Your bread may be swept away, the table set and macaroons purchased, but it really isn’t Passover until the aroma of brisket fills the house. On a holiday without freshly baked challah, no other scent compares to the nostalgic smell of slow cooked tender meat atop a bed of vegetables or nestled into a thick sauce. I prefer mine slowly braised in red wine and stock with vegetables and fresh rosemary and thyme — like a Jewish take on Julia Child’s legendary boeuf bourguignon.
It doesn’t take long to get to the meal at my family’s Seder table. Our Haggadahs are in almost mint condition because a few pages into the Passover story we are too tempted by the brisket to wait any longer.
Craving a carb in the vast leaven-free wasteland of Passover, I turn to quinoa risotto to compliment my brisket. The tiny sturdy pearls stand up to the roast’s tender meat and get an extra boost of flavor when they’re cooked in the brisket’s gravy. The method works for any slow roast. So even if you take one look at the following brisket recipe and declare that your Bubbe’s is better (yes, I understand) this quinoa will work.
If your family completes the entire seder, I wish you luck. This brisket will be calling you from the moment it starts cooking.
1 4-5 pound beef brisket
2 good pinches of kosher salt, a few cracks of pepper
2-3 tablespoons canola oil, for coating the pan
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
3 large carrots, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 14 oz can of crushed tomatoes
2 cups beef broth store bought or homemade
1 cup dry red wine
3 sprigs of thyme
3 sprigs of rosemary
3 bay leaves
2 cups dry quinoa
1) Preheat oven to 325°F.
2) Season both sides of the brisket with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and coat the bottom with canola oil. Sear the brisket for 4-6 minutes on each side, until browned. If it starts to smoke, turn down the heat to medium. Remove from the skillet and place it fat side up in a 9-inch by 13-inch casserole dish or other large baking dish.
3) Reduce the heat under the skillet to medium, and add the onions. Cook them until soft and translucent, about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for 3 more minutes.
4) In a large bowl, stir together the garlic and onion mixture, carrots, celery, tomatoes, broth, wine, herbs, and bay leaves. Pour the mixture over the brisket. Cover the pan with foil tightly and cook for 3-4 hours, until the meat is fork tender (when you can tear a piece away very easily).
5) When the brisket is ready, transfer the meat to a cutting board and allow it to rest at least 15 minutes before cutting. Ladle the remaining mixture out of the pan and through a strainer until you have 4 cups of the cooking liquid (pour off excess fat, if desired). Reserve the vegetables and any remaining sauce for serving, removing the bay leaves and herb sprigs.
6) Rinse the quinoa in a colander under cold water, and in a large pot combine the 4 cups of cooking liquid from the brisket with the quinoa and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20-25 minutes, or until the liquid is fully absorbed. Fluff with a fork and serve with brisket and reserved vegetables and sauce.
Photos by Molly Yeh