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Prize brisket turns lawyer into ‘balabusta’
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Prize brisket turns lawyer into ‘balabusta’

Dinah Herndon enters her first-ever cook-off, and takes first place

Staff Writer, New Jersey Jewish News

Contest winner Dinah Hendon cooking in her Verona kitchen.     
Contest winner Dinah Hendon cooking in her Verona kitchen.     

Dinah Hendon entered a cooking contest on a lark with her “famous” brisket, and promptly forgot all about it — until the sponsors called to tell her she’d won.

Really, as she tells it, her experience with brisket didn’t start well at all. 

“The first time I made a brisket was for company. Everyone was at the table ready to eat. I went to get the brisket — and it was burned and dry. It was not juicy at all. I was close to tears,” she recalled in a phone conversation. 

That was 12 years ago. She has been experimenting ever sense, and in the last three years has been proud of the brisket she has made for various Jewish holidays. It combines a recipe from The New York Times that includes sun-dried tomatoes, another from a friend who uses lots of sauteed onions, and a few additions that pull it together. Cooked on a bed of sauteed onions, with carrots, red potatoes, and bell peppers, it is covered with tomatoes in three forms: paste, sun-dried, and canned pureed, which, she said, is her secret to its juiciness. 

Hendon, a Verona resident, is vice-president-elect of communications of Bnai Keshet in Montclair and an attorney specializing in commercial litigation. She recalled how she and a colleague at Lasser Hochman LLC in Roseland fell into a conversation about cooking contests. Although she had missed the deadline for a number of baking contests, her friend “started Googling and shouting out other contests,” she said. When she asked if Hendon makes anything with sun-dried tomatoes, Hendon thought of her brisket. 

Four weeks after entering the Bela Sun Luci/Mooney Farms sun-dried tomato cooking contest, her first cooking contest ever, she got a telephone message from the sponsor. She had won first-place, which comes not only with bragging rights but also $2,500. 

“Maybe it was beginner’s luck,” she said. “Or maybe they got tired of the usual recipes.”

In any case, she proclaimed, using the Yiddish word for an idealized homemaker, “I’m officially a balabusta!” 

Hendon said she might enter a few more contests — after she makes her brisket for Rosh Hashana.

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