Braised Brisket with Mango Barbecue Sauce
Plus a roundup of some of the best brisket recipes you'll find online.
First or second, brisket is one tough cut. But it is to Rosh Hashanah – almost – what latkes are to Hanukkah.
So how do you cook it so that everyone loves it? This question can cause a Talmudic-style debate, so I asked some of my fellow kosher bloggers to give me the emmis, the real truth, on how they do it.
There were some modest words from Shoshana Ohriner on her Paleo Kosher Kitchen site. She says she hesitates “to call any recipe the ‘World’s Best,’” but – everyone who has eaten her family recipe agrees it is the best. In fact, it is the one dish that kept her from becoming a vegetarian. Her tip? Keep it savory, first, by marinating the meat for several hours to boost the beefy taste, then load the roasting pan with onions, which caramelize slowly as the meat cooks and pack the dish with flavor.
At the Strauss household, though, they like their brisket with a tart taste. For years, Melinda Strauss of Kitchen Tested made her Mom’s recipe, with bold ingredients such as sauerkraut and canned tomatoes. But Melinda’s creative urges took her farther afield and these days she adds freeze dried cranberries to her roast. In addition, her family prefers the brisket with a crusty brown surface, but instead of searing the meat before cooking it, Melinda has an easier way – oven roast it at a high temperature for a short time first.
Some say it’s the cut of meat that makes the difference. Chanie Apfelbaum over at Busy In Brooklyn insists that “fattier meat will always yield a tastier product.” She likes second-cut brisket because of its higher fat content. Chanie gives lots of tips for how to make the most of tough cuts like brisket in her handy-dandy Guide to Kosher Meat: Cuts and Cooking Methods.
Other brisket mavens focus on the seasoning and browning. Jamie Geller, founder of the Kosher Media Network, makes a Garlic-Honey Brisket, and now has a video that shows how she makes a brisket.
Cookbook author Norene Gilletz, who blogs at Gourmania, is a brisket maven. Her special touch includes adding cola to the braising fluids because it helps make the meat velvety tender. She changes up the seasonings from time to time and prefers second cut, but for the Gilletz family it’s the what-goes-with-it that glorifies the already fabulous meat. Her family “insists” on kasha and bowties, the perfect foil for that lush brisket gravy.
It’s the way it’s served that makes brisket a special meal for Elizabeth Kurtz of Gourmet Kosher Cooking and her family. Her recipe starts out as a sweet-and-spicy roast, the meat laden with brown sugar, chile powder and cayenne pepper. But when it’s tender, Elizabeth transforms this old fashioned favorite into a more modern Pulled Brisket and serves the meat and lush sauce on a bun or over mashed potatoes or inside lettuce cups.
As far as I’m concerned, it’s the cooking method that counts most. My family wants this boneless hunk of meat to be falling-off-the-bone tender, but they also like a crispy, burnt-end BBQ crust. So here’s my take: I begin with a whole brisket, first plus second cut, (the method works with smaller cuts), place it in a large roasting pan, add seasonings and smother it with sliced Vidalias (common yellow onions are fine). I seal the pan tightly with aluminum foil, place it in the oven and turn the heat to 225 degrees (no preheating).
I go to bed and let the meat cook magically while I’m sleeping.
Oh, how I love that brisket alarm clock in the morning!
You can do this during the day of course, timing the meat accordingly if you use a smaller piece.
Although I don’t add any liquid to the pan – no juice, no beer, no wine – the onions and natural meat juices make plenty of fluids. When the dish is done, I separate the meat (removing excess fat that hasn’t melted), onions and juices. When the juices are cold, I discard the firm fat that rises to the top.
I’ve occasionally served the brisket in the traditional way: Slice the meat, place it in an oven-proof serving dish, cover it with the onions and defatted juices and reheat. It also freezes well, separated into family-size portions in air-tight plastic containers.
But most of the time I use the onions and gravy for something else – mashed potatoes or cooked egg noodles, for example. I slather the cooked meat with homemade barbecue sauce and either roast, grill or broil it until it’s hot and the surface is black and crusty and tasting of rich, flavorful beef and sticky, tangy sauce with just a hint of spice (you can omit the cayenne if you wish).
Does my family love every bite and morsel? Yep!
Ronnie Fein is a cookbook author, food writer and cooking teacher in Stamford. She is the author of The Modern Kosher Kitchen and Hip Kosher. Visit her food blog, Kitchen Vignettes, at www.ronniefein.com, friend on Facebook at RonnieVailFein, Twitter at @RonnieVFein.