Yes, it is meltingly tender, a hallowed tradition, the ultimate comfort food, the meat that people who don’t eat meat do eat. (Before I wrote “The Brisket Book,” I thought that was a little odd too.)
And brisket — multitasker extraordinaire — is not only delicious, it is also deliciously quotable.
Observations, opinions, advice, tips, humor, reminiscences, praise, pleas, poems and stories abound. Mostly opinions. And to make it juicier, brisket mavens rarely agree on anything beside the fact that they love brisket and that their family makes the best one ever. Ever.
So disagreements abound too. And not just about whether onion soup mix is a less worthy ingredient than fresh whole onions. In the course of my book research, I met a woman who had a large extended family with lots of exes, step-thises, and half-thats. So when it came to Passover, she had 22 family brisket recipes to choose from. Everyone and her first cousin by her second ex-stepmother had something to say about that!
Which is what makes brisket worth celebrating. And you can quote me.
1) “Some foods will improve your meal, your mood, your day, your buttered noodles. Brisket will improve your life.”
— Stephanie Pierson, in “The Brisket Book”
Holiday food doesn’t have to be a huge production. The most beloved dishes are often the simplest, and if they can be made ahead, then all the better.
Brisket is one of these. Long, slow cooking in flavorful liquid transforms a tough lump of protein into the most tender, comforting and tasty dish. My grandmother used to braise hers in lots of tomato and a bottle of beer, and when we were little she called it “stringy meat.”
My mother, her daughter, was a culinary sophisticate who, like so many women of her generation, taught herself to cook by making her way through Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Instead of humble brisket, she would braise a rump roast in red wine. Called “boef à la mode,” it was hardly more complicated than its homey predecessor, but came across as a most elegant alternative.
My own brisket draws a little from each model, and couldn’t be simpler. The braising liquid is a lot of sturdy red wine mixed with a little tomato. Inspired by the Italian tradition of sprinkling chopped fresh herbs, zest and garlic — called a gremolata — over osso buco, I finish the dish with the fresh, bright mixture. It wakes up the flavor of the stewed meat and contributes irresistible aroma and texture.
For Passover, the addition of fresh horseradish to this garnish feels thematically appropriate, and it carries a key flavor of the Seder through the delicious main course.
Photograph by Hathaway_M; Flickr
Out of all the recipes in my cookbook, “The Brisket Book. A Love Story With Recipes” (Andrews McMeel), only one came with a blessing.
It is the Temple Emanu-El Brisket from home cook Roberta Greenberg, the longtime assistant to the rabbis at this well-known New York synagogue. I found Ms. Greenberg’s recipe on the temple website and begged both her and David Posner, then the head rabbi there, for permission to include it in my book. I reached out first to Ms. Greenberg, who properly asked me to check with the rabbi. Higher powers prevailed. Rabbi Posner turned out to be every bit as sweet and tender as his assistant’s brisket. And the recipe was mine to use.
I love this recipe: “Quivering cranberry slices that melt into the meat and slowly caramelize to give this dish its lovely character.” That is how I described it in the head notes, adding that, “It takes so little effort for this sweet alchemy to work.” The ingredients are ridiculously simple: a brisket, garlic powder, paprika, onions, cranberry slices.
You’re reading the recipe below right — it’s full of strikeouts and add-ins that match the red-pen amendments the author made to the recipe in her own cookbook (above). After making the original at least 20 times, she feels she’s improved on what was already near-perfection. Photograph by Stephanie Pierson
Serves 8 to 10
4- to 5-pound (get a 5 or 5 ½ lb one if you want leftovers and who doesn’t? Just make sure your casserole is big enough) beef brisket (Please get grass-fed, if possible, for maximum flavor and for humanely-raised beef — and have the butcher leave on a lot of fat. You can always skim off the fat later but you can’t add it once it’s off. Grass-fed briskets tend to be lean. Too-lean brisket dry out. Some butchers do take off most of the fat, thinking you won’t want to pay for the fat and/or because they don’t realize how vital it is to have it.)
