Gedemfte Flaysh, the food of Jewish Giants and Flanken Recipe

            August 2012    
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Gedemft For All Mankind

By Seth D. Bykofsky

My maternal grandmother, Rose (who among us didn’t have a grandmother named Rose?), made a mean flanken. And when I say “mean,” I mean “mean,” in the purest sense of the word.

It was “gedemft” – potted. Boiled out, for hours, until the bones were not only loose, they were gagging for air, clinging to the aluminum shissel in a vain attempt to escape!

Gedemft. As with much of the generation that enjoyed the rendering of chicken fat and threw thoughts of cholesterol into the mix like so many soup greens, gedemfte flaysh was standard fare in the household. A household, mind you, where Bubby was the consummate balaboosta – the perfect homemaker, housewife (with corresponding housecoat, of course) and cook. Walk in that door and Bubby was in charge – and she’d let you know it in no uncertain terms.

Ah, the smell of gedemfte flaysh – formerly resembling beef in another incarnation – would permeate the air on any given afternoon. Throw what once resembled a roast into a large pot, cover it with water, spice it up with tsibilis (onions), a bissel this, a pinch of that, and more salt than Lot’s wife could ever have looked back on, and let it simmer on low gas all day – or until the kitchen reaches Fahrenheit 450.

Of the great heroes, saviors and sages of our people -- Moses, Maimonides, Koufax – it was often said, “hut gekemft far ale yidn” – very roughly translated as having fought for or struggled with all Jews. Sure, but could they make flanken? Pot roast? Gornischt! Kafka could cook, but you’d never find Betty Friedan in the kitchen.

All right. So I didn’t know that red meat had blood until I was married. Broil? Roast? Bar-B-Que maybe? “Come off it,” as Bubby would say. After all, this was her kitchen, and when she wasn’t fighting the battles on the front lines of the ILGWU or taking minutes (seemed like hours) at Histadrut, you could find Bubby at her post hovering above the stove, tissue hanging from the pocket of her housecoat, wooden spoon in hand (just in case the flanken tried to jump out of the simmering stew), making soup, boiling potatoes (borsht sold separately) and watching over the gedemfte flaysh.

Yes, in her own way, Bubby made a contribution to the Jewish spirit, as activist, matriarch, organizer and one who joined in the struggle. Gekemft far ale yidn. It was, however, her contribution to gastronomic tradition that endeared Bubby, not only to her family but to an entire generation. Gedemft for all mankind!

* * * * *

Bubby’s Boiled Flanken

Prep: 10 min, Cook: 2:00 hr.

  • 1 Tbs. vegetable oil

  • 4 lbs. lean meaty flanken

  • 2 cups onions, chopped

  • 1 cup carrots, chopped

  • 1/2 cup celery, chopped

  • 4 celery leaves

  • 4 sprigs parsley

  • 6 whole black peppercorns

  • 4 cups beef stock or water, or a combination of the two

Heat oil in a heavy pot over medium high heat. Brown flanken 2 minutes per side. Drain off fat. Add next 6 ingredients and salt to taste. Pour in the stock or water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer gently 2 hours, or until the flanken is very tender and comes away from the bones. Strain broth and discard vegetables. Serve flanken with broth.

This recipe serves 8 people. Due to the nature of this recipe, it adjusts the number of servings in multiples of 8 only.

Per serving: calories 414, fat 21.4g, 47% calories from fat, cholesterol 145mg, protein 47.5g, carbohydrates 5.8g, fiber 1.7g, sugar 3.7g, sodium 599mg, diet points 10.2.

Note: Author not responsible for heartburn and/or indigestion. Antacid available in pharmacy.

The writer lives in West Hempstead, NY with his wife, Joan, in a flanken-free environment. To this day he remains pot roast-averse and gedemfte intolerant. He can be reached at


from the August 2012 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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