please, use a plate. I don't know what the hell I was thinking shoving this into my mouth.
Dan Pashman: The videos have Jake’s personality all over them and people love them. So I couldn’t go over to his apartment without getting a little peek behind the curtain. Jake mixed up some chocolate chip cookies when I came over — for the ‘gram, as they say. Or for the Tok? I don't know, whatever.
Jake Cohen: In hindsight, given how immensely Jewish — I could have done something a little more Jewish. But to me I just think cooking for others is Jewish at its core.
Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] All right. So we're rolling.
Jake Cohen: We're rolling...
Dan Pashman: Dropping the butter in.
Dan Pashman: Jake's pretty casual about these videos. He’s got a ring light, a little phone holder, but other than that it’s just a man and his kitchen.
Jake Cohen: And this is the anti-Food Network. There are no like little prep bowls with all the ingredients measured out — like none of that bullshit.
Dan Pashman: All right. So we've got the brown sugar now.
Jake Cohen: Yeah. Three quarters of a cup of brown sugar. More brown sugar than white sugar because we want it chewy.
Dan Pashman: So why not just use all brown sugar?
Jake Cohen: Because you need the white sugar, A, for the spreading before the crispiness. Like the crispy edges?
Dan Pashman: Oh! White sugar is crispy edges and brown sugar is chewiness?
Jake Cohen: Mm-hmm.
Dan Pashman: I had no idea.
Dan Pashman: In about ten minutes Jake whips up this batch of cookies, shooting a video of each step. He switches up camera angles for different steps, so viewers don’t get bored. He’ll use an app on his phone to edit it down to about 45 seconds.
Dan Pashman: And so to be someone, like who you are today, to have a successful cookbook and a big Instagram following and to do well on social media, like how much of that requires real culinary expertise and how much is more about knowing how to connect with people?
Jake Cohen: I think you don't need the expertise to do it. However, the expertise is what keeps people. There are people that have more followers than me that create food content that people just watch. I never wanted that. I don't need millions and millions of followers. What I need are people to see what I'm doing and be inspired to cook. That is my definition of success.
[KITCHEN MIXING SOUNDS]
CLIP (JAKE COHEN): And we’re done! It's not hard.
[SOUND OF PUTTING COOKIES IN THE OVEN]
Dan Pashman: As Jake’s social media profile started taking off, his connection to his Jewish identity also deepened. He and Alex got married, and even though neither of them grew up religious, they decided they wanted to incorporate Judaism into their lives more. They quickly realized going to religious services wasn’t for them. Instead, they got into Shabbat dinner — that’s the Friday night meal that starts the Jewish sabbath.
Jake Cohen: I found this organization called One Table, and I'm now on their board of directors. I just ran real hard on it. And I pretty much just fell in love with the mission, which was to get people in their 20s and 30s to create a sustainable Shabbat practice that worked for them. And to me, I was like, oh my God, Judaism, food, hospitality. This intersection that worked so perfectly and because Alex didn't have this background and I only had this kind of rote memory on the prayers of this is what you say, because this is what we do. And instead, it allowed us to explore this ritual as outsiders to understand the why.
Dan Pashman: Jake has also continued collecting family recipes.
Jake Cohen: Now, I've created this positive feedback loop where every time I see my mother-in-law, we'll just be at random points like, "You know, I just remember when I was living in Turkey with my first husband, his mother used to make this Turkish Jewish dish called, 'blank' ". And and I just take my notes app and do it. I do the same thing with my grandmother. I saw her for the first time after the pandemic, I took her to surf club in Miami and we had this incredible dinner and just talking about about how she makes this one like Passover cake and the towns that her her her father grew up in and all these things. And everyone knows now that whenever they get these little tidbits of history, especially connected to Judaism, that while it's fresh, they call me, they text me, and I write it down. And when I looked at my my husband's family and I saw that neither him or any of his cousins knew how to make kubbeh, it's a semolina dough. Sometimes it's rice stuffed with meat. An Iraqi Jewish one that's pretty classic is with sweet and sour beet broth. His aunts still make it and because of that, the technique, the recipes hadn't been passed down. And they're getting older. And what happens one day when we lose them and all of a sudden the recipe’s gone forever? And I could not have it. And I followed these women with measuring cups and a scale. And it was so important for me, for his family. And it's the same thing in my family. I have so many recipes that are scribbled on note cards from my great-grandmother that are incorporated in this book that will be incorporated in future things. And I think that's that's — it means the world to me.
Dan Pashman: Preserving these traditions and evolving them for the future has now become the focus of Jake’s career. The book he refers to is his first cookbook, Jew-Ish: Reinvented Recipes from a Modern Mensch, which like I said, came out earlier this year. Mensch is a yiddish word that roughly means a person of integrity. But the key parts of the title to focus on are the -ISH in Jew-ish, and the word “reinvented”.
Dan Pashman: The book includes Jake’s family’s Ashkenazi Jewish recipes, like apple cake and matzoh ball soup. There’s Alex’s family’s Persian and Iraqi Jewish recipes, like tahdig and kubbeh. Some are done the old fashioned way, some have Jake’s own twists. Then there’s also just stuff he likes. That shmaltzy Chex Mix, of course; lamb chops with crushed grapes and sage; an everything bagel galette, even a ham sandwich. The book is authentic to Jake.
Dan Pashman: You write in the intro your book, you talk about feeling very connected to gay pride, then say, "I had never quite felt the same sense of pride in being Jewish, but I had never felt shame about it either. I felt, as I think most young Jews in America do, indifferent." Now, how many people feel that way, other people can debate but I get the underlying thing that you're saying, which is that there is this — whether it's indifference or just sort of a distance.