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 large onions, peeled and cut into eighths
Two 14-ounce cans jellied cranberry sauce, sliced
1) Sprinkle both sides of the brisket with the garlic powder, paprika, and salt and pepper to taste.
Tightly cover the brisket with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two days. (Uh oh — I am usually in such a hurry and holiday tizzy that I don’t get around to doing it two days before. Or any days before. )
2) When you’re ready to finish the dish, preheat the oven to
500° F. (That is way too hot for my city apartment — I am afraid the kitchen would blow up. I’m afraid of bats and lightening, too. So I preheat it to 450˚F.)
3) Unwrap the brisket, place it in a
roasting pan, (it’s really a casserole dish with a tight seal) and roast for 20 minutes (That scares me to death — I can’t imagine the brisket wouldn’t overcook at 20 minutes a side. So I roast/brown it in the oven for about 10 minutes a side.) Remove the pan from the oven and decrease the temperature to 350° F. Place the onions under and around the brisket, then cover the top of the meat with the cranberry sauce slices. Tightly cover the pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil (if you do have a tight-fitting lid on your casserole — and I do — I don’t see the reason for aluminum foil) and cook until fork tender, about three hours. (Because of the longish roasting/browning step, my Rosh Hashanah brisket actually cooked in under 3 hours. And it was over 5 pounds. So check it earlier.)
4) Remove the pan from the oven and allow the brisket to cool. Transfer the brisket to a cutting board, trim the fat, then slice the meat against the grain to the desired thickness. (If you slice it too thin, the slices will fall apart when you are ready to heat it up and serve it.) Return the slices to the pot, overlapping them at an angle (I now think it’s just: Make sure the slices are all fully covered in the sauce.) so that you can see a bit of the top edge of each slice,
cover the pan with foil, (put on the lid) and refrigerate overnight.
5) The next day, remove any congealed fat from the top of the sauce. Heat the brisket, covered, at 350° F (Don’t ever ever turn your oven up any higher than 350° F to braise your brisket — it will be like a sweat lodge for your brisket and it could definitely dry up. Lots of recipes call for 325° F.)
for 20 minutes, then uncovered for another 20 to 30 minutes until hot and the sauce has reduced a bit. (The notion of reheating it for 40-50 minutes seems excessive to me now. Further, I am not a fan of uncovering the brisket in the oven. When I am ready to serve my brisket, I reheat it slowly on the top of the stove.)
6) Serve with the sauce. (Oh, and because I like a smooth sauce better than a rough one, I put the sauce in the blender. Which also seems to thicken it and kind of silken it. Braised brisket is never really a pretty dish but this helps. It looks way less homely.)
The recipe, as it appears in Stephanie Pierson’s “The Brisket Book.” The author has since revised it. Photograph by Stephanie Pierson
Serves 8 to 10
One 4- to 5-pound beef brisket
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 large onions, peeled and cut into eighths
Two 14-ounce cans jellied cranberry sauce, sliced
1) Sprinkle both sides of the brisket with the garlic powder, paprika and salt and pepper taste. Tightly cover the brisket with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two days.
2) When you’re ready to finish the dish, preheat the oven to 500° F.
3) Unwrap the brisket, place it in a roasting pan, and roast for 20 minutes on each side. Remove the pan from the oven and decrease the temperature to 350° F. Place the onions under and around the brisket, then cover the top of the meat with the cranberry sauce slices. Tightly cover the pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil and cook until fork tender, about three hours.
4) Remove the pan from the oven and allow the brisket to cool. Transfer the brisket to a cutting board, trim the fat, then slice the meat against the grain to the desired thickness. Return the slices to the pot, overlapping them at an angle so that you can see a bit of the top edge of each slice, cover the pan with foil, and refrigerate overnight. The next day, remove any congealed fat from the top of the sauce. Heat the brisket, covered, at 350°F for 20 minutes, then uncovered for another 20 to 30 minutes until hot and the sauce has reduced a bit. Serve with the sauce.
