Growing up with Jewish traditions, foods, and culture you would think I have had many briskets but for whatever the reason it just never happened. Making my first brisket was a learning experience and in some ways I feel like it’s almost as big of a right-of-Jewish-passage as a Bar Mitzvah!
Brisket is an interesting cut of meat. This comes from the front of a cow and because of all of the toughness, connective tissue, and fat it is actually one of the cheapest cuts of beef. Another fun thing about brisket is that it also is the cut used to make corned beef and pastrami.
Now you may be wondering why I am making brisket on a Monday night in the middle of January. Why didn’t I make it for Chanukah or wait until Rosh Hashanah? It simply comes down to my season cooking rotation. For winter I am focusing on beef, bison, and goose. Well it was obvious the goose was my Christmas rockstar and for Chanukah I am all about the cheese blintzes. Once I started looking through my cookbooks for beef recipes the brisket kept standing out. I mean what’s not to love? A slow cooked inexpensive slab of beef that makes your house smell wonderful, it’s minimal work, and you end up with this tender stewy meat with whatever veggies you add to it. Think of it as Jewish pot roast.
Since I had plans to try my hand at making corned beef and pastrami this winter I went ahead and bought an entire brisket from Costco. It was somewhere around 6 or 7 pounds. I then portioned it off to make my pastrami, corned beef, and brisket. This gave me roughly 2 pounds of each. When carving up a brisket slab you may be tempted to trim off the large fat cap. Don’t! This is a key component to making the brisket so tender. Having said that I will say my finished brisket was too fatty so for future briskets I may see what kinds of tricks I can do to render out more of the fat from the finished meat.
To tackle my first brisket I went to what I feel is my “Jewish” authority, The Gefilte Manifesto. In it they offered a brisket recipe that is braised in a white wine and served with root vegetables. Braising the brisket couldn’t be easier. It starts with searing the brisket on the stove. This takes a little manhandling but once the whole thing is nicely browned you then remove it, cover the bottom of the pot with sliced onion, return the brisket, then cover with liquid. For this recipe the liquid was beef stock and Pinot Grigio along with some canned tomatoes. Then it was topped with some fresh herbs and covered. Then placed in a 300ºF oven for 4 ½ hours and let to rest for 45 minutes.
They actually wrote the recipe with butternut squash but give you instructions if you want to use other root vegetables instead. Since I had other sides in mind I omitted the addition of root veggies. For the first time I was serving it I had just a little of the roasted root veggies leftover from my Christmas dinner that we finished and some leftover Garlic Brussel Chips. I then took the stock from the brisket and made a gravy of sorts.
The finished dish was really delicious. As every article about brisket says brisket is better as leftovers and reheated so trying it again tonight is something I am really looking forward to.
So after making my first brisket I am now excited to work with recipes and techniques to fine one that works well for me and the ingredients I can source. This is the prefect winter meal as it’s a nice slow cooked piece of beef. A real one pot dish or make other fun sides to got with it. It’s truly a versatile main!