Whenever I am asked what is the best way to make a brisket, I am stumped. Sure, there are techniques I always rely on. I sear it thoroughly, then slowly oven-braise the burnished meat with aromatics. When it emerges deeply flavored and fork-tender, I let It rest a long while in the pan sauce, reabsorbing the rich juices lost during cooking, to eliminate the dryness endemic to the cut. The sauce, defatted first, is pureed, then cooked down to concentrate the luscious flavors.
But beyond that, this iconic homey Jewish meat lends itself to so many variations. Sometimes I go traditional with a savory bubbe brisket, a straightforward, rustic dish requiring no advance marinating, like Easy Onion-Braised Brisket. Other times—especially for big holiday dinners—I like to tinker the humble to the haute.
This brisket, like the Moroccan-Flavored Brisket recipe that follows it, is the latter: a pull-out-all-the-stops celebration. While it does not require much more work than many, it does entail advance planning.
Begin a day or two before the seder so the garlic-rosemary studding can infuse the meat for at least eight hours. The next day, simmer the brisket extra slowly with plenty of shallots, red wine, and tomato to develop even more profound flavors. If possible, chill it overnight in the gravy so the fat can be easily lifted off. The day of the seder all that’s left to do is reheat the juicy meat in the pan sauce, enlivened with a fresh sparkle of herbs.
No, it’s not bubbe cuisine. But my bubbes would have savored every bite.
Prepare the flavor paste: process the paste ingredients in a blender or mini food processor to a coarse puree. Make a slit in the fat side of the brisket with the point of a small, sharp knife. Insert
Remove the meat from the refrigerator and bring it to room temperature. Scrape off the paste and pat the meat dry with paper towels.
Preheat the oven to 275°F. In a Dutch oven or flameproof roasting pan large enough to hold the brisket snugly heat the oil over medium-high heat. (If using a roasting pan, you may need to set it over two burners.) Add the brisket, and brown well on both sides (this will take about 10 minutes in all). Sear to caramelize the meat, but don’t let it develop a hard, brown crust, which might make the meat tough or bitter. Transfer the brisket to a platter and set aside. (Or sear under the broiler: place the brisket fat side up, on a foil-lined broiler pan, under a preheated broiler. Broil for 5 to 6 minutes on each side, until browned. Don’t allow it to develop a hard, dark crust. Move the meat around as necessary, so it sears evenly.)
Pour off all but
Salt and pepper the brisket to taste on both sides, and add it to the pan, fat side up. Spoon the vegetables and pan liquid all over the meat. Cover the pan tightly (use heavy-duty foil if you don’t have a lid for the roasting pan) and place in oven.
Braise the meat, basting with the pan sauce and vegetables every half-hour, for 3 to 3½ hours or more, until the meat is fork-tender.
Remove the pan from the oven and cool for 1 hour, then refrigerate, covered, overnight, in the braising liquid.
When ready to serve the meat: scrape off all the solid fat from the surface of the meat and braising liquid. Transfer the brisket to a platter and cut into thin slices across the grain at a slight diagonal.
Prepare the gravy: warm the braising liquid to room temperature. Remove thyme and rosemary sprigs and discard. In a food processor or a blender in batches, puree the pan solids with some of the braising liquid. Return this mixture to the pan and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper. If the gravy is too thin, boil it down to desired consistency over high heat. Stir in the rosemary and thyme leaves.
Return the sliced brisket to the pan and reheat slowly, either on top of the stove or in a 325°F oven, until heated through.
Arrange the meat on a serving platter with some of the gravy spooned over the meat. Pass the rest of the gravy in a sauce boat at the table.
© 2008 Jayne Cohen. All rights reserved.