Simple, tender, flavorful brisket
As the Jewish holidays approach, it’s time for many of us to think about brisket.
My sister who cooks for the Jewish holidays every year (and plenty during the rest of the year) recently admitted to me that she had never made brisket, that it intimidated her. How to make sure it’s flavorful? How to know how long to cook it? It all made her anxious.
This brisket recipe is straightforward, uses traditional seasonings and flavors, and results in a tender-but-still-sliceable piece of meat. Aside from setting aside a few hours for it to cook, it really takes little work. Don’t you just love a main course that you can ignore while you’re preparing the rest of the dinner?
Some recipes call for browning a brisket first, which is nice if you have extra time on your hands, but it’s not necessary for a perfectly tender brisket. If possible, make the brisket a day ahead. This accomplishes several things: One, your main course is made and checked off the list. Two, you can scoop off any fat that has hardened on top of the sauce, resulting in a cleaner-tasting gravy. Three, cold brisket is easier to slice, and then you reheat the slices in the sauce. Four, the flavors have more time to meld and build (like soups and stews).
First-cut brisket means brisket with much of the fat cut off (but not all; you don’t want that). If you get a bigger piece of meat and want to cut it into two pieces, you can overlap them in the pot. In general, brisket is resilient.
Brisket is great served with mashed potatoes or some simple buttered noodles.
Start to finish: 4 to 4 ½ hours Servings: 8 to 10
2 teaspoons olive oil 1 tablespoon minced garlic 1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme 1 teaspoon kosher or coarse salt 1?4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 first-cut beef brisket (4 to 5 pounds) 2 cups chopped onions 4 large carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
3 bay leaves 3 tablespoons tomato paste 1 cup low-sodium beef or chicken broth
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes in juice or puréed 1 cup red wine 2 tablespoons chopped Italian (flat-leaf) parsley (optional), for garnish
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Place the olive oil, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper in a small bowl and stir to mix. Rub the mixture all over the meat.
Place the brisket, fat side up, in a large casserole or Dutch oven with a tight-fitting
lid. Toss in the onions, carrots and bay leaves. Blend the tomato paste into the broth and then pour it over the meat and vegetables. Pour the crushed tomatoes and red wine on top. The liquid should cover the meat and most of the vegetables. Cover the casserole and bake until
the meat is very tender, about 3 1?2 hours.
If you are serving the brisket the next day:
Let it cool and then put the entire casserole in the refrigerator. About an hour before serving, skim off any hardened fat, then take the meat out of the sauce and cut off any
excess fat from the top of the meat. Slice the brisket across the grain, as thin or thick as you like, then neatly return the sliced meat to the sauce. You can let it sit at room temperature for an hour before reheating it, which will make the process go faster and the meat heat more evenly.
This January 2012 photo shows brisket made with traditional seasonings and flavors in New York. This dish is from a recipe by Katie Workman.