Brisket with Apricots and Prunes | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

Brisket with Apricots and Prunes

Brisket with Apricots and Prunes

Brisket (PC: jeffreyw, Flickr)

Serves 8

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The small victory here is all about the dampened, scrunched parchment that covers the brisket during its long braise. The parchment acts like a protective blanket (in this case, a wet blanket is a good thing!) and keeps the meat from drying out. My friend Susie Theodorou, an amazing food stylist, taught me this trick. A food stylist’s perspective is so interesting because it’s all about what makes food look the best, not always what makes it taste the best. (Susie, for the record, is one of those exceptional types who always gets both right.)

This brisket is my favorite thing to serve not only for Passover but also on any cold winter night—especially for a dinner party, since it feeds a crowd and is even better if you make it the day before. The simplest way to turn it into a complete meal would be to serve it with plenty of crusty bread or with egg noodles tossed with melted butter and chopped parsley, or mashed potatoes, or polenta (anything to help soak up the great sauce). I also like a bright salad served alongside to cut the richness—an arugula salad with olive oil and lemon and lots of thinly sliced celery for crunch is perfect. If your brisket is too large to fit comfortably in your cooking vessel, just cut the meat into two pieces.

Ingredients

One 3 .- to 4 .-lb [1.6- to 2-kg] brisket (see Note), at room temperature, patted dry with paper towels

Kosher salt

3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced

1 tsp hot pimenton (Spanish smoked paprika) or paprika

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

6 leafy fresh thyme sprigs

4 garlic cloves, crushed

2 Tbsp tomato paste

One 15-oz [425-g] can whole peeled tomatoes

1 ½ cups [360 ml] beef orchicken stock

12 pitted prunes

12 dried apricots

Steps
  1. Preheat your oven to 300°F [150°C].
  2. Season the brisket aggressively on both sides with salt.
  3. In a large deep ovenproof Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the brisket and cook, turning once, until well browned on all sides, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer the brisket to a large plate and set aside.
  4. Turn the heat to medium and add the onion to the pot and cook, stirring now and then and scraping up whatever browned bits are left in the pan, until softened, about 10 minutes.
  5. Add the pimentón, cinnamon, thyme, garlic, tomato paste, and a big pinch of salt to the onion and cook, stirring, until the whole mixture is brick-red from the tomato paste, about 1 minute. Add the peeled tomatoes and their juice. Pour the beef stock into the tomato can (this way you get all the bits left inside the can), swish it around, and pour it into the pot. Turn the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil. Turn off the heat, stir in the prunes and apricots, and nestle the brisket on top of the aromatic mixture; pour whatever juice has accumulated on the brisket plate on top.
  6. Scrunch up a large piece of parchment paper with your hands and wet it under cold running water. Spread the wet parchment paper over the surface of the brisket and cover the pot tightly with a lid. Put the brisket in the oven until it’s incredibly tender (uncover it and check with a paring knife or fork), about 4 hours.
  7. If you’re going to serve the brisket immediately, slice it across the grain and serve with all of its aromatic sauce. If you’re making it ahead of time, allow the brisket to cool in the sauce, cover, and refrigerate for up to 1 week. Then slice the brisket across the grain and reheat it in the sauce either over low heat on the stove top or in a 300°F [150°C] oven until warm. You could slice it ahead of time, but I find it dries out more quickly. I don’t remove the thyme stems before serving because (a) I often forget that they’re there and (b) it’s nice for things to be a little rustic, but feel free to find them and discard them.

Note: Brisket is often sold as “first cut,” a leaner cut, and “second cut,” which has more fat. First cut is often easier to find; I like the extra fat of the second cut. Both work—choose whichever you prefer.


Reprinted from Small Victories by Julia Turshen with permission by Chronicle Books, 2016