The Jolly Tomato family happily shares both Jewish and Christian traditions…and during the Jewish high holiday season (this year Rosh Hashanah is September 24-26 and Yom Kippur is October 3-4), we have to make sure our brisket game is in top form.
Fortunately, this year, just as we were starting to think more and more about brisket, we happened to take part in a great session at the International Food Bloggers Conference with the Beef: It’s What’s For Dinner folks, who gave us the lowdown on preparing, cooking, and storing every single cut of beef.
The deal with brisket is that it’s a tougher cut of meat, from the hind quarter of the cattle, and it needs to be cooked “low and slow” for a long period of time. Sometimes it’s cooked, Texas-style, on a grill; other times (like at our house) it’s braised in liquid for the better part of an afternoon. Of course are many schools of thought on what a good holiday brisket should taste like (Should it be relatively dry or soaking in lots of gravy? Should the gravy be savory or a little bit sweet? Should the gravy be chunky or smooth?) But the one constant is that the cooking process should transform the brisket from the tough cut of meat that it is into a fork-tender and hearty meal.
When you make a holiday stew-style brisket like this one, it’s a well-known fact that brisket tastes better the second day (when the flavors have had more of a chance to settle), so one of the best ways to make a great-tasting brisket is to make it the day before and refrigerate it. Then on the following day, you can slice, reheat, and serve.
Ready to get started? Here’s a guide to a great-tasting holiday brisket:
1 – Prepping the brisket: Look for a healthy-sized brisket of about 4 to 5 pounds. Generally you’re going to want the brisket “flat” part, which is leaner and meatier than the “tip.” Rub the brisket with salt and pepper and then sear the brisket on both sides in a few tablespoons of vegetable oil. Place the brisket so that it can lie flat, with the fat side up, in a large casserole dish.
2 – Preparing the trimmings: Here’s where you can basically empty your vegetable drawer if you want to. Most people put an onion (peeled and quartered) and 2 to 3 carrots and celery stalks (chopped) into the pot. We like to add anything else that’s on hand, including mushrooms, spinach, and/or tomatoes.
3 – Adding the braising liquid: You’ll want about 2 1/2 cups of liquid altogether, but the combinations and ratios are up to you – our family likes a lot of gravy so we usually put in a little bit extra. Generally we put in one 28-ounce can of plum tomatoes, 2 cups of beef broth, and 1 cup of red wine. Other possible additions include salsa (for a savory/spicy flavor), molasses (for a slightly sweeter flavor), or even super-sweet additions like cola or ginger ale (no joke!). For seasoning, you can add (to taste) chili powder, onion soup mix, garlic, garlic salt, or your favorite fresh or dried spices.
4 – Cooking: Stir the liquid and bring it to a low boil in the pot. Then cover the pot and cook the brisket, fat side up, in a preheated 325-degree oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until you are able to pull apart a section with a fork. Remove pot from oven and let the brisket and the sauce cool. Skim the fat from the gravy. If you like a smoother gravy, run some or all of it through a food processor to give it a more velvety texture. Carefully place the brisket and sauce in refrigerator-friendly containers and refrigerate until the following day.
5 – Heating and Serving: Remove the brisket from the refrigerator and place it, fat-side down, on a carving board. Carefully slice the brisket against the grain in 1/4-inch slices. Meanwhile, heat the sauce in a medium saucepan until it is simmering. Place the brisket slices in a flat baking pan and cover with the heated gravy. Heat at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Serves 8 to 10.
Since this is Jolly Tomato, we feel compelled to add that brisket is an extremely kid-friendly because it’s so tender and easy to eat. Plus, if you’ve got lots of vegetables in your gravy, your kids are probably eating their veggies without even knowing it…and what could be wrong with that?
L’Shanah Tovah to our Jewish friends and family!