As we speak, Jewish housewives all over the globe are getting out their finest china, their crispest tablecloths and their oldest recipes, all in preparation for the Jewish High Holidays.
It’s these holidays that bring some of my fondest memories with my family. Golden chicken soup with fluffy matzo balls, tart apples with sweet honey and the star of the dinner: the oh-so magical, dreamy, melt-in-your-mouth brisket. Like many Jewish recipes, brisket gets its roots from the need to use up some of the least expensive pieces of meat and transform them into tender deliciousness. As the brisket cooks low and slow, connective tissue breaks down, leaving a tender piece of smothered meat.
Growing up, my aunt always made the brisket in our family. Every year she tried a different recipe and every year her malnourished-looking niece (me) licked her plate clean. Much to everyone’s surprise, brisket was this picky eater’s favorite dish.
It had become a ritual, I always came into the kitchen and tore off a piece of the sacred meat and my aunt always asked me, “So, Mila, is it good?” And every year I nodded in agreement as I sloppily licked the remains of the sauce off my lips. My aunt’s brisket may not have been perfect, but it was hers and it was always good.
As an adult and a graduate of culinary school, my love for brisket has remained the same. I made hundreds of briskets throughout my career and I was constantly searching for my recipe. I wanted a recipe of my very own, and I tried hard to find it. I made smoked briskets, crock pot briskets, French-style briskets and the very worst – dry briskets. I took an idea or two from each recipe and moved on to create my brisket.
This has become my no-fuss, no-muss brisket recipe that I go to year after year.
If there is anything I have learned from the hundreds of briskets I have made over the years, the technique is one of the most important aspects. Go low and slow: low temperature, slow cooking. This will allow the connective tissue to break down and the fat to melt slowly, leaving you with that ultimate melt-in-your-mouth brisket.
There must also always be an acidic component. I use both tomato acid (ketchup) and wine to allow for a deeper and richer flavor in the meat and the sauce.
The best thing about this brisket is that it is one pan and FREEZER ENCOURAGED. Make it ahead of time, freeze it, and let it warm up in a 350-degree oven the day of service. It will be perfection. Something magical happens when you freeze foods like brisket, or my amazeballs. It just works! And it could not be easier!
You can also do it in the crockpot, but my brisket never fits in there when I cook for the holidays. I have 16 people coming over – lots hungry Russians to feed. I like to use foil pans for this because I hate cleaning roasting pans … as do you I am sure. Plus, because I end up freezing it anyhow, it makes more sense to just do it in one pan.
When you purchase your brisket, do not purchase it cleaned. Purchase it whole with the fat still on it. And place the fat side UP when roasting. NOT DOWN.
This year I made it two weeks in advance. Again, 16 hungry Russians and a Russian-style dinner is not an easy task. I take all the precooking help I can get.
I promise people will rave, plates will be licked clean and eager fingers will try and get a slice in before you do. And you will be the ultimate host, with a few less dishes to clean. Perhaps this time, I will even get a chance to sit down and have a slice.
pounds of brisket
1 bottle of ketchup
1 1/2 cups of dry red wine
1 1/2 cups water
1.5 tbsp chicken base (I find it milder than beef base)
1/4 cup dehydrated onion flakes
6 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
2 onions, roughly chopped
6 large carrots, cut into large chunks
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Combine ketchup, water, dehydrated onion, garlic and chicken base and mix to combine.
2. Slather this beautiful mixture onto the brisket sneaking it into each nook and cranny.
3. Let stand in refrigerator for 24 hours.
4. Preheat oven to 275-degrees. Place brisket in the roasting pan FAT SIDE UP. Place remaining ingredients over brisket and tightly seal pan before putting in the oven.
5. Cook for 6-8 hours. Typically, the rule of thumb is an hour a pound. But the true test is when it pulls apart with two forks.
6. Place in refrigerator overnight to cool.
7. Remove fat with a spoon. Slice the meat. Cut against the grain NOT with the grain using the length of the knife.
8. Place in pan FAT SIDE DOWN and pour sauce over sliced meat. Put into 350-degree oven, covered, to warm the meat and sauce. About 45 minutes.