I saved the email Rabbi Posner sent me giving permission to use Roberta Greenberg’s Temple Emanu-El brisket recipe because it was so charming. It read:
“You have my heart-felt blessing to use the recipe. I ran this, of course, by my wife, of 41 years. She said, “Davey…what about my recipe for “Steak Continental?” I responded, “Tzipi…please…don’t get involved… I want to keep my job.”
Arby’s Smokehouse Brisket Sandwich has launched a brisket crisis. Credit: Arby’s.
Guard your briskets!
Brisket prices are skyrocketing nationwide as voracious demand for a “limited edition” Arby’s brisket sandwich eats into supply for the prized cut of meat.
Fueled by a hugely successful online marketing campaign, the fast-food giant is consuming more than a half-million pounds of brisket every week to keep up with its 3,300 stores demand for the “Smokehouse Brisket Sandwich,” whose schtick is that it smokes for thirteen hours.
At Jewish-themed restaurants around New York, brisket already commands premium prices. At the tourist-friendly Carnegie Deli, a brisket sandwich will set you back $17.99. Mile End’s smoked-meat sandwich, made of seasoned and marinated brisket, is a relative bargain at $15. A brisket sandwich at Katz’s Deli — albeit perfectly cooked and stacked sky-high — clocks in at $17.45. Owner Jake Dell says he’s eating the cost of the brisket shortage on the back end. “I can’t change my prices every week. Prices are only going one way and it’s clearly not down,” Dell told the Forward.
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.
Ari White thought it was time to “show Brooklyn some love”. And he did it on Sunday and Monday — with 2,500 pounds of meat.
White’s the pit boss of Bronx-based Hakadosh BBQ, whose “Wandering Que” brings kosher Texas smokehouse pop-ups to street fairs across New York City.
But White’s custom-built “BBQ rig” had never graced the streets of Brooklyn, where the Wandering Que boasts a fiercely loyal following.
So under a tent in the parking lot of Crown Heights shul Chevra Ahavas Yisroel, White served up beef ribs, brisket, lamb shanks, lamb “bacon”, and turkey legs to hungry carnivores who schlepped from across the city to sample his celebrated kosher ‘cue. The pop-up, a fundraiser for the Orthodox synagogue, was billed on Facebook as “the last Que of the Goyisha Year.”
Rosh Hashanah is the perfect holiday to bring out all the stops in your kitchen. Without the restrictions of Passover, it’s a great time to get creative (I’m thinking Asian BBQ brisket) or lovingly revive a special family recipe.
But cooking a holiday meal for your family or friends can be intimidating, whether you’ve done it 50 times or it’s your first time. We’re here to help! Consider the us your virtual bubbe. Need a chicken recipe? A great pareve cake? Wondering how to host a Sephardic holiday Seder? We’ve got you covered.
Send us your Rosh Hashanah cooking questions by Wednesday, August 21st and cookbook author Adeena Sussman will answer them. Don’t worry if your questions are simple or complicated — it’s like calling the kosher Butterball hotline; any question is fair game.
Ask us your questions in the comments below; or tweet at @jdforward using the hashtag #roshrecipes or comment on our Facebook page. And don’t forget to send this along to your friends. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!
Not up for cooking for the Seders this year? Not a problem. Restaurants around North America are offering seats at the Seder table for those who are hungry for updated Jewish fare like matzo balls in a lemongrass broth, tropical haroset and Turkish flourless chocolate cake.
At some, a Seder service will be led, while at others it’ll be strictly BYOH (bring your own Haggadah). We’ve rounded up some great choices, but there are many others out there. So please add additional suggestions from your city in the comments section below.
Note: These dinners are non-kosher, unless otherwise noted.
