There are many things one can say about brisket, but dull is not one of them. Brisket is a piece of meat that just keeps on giving. Think about it. You’ve got your bbq, your stews, your Jewish versions, and you can even grind it into hamburger. And soup. Well, you see what I mean. In our house brisket was always the most talked, debated? about subject of the dinner table. Was it sliced correctly (no, not usually), whose fault was it, (usually dad’s, because my mother didn’t have faults), was it dry, (no, usually mushy and stringy due to being sliced wrong). Well, hopefully you get the picture. Thus I think it is easy to tell, that this was the Jewish version of brisket-the one where 5 people are eating but there are 6 opinions on how to slice and bake it correctly. Was it the onion soup version, the tomato soup version, the Coca Cola version or was it just made up. Potatoes or carrots or both and what about celery? Yes, brisket, always something to look forward to0. And just for the record my mother assures me that she now has a wonderful brisket recipe. However I have now stopped eating meat and that is another story.But this brisket remains as my children and husband still have needs to be met.
And that brings me to Hanukah. Yes, the festival of lights. The night where the house smells like oil and one hopes that the smell of brisket masks the odor of a fast food restaurant. Hence also the need for cinnamon applesauce. This year it happened to be the night of my birthday so we were lucky enough to add a chocolate cake to the mix. Which somehow leads us back to the brisket which is made a day before the big celebration (OK no guessing, it wasn’t THAT big.) It is important to plan ahead when you make brisket. Brisket is easier to slice after it has been chilled and of course it leaves less to do when you are frying all those latkes. And it gives you an opportunity to get out the electric knife. Yahoo!
Now hopefully you are thinking what I’m thinking; how to avoid all those brisket dilemmas? In my house I felt the need for a consistent and uncomplicated brisket. One that was soothing to eat and heavenly to smell. Something that would fill my senses with warmth and goodness and love. (Yeah, getting a little sappy here) Well, I needed a new brisket recipe-one that would always turn out the same, taste the same and not cause the cook tsuris. And for that recipe (which I discovered when my children were just five), I have Ruth Reichel to thank. Yes, December, 2005 Gourmet, My Mother’s Brisket, saved this mother’s life. That good, that easy, that satisfying. Don’t change it, just eat it. You’ll thank me, I promise.
.My Mother’s Brisket
1 5-6lb brisket well trimmed (fatty briskets are for BBQ)
1 t salt divided
1t pepper divided (I usually add more because it is good when it is peppery)
Garlic powder to sprinkle
3 T oil, divided
4 cloves garlic minced
Pat brisket dry and season with 1/2t salt and pepper. Place 1T oil in Dutch oven and heat in a preheated 375 oven for 10 minutes. Place brisket in oil, fat side up and bake uncovered for 30 minutes.
Saute onions in remaining oil in a large skillet until softened and beginning to turn golden. Reduce heat to medium and cook until deep golden and carmelized, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic, paprika, and remaining salt and pepper and cook 1 minute. Stir in 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Spoon over brisket. Place lid on Dutch oven leaving it a bit ajar. Bake for about 3 1/2 hours until tender. Add more water if necessary during cooking, but this has never happened to me.
Remove from oven and let cool for 1 hour. Remove brisket from sauce, scraping any clinging onions back into the sauce. Wrap brisket in foil and refrigerate overnight. Pour gravy from pan into a 4 cup measuring cup. Fat will rise to top overnight. Remove. The next day use a hand blender to puree gravy until smooth. You should have at least 3 cups, if not add more water.
The next day slice brisket into thin slices if possible with an electric knife. Make sure to slice against the grain or your brisket will be stringy. Place some gravy into the bottom of a pan and then place brisket on top of that. Cover with rest of gravy and then seal pan with foil. Bake in a preheated 350 oven for 30 minutes. This will serve 8-10 people.
P.S. I must apologize for my pictures. I had about 16 people waiting to eat this brisket hovering over me while I was trying to get a few pictures. I finally decided that brisket is not really pretty. It just tastes really, really good. I also can confirm that there were not any leftovers.