Jake Cohen: It is a distance.
Dan Pashman: Why do you think so many feel that way?
Jake Cohen: Growing up in New York, I grew up in a community in which queerness was not as taboo. And there is this idea that pride is responsibility to show others that living a fully authentic life is not only possible, but something that should be celebrated. And when I think about Judaism in America, so much of it is tied to trauma and hiding and this idea of do what you need to in order to fit in and survive. We’re the first that really get to look at Jewish identity and how we want to own it, celebrate it, and modernize it. We live in 2021. We get to do it up. Perfect example? kasha varnishkes. I think of that dish, which is this old school Ashkenazi dish of bowtie pasta with buckwheat groats. I think of it as like this sad deli side in a cup. And I thought like, why don't we turn it into like a week my pasta? That's fun. And I had like lemon zest and tons of chopped dill and fancy mushrooms.
Jake Cohen: That is celebrating and moving Jewish food forward through the lens of Jewish joy and not trauma. I am hoping to inspire you to cook more for your loved ones. And like, that’s great. I don’t know if non Jews know about the thing that we typically talk about good for the Jews, bad for the Jews...
Dan Pashman: Right, right.
Jake Cohen: Person, place, thing, event idea...
Dan Pashman: Right.
Jake Cohen: It's either good for the Jews as a whole or not for Jews as a whole? Ben Shapiro, bad for the Jews. Jake Cohen, good for the Jews.
Dan Pashman: So as we hang out here today, Jake, the Jewish high holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are coming up.
Jake Cohen: Yes.
Dan Pashman: Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Yom Kippur, the day of atonement when we're supposed to fast and atone for all of our sins of the previous year? One of the most classic dishes at Rosh Hashanah is Jewish brisket.
Jake Cohen: Yeah.
Dan Pashman: First off, quick question, is Jewish brisket the same cut of meat as Texas brisket?
Jake Cohen: Yes.
Dan Pashman: That's what I thought.
Jake Cohen: Yeah.
Dan Pashman: It's just cooked differently. One is smoked and one is braised.
Jake Cohen: Yes.
Dan Pashman: Look, I mean, I'm happy to eat some Jewish brisket.
Jake Cohen: Uh-huh.
Dan Pashman: My mom makes great brisket. My mother-in-law makes great brisket. It's not my favorite, though.
Jake Cohen: Really? It's my favorite thing.
Dan Pashman: Really?
Jake Cohen: Yeah. No, it's a goyish take and I'm gonna have to shoot you down on that one. A good one — again, a great brisket? Beyond. Brisket for me, I talk about — I think the exact line in the book is like, "Gentiles have family crests, Jews have brisket recipes." I'm not a purist. I think I can — it depends on my mood, it depends on my vibe.
Dan Pashman: OK.
Jake Cohen: And so I did in the book is I do a French onion brisket. You caramelize a ton of onions and then you deglaze the brisket with Calvados...
Dan Pashman: Right.
Jake Cohen: And then you braise it in beef broth. So it really is like a French onion brisket broth.
Dan Pashman: Wow.
Jake Cohen: But because of the brisket, it does get a lot thicker, which is good.
Dan Pashman: Maybe I’ll make that. My wife is a big fan of French onion soup.
Dan Pashman: Clearly, Jake and I could debate brisket all day but Jake needs that money shot of the inside of the chocolate chip cookies he’s been baking. After all, there is no Tik Tok video without that payoff? He takes the cookies out of the oven and uses a little food styling trick.
Dan Pashman: So you’re taking a little cylinder and you’re rolling the cookie around?
Jake Cohen: You just use a bowl or a cookie cutter and it just helps them make them more picture perfect round.
Dan Pashman: So Jake's taken a round cookie cutter, bigger than the cookie, itself. He puts it down over the cookie swirls it around to kind of spin the cookie around, inside the cookie cutter, which smoothes the edges of the cookies and makes it a more perfect circle.
Dan Pashman: While they’re still hot?
Jake Cohen: Well, yes. You have to do it while they’re hot.
Dan Pashman: He’s now — he's` recording video. He’s holding the cookie up.
Jake Cohen: Step one, thing that way.
Dan Pashman: Oh, sorry. I’m blocking the light — I mean, his light. Okay, he’s doing the opening the cookie shot, showing the center of the ooey gooey chocolate chip cookie.
Dan Pashman: And now I need to get the audio equivalent of the money shot.
Dan Pashman: Oh, my God. You nailed all the textures. Mmm.
Jake Cohen: It’s the simple things. That's what people love comfort. They love the things that are tied to nostalgia. Especially, when we're meeting for the first time. We're having a relatively intimate experience recording this podcast. And we've talked about a lot of things. I don’t need to go all frufru and get out the tweezers and make you some kind of like chiffon cake with micro basil.
Dan Pashman and Jake Cohen: Chocolate chip cookies!
Dan Pashman: That’s Jake Cohen, his book is called Jew-ish: Reinvented Recipes from a Modern Mensch. Jake posted the Tiktok and Instagram Reel of him making the chocolate chip cookies, so go check that out, on social media he is @JakeCohen. And for all of you getting ready to celebrate Rosh Hashanah? Happy New Year!
Dan Pashman: Next week, I talk with Lindy West, author of Shrill, about how to be fat. While you’re waiting for that one, check out last week’s episode, The Bucatini Dialogues. It's the debate about pasta shapes that kicked off my cascatelli journey. And keep those pasta orders coming! Yes, it’s still a long wait, but order now. You’ll forget you ordered, then it’ll show up at your doorstep and you’ll be very, very happy. As always, you can order your pasta at Sfoglini.com. That's S-F-O-G-L-I-N-I, Sfoglini.com. Thanks.