15 December 2008

My First Brisket

*This was so tasty that I reheated it the next day with a few tsp of italian herbs and served it over pasta. The picture to the right is my yummy leftovers!

This weekend we hosted our 2nd Hanukkah with my mother-in-law, her husband, my brother-in-law and of course, the rest of my little immediate family (husband + sweet baby). It was a relatively last minute decision to host it here, so I didn't plan a large menu weeks in advance the way I might normally do for such a celebration. My mother-in-law and I quickly agreed on a simple menu that made it easy for both of us to contribute. Obvious by the title of this post, my charge was the traditional Hanukkah brisket.
After a quick internet search I vetoed a number of sweeter roasts (many of which included dried fruit) and settled on this very basic recipe from Martha Stewart (with a few of my own modifications), mostly because I had most of the ingredients on hand and I knew it would be relatively inexpensive. Not to mention the fact that it was the perfect "make-ahead" meal. I cooked it on Saturday evening and then pureed the sauce, sliced the meat and heated it through on Sunday just before dinner.
This recipe is about as simple as they come. Season and brown the meat, caramelize the onions and garlic, add the rest of the holy trinity, pour in a generous amount of decent red wine, throw in a bay leaf, dump in a can of tomatoes, add the meat back to the pot and cook for a long, long time. Then you simply puree the sauce, slice the meat and serve. The result is a fork tender, melt-in-your-mouth dish that belies the humble beginnings of this tough cut of meat. It is accompanied by a rich sauce with an incredible depth of flavor that BEGS to be poured over latkes, bread or anything else that might soak it up.

  • 1 brisket of beef (about 4 pounds), top flap removed and fat trimmed
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large onions (about 2 1/2 pounds), halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 5 medium carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup diced celery, including leaves
  • One 28-ounce can plum tomatoes, with juice (I used Muir Glen fire-roasted)
  • 1 bay leaf


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Trim any remaining excess fat from brisket. Season both sides of brisket well with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add brisket, and brown very well, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate, and set aside.
  3. Reduce heat to medium low, add remaining tablespoon olive oil, onions, and garlic, and cook, stirring frequently, until quite brown and very soft, about 25 minutes. Add red wine, raise heat to high, and bring to a boil. Cook about 2 minutes, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom of the pot. Add carrots, celery, tomatoes and bay leaf and stir well to combine.
  4. Return brisket to the pot, spooning some liquid and vegetables over it. Cover, and transfer to the oven. Cook until very tender, about 3 hours, carefully turning meat after 1 1/2 hours.
  5. Let cool slightly, and remove brisket, being careful not to shred it. Puree sauce with stick blender (or in food processor). Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary. If preparing the day before, return brisket to pot, with sauce, and refrigerate. If serving right away, slice meat across the grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices, and place in sauce. Keep warm over low heat until serving time.
  6. If refrigerated overnight, remove brisket from refrigerator, and slice across the grain. Add sliced meat to sauce, and reheat over medium-low heat untill warmed through, about 30 minutes.

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