Monday, December 13, 2010

Braised Brisket with Vegetables: Hannukah Part One

As this blog continues through a time warp, taking you back to holidays that ended weeks ago, I now bring you my three part Hannukah series!

Hannukah is the time of year when Jews gather to celebrate an obscure historic event that happens to miraculously coincide with the month of that Christian fun-fest known as Christmas. While Christmas may beat Hannukah when it comes to decorations, songs on the radio, and general fanfare, I would still take Hannukah food over Christmas food any day.

I mean really. Turkey? You just had that for Thanksgiving. Ham? No Jew in their right mind would eat that.

Good ole beef brisket is a traditional choice for a delicious Jewish holiday dinner. As long as it is handled properly, this big hunk of meat becomes fork tender, juicy, and a perfect hearty main course.

Brisket Tips:
  • If you are going to sear the brisket first (recommended) let it sit out til it comes to room temperature first. Don't worry, you won't get E.Coli. And it will sear much more effectively.
  • Pretty much the longer you cook it, the better (within reason, of course!) It is great in a slow cooker, but the one I have wasn't big enough.
  • If you can, make the brisket the day before you plan to serve it. It really is one of those dishes that tastes even better the next day. Plus, if you refrigerate it overnight, skimming the excess fat off the top of the sauce is a piece of cake. To make ahead, just slice up the meat, pack it up in the fridge, and reheat in the oven before serving.
  • Always slice the brisket against the grain. That means take a look at which way the lines of meat run and cut perpendicular to them. This will make each bite of meat easier to chew.

Though my Braised Brisket with Vegetables requires a long cooking time to achieve that tenderness, you can just leave it in the oven all afternoon and go about your dreidel-spinning activities. Enjoy!

  • 3-4 lb. beef brisket. Preferrably labeled "first cut." I don't know why that's supposed to be better, but that's what Food Network tells me. Brisket is relatively quite inexpensive (spare me a Jewish joke, here).
  • 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can beef broth
  • 1/2 bottle red wine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp. dried thyme. You can also use fresh if you have it.
  • 2 tbsp. dried rosemary. See above.
  • 2 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 onion
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 5 red potatoes
  • Salt 'n pepa
  • Olive oil
My brother enjoyed the sauce so much he was practically drinking it. Whether that reflects more on the quality of the sauce or my brother's table manners remains to be seen.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare your veggies: peel and chop your onion and carrots into large chunks, cut your celery into large chunks, and halve your potatoes. They should all end up approximately the same size.

Throw em in the bottom of a big ole roasting pan.

Now comes an optional step: searing the brisket. It adds beautiful color and extra flavor to the dish, but honestly, you are cooking the thing so long that the flavor difference is going to be minimal.

If you have the time and inclination to sear it, just heat some olive oil in a big ass skillet over medium high, sprinkle the brisket with salt n' pepa and put it in the skillet to develop a nice browned crust on both sides. (As you can tell, I probably should have let mine sear even longer.) When it is done, lay it on your bed of vegetables in the roasting pan.

Pour the beef broth into the searing pan to help scrape up any burned bits of meat stuck to the pan. This will help add nice flavor to your sauce. Then, pour in your crushed tomatoes, garlic, rosemary, and thyme. Let it simmer for a few minutes.

Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables. Don't think I forgot about the wine! Pour it into the pan until all the liquid comes about 3/4 of the way up the meat. Stir the liquid a bit so the wine gets mixed into the tomato sauce, and throw in your two bay leaves.

Cover the roasting pan with foil and bake for at least 3 hours (ours took about 4 hours). At that point, you can start checking on the meat. Feel free to baste it with the sauce or even flip it over if the top is looking dry. You will know it is done when the meat easily falls apart with a fork. The longer you can cook it, the better.

Put the brisket on a cutting board, cover it in foil, and let it rest for about 15 minutes. In the meanwhile, you can put the vegetables in a serving bowl and pour the sauce from the pan into a gravy boat.

Slice the brisket thinly against the grain and serve with the sauce and vegetables.

Pour out the rest of your bottle of wine and enjoy. L'Chaim!

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