186 Franklin St., (212) 431-0606
Passover diners will enjoy Kutsher’s nouvelle twist on Borscht Belt Seder classics, like sweet onion butter for the matzo, wild halibut gefilte fish, and beef brisket with kasha, veal bacon and creamed spinach.
Details: March 25 and 26. Seder seatings at 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. $85 per person ($49 for kids under 10), 20% gratuity added to all checks.
From the destruction of Sandy, a Far Rockaway bagel shop rises. [Eatocracy]
A look at Katz’s through the years. [EV Grieve]
It’s almost Purim. Check out this guide to hamantaschen in NYC. [Village Voice]
10 beautiful and edible gifts to give Purim. [Food 52]
Which brisket was crowned king? [Serious Eats]
Head to Mile End when you feel like Montreal-Jewish-Sichuan. [Bon Appetit]
This Sunday night, rising star chef and member of the tribe Micah Wexler will face off against Master Chef Bobby Flay on The Food Network’s “Iron Chef”. We caught up with the popular L.A.-based chef to get some cooking and restaurant advice, a recipe for pomegranate brisket and to find out if he really will appear on “The Bachelor”.
How did the “Iron Chef” team find you?
The producer came into Mezze, my first restaurant, and really liked the food. He asked to meet me and then asked if I’d ever considered doing the show. When I was younger, I imagined it, but I hadn’t thought the opportunity would come about at this point in my career. He came back 6 or 7 times and then he invited me to be on it.
What is the penalty for telling us about the show before it airs?
A million dollars. In fact, they make everyone who is in the audience sign a non-disclosure agreement. When my episode was taped, my sister Miri was in the audience, and like everyone else, she had to sign an NDA. Shortly after, I talked to my mother and she knew all this stuff about what happened and I called up Miri and said, “Didn’t you sign one of those papers they passed out?” And she said, “Yes.” And I said, “Didn’t you read it?**!” And she said, “No.” I made sure neither of them said anything to anyone else.
Do you have any advice for Bobby Flay?
He’s done well for himself, so he should be the one giving me advice.
Where can one find a good black and white cookie these days? Max Falkowitz has the answer. [Serious Eats]
How do we love hummus? Let us count the ways (and places to eat it). Here are 14 of ‘em. [Serious Eats]
Is Jewish food taking over Chicago? We can only hope. [Serious Eats]
Brisket is finally a trend! Or, atleast a trendlet. [New York Magazine]
From the looks of this round up of 2013 cookbooks, the cookbook industry is doing very well. [Eater]
The truth about brisket is that your bubbe’s is probably the best. It’s probably better than my bubbe’s, and better than your neighbor’s bubbe’s, and while no two brisket recipes are the same, we’re all right when we say our briskets are the best. Past that, there aren’t a whole lot of definitives — even the terminology can get a little shady — which is exactly why putting five brisket aficionados on stage to talk about the comfort meat was more than fascinating.
At Tuesday night’s panel discussion at the Center for Jewish History led by Mitchell David, Executive Vice President of the James Beard Foundation, and organized by culinary curator Naama Shefi, so much was revealed about the dish that no Jewish feast is complete without.
Like many popular Jewish foods, brisket worked its way into the cuisine because of its low cost. “Brisket is implicitly kosher since it’s from the front of the animal,” said New York Times reporter Julia Moskin, “and it was cheap because anything that takes a long time to cook and that can’t be grilled has challenges, especially in a restaurant.” Davis added that while the ribs are also from the front of the animal, their popularity in Jewish cuisine didn’t quite reach that of brisket’s because they could be sold for more money. Daniel Delaney, owner of the barely month-old BrisketTown, in Williamsburg, attested that this was the case in the Texas culture as well, where butchers who emigrated from Germany and Czechoslovakia had trouble selling the slow-cooking cut of meat and ultimately created a way to dry smoke it and preserve it.
