Holiday Brisket

Over the past several days I’ve been fielding friendly requests for Passover and Easter recipes and have been coming up blank. “Come on Sly Rooster, what have you got for me?” the repeated refrain.

While my family celebrates both holidays (or EVERY holiday, as Gary would claim), I am sad to say that we don’t do either Passover nor Easter very well. Yom Kippur–with authentic bagels, assorted fish salads, sturgeon, lox, Toddy’s egg salad (anyone from the Five Towns gonna chime in on that one?), I’ve got break the fast covered. Christmas–give me a country and I will deliver an authentic meal (our tradition of replicating traditional Christmas dinners from around the world). Cinco de Mayo–coming your way soon!

Passover, though, that’s intimidating and I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve shied away. Haggadahs, seder plate, lamb shank, afikomen. Oy vey. And Easter. It’s hard to say no to sweet, smiling faces asking to open “just one more” candy-filled, pastel egg. Who needs brunch or lunch, or dinner for that matter, when you have chocolate? Besides the fact that we always seems to be driving home from Spring Break on Easter Sunday.

But you have inspired me to deliver and so I sit here typing with Todd’s Modern Day Brisket cooking away in the oven. My house is filled with aromatics, teasing my family with a meal that won’t be served yet another day. Brisket is a cut of meat from the breast or lower chest of beef and does best cooked low and slow, a day before serving.  The resulting meat is tender to the point of falling apart and highly seasoned with whatever braising liquid you’ve used. Brisket is traditional on the Passover table and maybe less so for Easter. But if you want to veer away from ham, or possibly serve an additional meat, beef brisket is a nice alternative. Hey, you can even serve it in slices alongside your spiral cut ham with the same country buns, but now we are unimaginably un-Kosher.

This recipe is taken from The New Jewish Table by Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff Gray.  The cookbook tells of a love story between Gray and Kassoff Gray and the marriage of their vastly different backgrounds as it relates to their love of food.  As Todd explains, “I took the traditional Jewish braised brisket and added techniques from my French arsenal to come up with a modern, elegant version of this beloved meat dish.” While most Jewish mothers have their brisket that has been passed down through generations, I encourage you to try this approach.

So, get cooking the day before your holiday and serve on Monday (First Night), Tuesday (Second Night) or Sunday. Happy holidays to all!

Todd's Modern Day Brisket

Todd’s Modern Day Brisket

Todd’s Modern Day Brisket

Serves 6 to 8

Adapted from The New Jewish Table

2 Tbls kosher salt

1 Tbls smoked paprika

1 Tbls mustard seed

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

One 3-lb beef brisket, trimmed of excess fat

2 Tbls canola oil

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

2 sprigs fresh thyme

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 carrot, chopped

2 celery ribs, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

4 cups veal stock (I substituted beef broth)

2 cups dry red wine (such as Cabernet Sauvignon)

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

Brown the brisket. Heat oven to 325F. Mix together the salt, paprika, mustard seed and pepper in a small bowl. Rub the spice mixture all over the brisket. Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the brisket and cook until brown on both sides–5 to 7 minutes per side.

Bake the brisket. Transfer the brisket to a baking dish just large enough to hold it. Then add the rosemary, thyme and garlic. Add the chopped vegetables and pour in the veal stock or beef broth, wine and vinegar. Cover the dish with heavy-duty aluminum foil and bake until the brisket is fork-tender–3 to 4 hours. Transfer the brisket temporarily to a plate while you strain the liquid through a mesh strainer into a small saucepan (discard the herbs, vegetables, and garlic) and wash and dry the baking dish.

Press the brisket. Return the brisket to the clean baking dish. Place another heavy dish on top of it, directly on the meat, to weigh it down. The ideal weight for this is 2.5 lbs., so add some canned goods to the top of the dish. Then wrap the entire assemblage in foil (over weights and all) and refrigerate overnight and until shortly before ready to serve.

Make the sauce. Meanwhile, heat the strained braising liquid over medium heat until it is reduced to about 2.5 cups–about 20 minutes.The finished sauce should have a glare-like consistency. Taste the sauce and add salt or pepper if you wish. Refrigerate the sauce until ready to reheat the brisket.

Complete the brisket. Shortly before ready to serve, remove the brisket from refrigerator and transfer to a cutting board. Also remove the sauce. Cut the brisket into 3-inch cubes: You don’t want to waste any of the meat, so the cubes don’t need to be exactly the same sixe or perfect along the edges. Place the brisket in a pan just large enough to hold it in a single layer. Pour in enough sauce to just cover the meat (you may add a little stock/broth or water if there isn’t enough sauce to do this). Heat over low heat until warmed through–about 10 minutes. Spoon the brisket onto a serving platter; pour the sauce over and serve.