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Brisket 101

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Throughout the year I teach a lot of cooking classes to groups and this time of year, I teach brides-to-be how to cook and help set up their home kitchens.

I love teaching and have always thought that if I could combine my two favorite activities: cooking and teaching, I would be in career heaven.

The bridal cooking classes are always interesting because I am often surprised by what they want to learn. Occasionally I am called upon to teach their intended’s favorite dish like steak, osso buco, some ethnic foods and the obvious sushi. But by far, the most popular topic is brisket. Recently, one bride took me into her confidence saying that her fiancé had agreed to marry her because she had promised that she made the world’s best brisket! Well, she did not know how to make any type of brisket when I met her, but she does now. Look out Mr. So-and-so, you will be getting great brisket!

I make a great brisket and I think I make a better brisket than most folks and here is why. Now, before I start, I want to be perfectly clear, I am talking about indoor, oven-cooked brisket. I love smoked brisket and know my way around a smoker, but here we are going to stay indoors and go with an oven method.

Pay attention all you would-be brides: Brisket could make or break a marriage!

The usual method of cooking brisket is to dump a bunch of onions, garlic and then a saucy type concoction over the meat, cover it and cook it until it has shriveled up and shrunk in size by about one half. The sauce ingredient ranges from a cola beverage to jarred chili sauce. YUCK! I am convinced that the reason chicken and brisket often share star billing on holiday and Shabbat tables is that some well intentioned cook shrunk the brisket and panicked and threw in some chickens to cover all bases.

My friend Julia told me that she likes to make brisket rubbed with spices, wrapped in foil and cooked in a slow oven for 10 hours. She swore that the spice-infused meat stays plump and juicy and keeps its hearty texture.  Inspired by her technique, I decided to adapt her method for the slow cooker. She was right.

A slow cooked brisket does not shrink, shred or dry out. It is amazing. Also, by browning the brisket before cooking it, you ensure deep, rich, beefy flavor. Do not leave out this step! Yes it is messy, but once you are making brisket, you may as well go all the way and really make it!

Once the brisket is cooked, you have a couple of choices. You can make it a holiday or Shabbat type dinner by slicing it thinly and serving it with a wine sauce or you can serve it my favorite way with a tangy Root Beer BBQ sauce, piled up on a crusty roll and topped with coleslaw. Show your brisket versatility and do both; you may just land prince charming!

8 servings

For the rub:

2 tablespoons dried mustard

2 tablespoons dried thyme

1 tablespoon ground ginger

¼ cup brown sugar

1 5-pound first cut brisket

2 large Spanish onions, diced

3 medium carrots, diced

3 ribs of celery, diced

1 head of garlic, unpeeled, cut in half horizontally

  1. Place a large sauté pan lightly coated with olive oil over medium high heat. Salt and pepper the brisket on both sides. Brown the brisket in the pan on one side until it is deep dark brown. Turn the brisket and brown the other side. Remove the brisket and cool.
  2. Combine the ingredients for the rub in a bowl.
  3. Rub the brisket with a little olive oil and tomato paste. Generously coat the brisket on both sides with the rub. Place the vegetables in the insert for the slow cooker. Lay the brisket, fat side up on top of the vegetables.  Cook on LOW for 8-10 hours or until a fork inserted in the brisket slides out with no resistance. If you do not have a slow cooker: place a bed of chopped vegetables in a shallow pan. Place the rubbed brisket on top and cover tightly with parchment paper and then foil. I do not like foil touching my food directly as the metal reacts with the tomato paste and has a sharp flavor. Place in a 200 degree oven and cook for 10 hours or until a fork piercing the meat can be removed with no resistance.
  4. Discard the vegetables but save the pan juices. Cool the brisket completely before slicing. Toss with pan juices to keep moist.

 Root Beer BBQ Sauce

I will often go out of my way for a mug of cold, bubbly root beer. So, why not a BBQ sauce that sings with the earthy spice that I love? This is my version of the regional American sauce. I use it on chicken, short ribs and brisket.

You can store this sauce, covered in the refrigerator for up to one week, or freeze it for up to three months.

Yields 3 cups

2 cups favorite Root beer ( don’t use diet root beer)
1 cup Heinz ketchup
¼  cup fresh lemon juice
¼  cup fresh orange juice
¼ cup bourbon or apple cider if you prefer non-alcoholic

½ cup crumbled ginger snaps
1 ½ tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon light molasses
½ teaspoon minced lemon peel

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
½  teaspoon ground ginger
2 cloves of garlic, grated
1 medium onion, grated

2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper

1. Place all of the ingredients in the insert of the slow cooker and cover. Cook on HIGH for 6 hours. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

 Wine Sauce

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 large onion, sliced thinly

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 carrots, chopped

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 bouquet garni-10 parsley stems, 6 thyme sprigs, 1 bay leaf, 1 celery rib tied with kitchen twine)

1 medium beef soup bone (ask your butcher for this-the protein will bind with the tannins in the wine and make the sauce richer)

2 bottles dry red wine (I prefer Cabernet Sauvignon)

3 cups chicken stock (prefer homemade)

  1. Sweat the onion, garlic and carrots in a large stainless steel saucepan over medium low heat until the onion is translucent (about 10 minutes). You do not want any color on the vegetables.
  2. Add the vinegar, increase the heat to medium and reduce the vinegar to a glaze.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the wine has reduced by 2/3. The longer and slower this process-the better tasting the sauce will be. Do not rush this!

Strain out the vegetables and soup bone and discard. Add the chicken stick and reduce by ½. You will have about 2 ½ cups of wine sauce. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Laura Frankel is an Executive Chef at Wolfgang Puck Kosher Catering and author of numerous kosher cookbooks including Jewish Cooking for All Seasons and Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes. To purchase her books, click here. For more articles by Laura, click here.
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2 Comments »

  • Laurie says:

    What size brisket did you cook? I have an 8-10 lb brisket and want to know how long to cook it.

  • Jane Buford says:

    I’ve been cooking Brisket the same way for years, and never had a problem. I sear it on top of the stove with garlic salt paprika and parsley flakes rubbed on both sides. Slice onions go under the meat while searing then the brisket gets covered with low sodium beef broth and covered. It then goes into a 350 oven for approx 2.5 hours. Today when I took it out, the gravy was extremely oily and I don’t know why. I use smart balance oil for the searing, and either used to much or the meat which was very expensive, was unusually fatty. In any case, it’s in the refridgerator now and is already sliced. What do I do about my horrible gravy? HELP!
    i

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