Being an African-American who is a Jew-By-Choice means having to do a lot of culinary negotiations. The table is where I integrate both sides of my hyphen. The plate is a means of “locating” myself squarely in the history of both Diasporas — African and Jewish, and all the places those Diaspora’s represent from Angola and Alabama to Ashkenaz, from South Carolina and Senegal to Sepharad. Cooking is how I pull all of my parts together and articulate who I am to those who might not understand how someone like me could be culturally “possible.” Shabbat gives me an opportunity to look within and use my cooking to tell stories that friends of all backgrounds have never heard — stories of history and migration, struggle and triumph, loss and recovery.
I often serve this West African Style Brisket on Shabbat, which is inspired by recipes from Nigeria, Senegal, Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean. The dry spice mixture is a take on suya, a very old spice mixture from West Africa, hearkening back to the days of the medieval salt and gold trade. Certain flavors like garlic, ginger, bay leaf, and onion are common in both culinary traditions; while others like the inclusion of peppers, olive oil, horseradish, and the use of stock, point to different stops on the map as each Diaspora wound its way to North America.
Chef Tamar Adler shares her secrets for making “brighteners” out of simple ingredients to breathe life into leftovers and more. [Food 52]
Kansas City goes kosher: the capital city of ‘cue is hosting its first-ever kosher BBQ Festival and Celebration with 16 teams set to compete for the inaugural honor. [Kansas City Jewish Chronicle
Daniel Delaney is popping up again this Fall with BrisketTown, an eat-in shop in “North Brooklyn or Lower Manhattan” that will feature sumptuous slabs of his oak-smoked, Texas-style specialty. [Grub Street]
The ever-appetizing Russ and Daughters gets a cameo as a date location for Louis C. K. and guest star Parker Posey to nosh on nova lox in an episode of FX’s “Louie.” [Eater]
Veterans of New York’s hummus scene, chefs Yigal Ashkenazy and Sharon Hoota, along with Nir Mesika of Tel Aviv and Milan, are setting up Brooklyn shop Zizi Limona, which will feature “modernized Mediterranean cuisine” and sell retail goods like pickles, cheese and produce. [Grub Street]
The New York Times Mimi Sheraton revisits New York institutions like Kossar’s and Katz’s to sample timeless “lost and found” specialties like pastrami, rye, and bagels and schmear. [The New York Times]
“A knish is basically a dumpling,” Noah Wildman said, when I interviewed him for the Jew and The Carrot in November. “You can pretty much put anything in it.” Noah was explaining some of the unconventional ingredients, like chocolate hazelnut and spiced pumpkin, he had used to stuff a line of knishes for his Knishery NYC debut.
When I read Julia Moskin’s article “Lucky to be a Leftover” earlier this month, about ways to repurpose leftover holiday meats, my mouth watered at the mention of a brisket knish — soft dough, surrounded by oniony potato and stuffed with succulent tender brisket — it seemed all the best parts of a Jewish grandmother’s kitchen combined into a single bite.
This week in the Forward, noted restaurant critic Craig LaBan profiles the legendary Nach Waxman, owner of the Kitchen Arts & Letters — the most significant cookbook store in America, possibly in the world.
In addition to Waxman’s impeccable taste in cookbooks, he is famous for his brisket recipe, which calls for no water and slicing the meat halfway through cooking. Check out his recipe below and let us know your favorite way to make brisket in the comments.
When Torontonian Zane Caplansky was 16 years old, his then-girlfriend, who was from Montreal, introduced him to the smoked meat of the famed Schwartz’s Delicatessen. Caplansky broke up with that girlfriend many years ago, but his devotion to good deli has been abiding. “My love affair with smoked meat has been long lasting,” he declared.
Now 42, Caplansky, who opened his eponymous Caplansky’s Delicatessen in downtown Toronto a year and a half ago, has wedded his name and reputation to his own version of cured and smoked beef brisket. Not to be confused with corned beef (the pickled and boiled brisket for which Toronto is traditionally known), Montreal smoked meat is more like pastrami — the main difference being that the former is made from brisket and the latter from the tougher navel cut.