2 Gentile Chefs Elevate Kosher Food

2 Gentile Chefs Elevate Kosher Food

Mark Hennessey and Jose Meirelles offer a range of French recipes in their new cookbook.

Patrice Worthy

Patrice Worthy is a contributor at the Atlanta Jewish Times.

Photo by Patrice Worthy
(From left) Mark Hennessey, Michael Kosowski and Jose Meirelles keep busy in the kitchen at Congregation Beth Tefillah.
Photo by Patrice Worthy (From left) Mark Hennessey, Michael Kosowski and Jose Meirelles keep busy in the kitchen at Congregation Beth Tefillah.

In the tradition of upscale restaurants, the chefs at Le Marais, a kosher French brasserie in the heart of Manhattan, have published a cookbook.

The book features about 140 recipes, ranging from French sauces to the restaurant’s acclaimed steak.

The cookbook begins with a foreword by former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman and his wife, Hadassah. They talk about Le Marais as a staple in New York, an unlikely restaurant that is the quintessential New York story.

“Where else would a non-Jewish Portuguese immigrant open a French bistro, hire an Irish-Italian Catholic as its executive chef and create one of the finest and most successful kosher restaurants in the United States?” they write.

That non-Jewish background is what gives chefs Mark Hennessey and Jose Meirelles, the owner of Le Marais, their special flavor. They have experience that goes beyond the kosher kitchen, and they translate those nuances to bring an added layer of taste to kosher food, which in this case is French cuisine.

The book first tackles the sauces, the beginning of all French cuisine. Hennessey notes that in most cookbooks the sauces are in the back, but he chose to lead with sauces because, even in American culinary schools, sauces serve as an introduction to the kitchen.

“The first kitchen that you entered was the skills kitchen: the basics of knife cuts, sautéing, and, most importantly, stock and sauce making,” Hennessey writes.

From there, the book takes off into a world of French cooking “that just happens to be kosher.”

The recipes are surprisingly simple and easy.

In the culinary world, French cooking, with its mother sauces, is what many beginning chefs set out to master. For a layperson, the dishes can seem intimidating, but in the Le Marais cookbook the only things intimidating are the titles.

For example, the Le Marais Hollandaise Variation Béarnaise is a simple, six-ingredient recipe using chardonnay and tarragon. The Pan Seared Tournedos and Steak Au Poivre have only four ingredients each, with simple instructions.

Surprisingly, the most intimidating item to make is the French fry. The fries at Le Marais have been called “fabulous” by New York Magazine restaurant critic Michael Anstendig, and Hennessey says, “They are among the best in New York, kosher or not.”

The fries are made using simple Idaho potatoes and GPOD, a group of size, grade and ship potatoes. The potatoes are peeled and sliced into half-inch-thick sticks. Simple enough.

But the deep fryer and oil are where it gets complicated, and Hennessey warns readers it’s not easy.

“Like I said earlier, the perfect fry is a process. Seems to me that it’s much easier to make your way into Times Square to see us than do it yourself,” he writes as a side note.

The Le Marais cookbook lifts the veil of mystery on French food and invites readers to try their hand at French recipes for the kosher kitchen. It’s presented in an easy, educational way, even making a case for USDA-graded beef. The book and its contents aren’t for those who enjoy simple flavors, but if you’re looking to expand your palate and speak some French, “Le Marais: A Rare Steakhouse … Well Done” is a great starting point.

Le Marais: A Rare Steakhouse … Well Done

By Mark Hennessey and Jose Meirelles

Gefen Publishing, 270 pages, $29.95 (paperback)

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