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 straight-forward, 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 nice 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 1/2 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 heat more evenly.
Place the pot over medium-low heat, and heat the brisket in the sauce until everything is hot. Alternatively, you may place the pot in a preheated 325 F oven until everything is warmed through, and the cooking liquid has reduced and thickened a bit. This will take about 30 minutes in the oven, maybe less on the stovetop. Adjust seasonings as needed.
You can serve the brisket in the casserole or transfer it to a large shallow serving bowl. Either way, remove and discard the bay leaves and sprinkle the parsley on top of the brisket, if desired.
If you are serving the brisket right after you cook it:
Remove the meat from the casserole and let it rest on a platter, loosely tented with aluminum foil. Let the cooking liquid and vegetables sit for about 15 minutes, then spoon off any fat that has accumulated. Place the casserole over medium-high heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid reduces a bit, about 10 minutes. Adjust seasonings as necessary, and remove and discard the bay leaves. Slice the meat neatly across the grain, return it to the pot.
Nutrition information per serving: 440 calories; 243 calories from fat; 27 g fat (11 g saturated; 2 g trans fats); 93 mg cholesterol; 1509 mg sodium; 17 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 10 g sugar; 28 g protein.
Katie Workman has written two cookbooks focused on easy, family-friendly cooking, "Dinner Solved!" and "The Mom 100 Cookbook." She blogs at http://www.themom100.com/about-katie-workman