I cannot think of the word “brisket” without thinking of my mother. She made brisket for shiva calls, for mahjong, for Hanukkah. She considered it the perfect comfort food for a crowd. Although brisket can be very fatty, my mother’s go to meal was not. Like so many of her Jewish friends, mother’s “first cut” was Kosher and so well trimmed, the red meat was often unprotected. In spite of this sin, somehow Mother’s brisket was fairly tender, though a little dry. It was bathed in a sweet mixture of light beer and ketchup, surrounded by carrots and steamed potatoes. It wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t great and I never requested mother’s brisket for my birthday. In fact, until recently, I did not want braised oven roasted brisket for any occasion. But WCSH6 reminded me that Hanukkah would soon be here and wouldn’t I like to prepare something traditional for our viewing audience?! Last year, it was latkes, so this year, I decided it was time to tackle brisket.
Brisket comes from the muscular forequarters of the cow. It should be cooked slowly and although some of the fat should be cut away, a nice thin layer of fat must remain in order for the meat to melt in your mouth and taste rich. If you like your brisket super lean, the way my glamorous mother does, it’s going to be tasteless. Brisket can be purchased whole (10-18 pounds). It can also be purchased as the first cut or leaner flat cut (Most supermarkets carry the flat cut.). The second cut of brisket is significantly fattier and includes the deckle point. This second cut is the favorite of many chefs today. Rosemont Market and Bakery in Portland, Maine carries the whole brisket straight from local Maine farms and can give you either cut and tailor to your taste. I chose the first cut for this recipe because it is easier to find and because, as long as it’s not trimmed to death, it will cook beautifully, and be greatly enriched by the other ingredients in this recipe.
If at all possible, do make homemade beef or dark chicken stock for this dish. It makes a world of difference. And it’s a very good idea to prepare this a day or two in advance. All pot roasts benefit from a day of rest. Although you want to cook with some fat, once the meat is tender, you need to make sure the sauce is not greasy. The best way to remove fat from a sauce is to carefully skim the top congealed layer with a spoon after the sauce has chilled in the fridge. This slow cooked, time consuming dish is really rich and luscious and I tip my hat to meat master Bruce Aidells for helping me realize just how good a brisket can be.
WATCH JILLYANNA’S APPEARANCE ON WCSH6 BELOW:
- 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 heaping teaspoon dry mustard (I use Coleman's)
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
- 1 five pound flat-cut brisket, trimmed but with some fat still attached
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I use Grapeseed oil)
- 4-5 cups beef stock or dark chicken stock or a mixture (preferably homemade and defatted)
- 1 twelve ounce bottle of Belgian style stout (I use Maine made Allagash Black.)
- 7 whole pitted prunes
- 4 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons (packed) dark brown sugar
- 3 thinly sliced, medium sized yellow onions
- 7 whole garlic cloves
- 6 small heirloom carrots
- Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
- Mix first five ingredients in small bowl.
- Rub herb mixture over all sides of brisket.
- Heat vegetable oil in heavy, wide pot (such as Le Creuset ) over medium high heat.
- Add seasoned brisket to pot and cook until deep brown, not black (about 5 minutes per side.)
- Transfer brisket to platter. Add 2 cups broth to remaining liquid in pot and bring to boil, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pot. Stir in stout, prunes, bay leaves, and brown sugar.
- Bring to boil. Return seared brisket to pot, fat side down.
- Completely cover the exposed meat with sliced onions and then sprinkle garlic cloves over onions.
- Cover pot with heavy lid (or with parchment and tin foil) for 1 hour.
- Remove pot from oven. Uncover and turn brisket so that onion slices fall into liquid in pot.
- Return pot to oven and braise uncovered 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, remove pot, add 1 cup stock.
- Cover pot and slow roast for 1 hour and 30 minutes more.
- Transfer brisket to platter.
- Add 11/2 more cups of stock to liquid in pot, then add carrots.
- Return brisket to pot, cover and return to oven. Braise another 45 minutes until meat and carrots are fork tender.
- Remove pot with tender meat and vegetables from oven. Discard bay leaves.
- Place cooled pot into refrigerator and keep chilled up to 2 days.
- Skim the congealed fat from the surface of the sauce, slice the brisket (on the bias and against the grain) and reheat the meat in the sauce in a covered pot in a preheated 300 degree oven for 30 minutes.
- Carefully arrange meat on a serving platter, spoon sauce and vegetables over the meat, and serve with mashed potatoes, latkes, or challah bread.
- Like most pot roasts, brisket is better if you make it ahead and leave it to rest in the refrigerator. The flavors will deepen, the meat will marry with the sauce, and the excess fat will be easily removed. This dish is inspired by the Belgian beef stew "carbonnade flamande"and is meant to be made with a good Belgian or Belgian style beer. By the way, Maine made Allagash Black is delicious to drink while you are waiting for the brisket to cook.