Giving Thanks Across the Aisle
November 25, 2014

A match your bubbie would approve of: challah and pastrami stuffing.

Last year on Thanksgiving, American Jews were giving thanks for a little something extra – Hanukkah! For my family, Hanukkah has been more about sharing flavors than exchanging favors so what better gift than the incorporation of horseradish into mashed potatoes or rye flour into our pie crust. Hannu-Giving was a magic moment and over too soon. However this year I couldn’t resist bringing the collaboration back to the table.

The Thanksgiving story we are told as children has so much to do with newcomers, hopelessly underprepared for their first winter in a new land, being lent a hand by experienced residents. It’s a fairy tale to which everyone with an immigrant past can relate. Together both groups enjoyed a meal, marrying the best of their two cultures (yams with marshmallow were yet to come). This precedent of cultural interconnectedness was the perfect justification for pulling up a Pastrami Challah Stuffing recipe from rising-star food blogger Molly Yeh. Molly often cooks with a combination of her Jewish and Chinese backgrounds, and since her move to North Dakota, her incorporation of classic American cookery is even more authentic.

This recipe is one of several she has cooked up for the Jewish Daily Forward, and as a lady lucky enough to work on the Lower East Side, I made my pastrami stop at none other than Katz’s famous delicatessen.

Berick family tradition almost requires a few changes to any recipe. I left out the currants, substituting a raisin-studded challah and subbed celery, that least beloved of vegetables, for fennel whose flavor I can never resist.

Because in New York City even vegetables get their fifteen minutes of fame, your test kitchen correspondent made use of this season's roughage du jour.

The result was delicious! Make this recipe your own, because Thanksgiving can still be about cultural collaboration… and giant balloon animals.

Challah and Pastrami Stuffing

1 loaf of plain challah, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (since it will be toasted, it does not need to be stale, however it’s best to stay away from the super moist brands of challah, like Zomick’s.)
1 medium onion, chopped
4 stalks of celery, chopped {or one bulb of fennel}
1/2 cup margarine, divided {this was an note made with those who keep Kosher in mind. If you are playing by other rules feel free to use butter}
2 pinches of salt
1 pound pastrami (thickly sliced and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces)
1/2 cup dried currants
2 1/2 cups chicken broth {I used vegetable bullion and you can too if you feel your pastrami pretty much has your lipids covered}
2 eggs
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon dried sage {substituting fresh sage added a wonderful aroma}
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
a pinch of ground cloves
a pinch of ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

1) Spread out challah cubes on a baking sheet and bake in an oven set to 200 degrees for 45 minutes, so that bread dries out, flipping once halfway through. Once they’re finished, remove the baking tray or trays and turn up the temperature of the oven to 375.

2) In a large pan set over medium heat, cook the onions and celery in 1/4 cup of margarine and 2 pinches of salt for about 5 minutes, until soft. Stir in the pastrami and dried currants and let cook for 5 minutes, while you prepare the broth mixture.

It was impossible for this chef to resist the substitution of velvety fresh sage for dried...there are many ways to go for broke in New York.

3) To prepare the broth mixture, whisk together the chicken broth (room temperature), eggs, honey, and spices in a medium-sized bowl.

Hard as it is to believe- there are some people who pass on pastrami. This chef made one batch vegetarian. The result? Still delicious.

4) In a greased 9 x 13 casserole dish, gently combine the bread cubes and onion/pastrami mix. Fold in the broth mixture and parsley to coat the cubes evenly. Melt the remaining 1/4 cup margarine and pour evenly over the top.

5) Bake for 40 minutes.


Ready to stuff!

Loved this recipe? Sam Sifton met up with Molly Yeh at home in North Dakota as she adds a new cultural repertoire: that of her 5th generation Norwegian-American farmer fiancé.

–Posted by Julia Berick