1.13.2012

Brisket

How to cook a brisket. Such an utterance sets off a chain reaction of controversy among Jewish women across the globe.

"Brown it before roasting; there's need to brown. Lay it in the pan fat side up; no, fat side down. Throw in a bottle of chili sauce and a packet of onion soup mix; douse it in a can of beer or Coke, or water. Potatoes and carrots are a must; no one cares about potatoes and carrots. Baste, don't baste. 325 oven, 350 oven, 375 oven. Twenty minutes per pound, 15 minutes per pound, cook it all day. Slice when it's hot; slice when it's cold. Cut against the grain at an angle...oh, just forget the angle. Hold on; I'm checking with my sister/mom/grandma."

What a mess, and why it's taken so long for me to post this recipe. I succumbed when my Irish-Italian, Catholic BFF from high school needed a brisket wingman. I helped her through this Williams-Sonoma recipe, my current favorite. She rocked it.

Recipe
Based on Williams-Sonoma Brisket

Here's what you'll need:

1 4-5 lb. brisket
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1/2 tablespoon fresh ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups diced yellow onion
1/2 cups diced carrots
2 garlic cloves, chopped
28 oz. canned plum tomatoes
2 cups Merlot, Cabernet, or Garnacha (Or 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth plus one tablespoon red wine vinegar)
1 bay leaf


1. Let brisket sit at room temperature at least one hour. Meat shouldn't feel cold, at all, when you begin cooking it.

2. Turn oven to 325. While oven preheats, use paper towels to pat the meat dry. Season both sides with 1 1/2 tablespoons salt, 1/2 tablespoon pepper.

3. Preheat roasting pan, over medium heat, until the surface is hot (add a splash of water and if it sizzles and evaporates, pan is ready). Add 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and immediately, throw in the brisket. Using a spatula press the meat down into the pan so it adheres to the surface. Flip it after 5-10 minutes, brown other side, then remove brisket from pan and set aside. Leave the oil and meat drippings in the pan.

4. Add onions and carrots to roasting pan and sauté until golden but not mushy, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and stir about a minute. Add wine, turn heat to medium high, and when wine boils turn down heat to medium. Simmer 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes, leaving them whole as you stir. Turn up the heat so mixture returns to a boil. Add the bay leaf, stir and turn off the heat. Gently stir the tomatoes into the center of the pan.

5. Place brisket, fat side down, atop the tomatoes (not submerging the brisket in liquid helps keep meat from falling apart, I think). Cover pan with heavy duty or double layer of foil and place it in the oven. Set a timer for 3 hours for a 4-pounder, adding 20 minutes for each additional 1/2 pound.

Now, Williams-Sonoma says to baste, but please, don't, not even a peek. (Trust this Ashkenazi Jew whose grandparents fled Russia circa 1900, if only to cook brisket in a pogrom-free land.) Walk away from the oven.

6. At the end of cooking time, remove the pan from the oven, place it on a trivet and remove the cover. Leave brisket in the pan and stick a fork in it, at the thickest part, and/or a few spots in the center of the piece. If the fork pierces easily, it's done. If not, re-cover the pan and cook brisket 30 minutes more. When brisket is done move it onto a cookie sheet with sides and set aside to cool.

7. Pour contents of roasting pan into a fine mesh strainer (sieve) and push the solids down with a spoon or rubber scraper. Dump whatever doesn't make it through the sieve into a bowl.

Are you still with me?

8. Allow brisket and gravy to cool to room temperature, then cover the dishes and refrigerate until ready to use, one to three days.

9. Now for the traditional cutting of the brisket. Place meat on a cutting board, fat side up. With a spoon scrap off as much of the fat as possible without disturbing the meat. Pitch the fat. Cut against the grain (lines on the meat's surface) as thick or thin as you like. Throw the slices back into the casserole dish, pour in the gravy, cover dish with foil, and set aside at room temperature, about 20 minutes.

Still there? I know, I know. I'm exhausted, too.

10. Preheat oven to 350. Heat brisket for about 20 minutes, adding time as needed. When the gravy is simmering it should be ready, or close to it. Taste a piece to be sure.

Congratulations. I hope all went well. If not, I'm sorry. Ruining such a large piece of meat is a drag. Time to order a pizza.

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