And it tasted even better.
Because I'm a Jew, I make brisket. I can't explain it; I have no idea how this love affair came to be, why this particular cut of meat made the cut, why it has persisted through the generations. All I know is that my grandmother made brisket, my mother made brisket, and I make brisket. So it is, and so it shall always be.
But if you think that means I'm about to reveal to you some family recipe that traveled over from the Old Country (Poland, Russia, Germany, you name it; we are Ashkenazim, hear us roar), you're about to be sorely disappointed. I mean, nu? Who writes down a brisket recipe? You buy some brisket from the butcha, you bring it home, you make it. Vat's to write about?
And so I've pretty much gone it on my own. I mean, I must have called my mom the first time I decided to make a brisket, and I'm sure she gave me some tips. And, of course, there are the meat recipes in the Molly Goldberg Jewish Cookbook, of which I'm on my third copy right now. (This is the one I have at the moment, but the pages are dangerously yellowed, and the binding is starting to loosen, because I use it that often, and it is, after all, approximately 55 years old. No, that's not an exaggeration.) Still, none of these are the source of The Recipe. Because there is no The Recipe.
But I digress. Here's how I make it, with some ideas for how you can make it your own.
Brisket ala TC
Brisket (How much? The piece at left was about a pound and a half; when I make it for one or another of the holidays at which we will have company, I generally go for four or five pounds of meat. Oh, and even at your local supermarket, you may have to ask the guy behind the meat counter for a brisket; I find they usually have a cut or two available, but they're not always out in the meat display case.)
Oil (Canola, olive, whatever)
Garlic powder (optional)
Carrots (I've gotten lazy and tend to get the already peeled baby carrots for these sorts of recipes, so I can just throw them in. Does it make you judge me less if I swear that they're organic? I didn't think so.)
Broth or wine or water (You're going to braise the meat, and so you'll need liquid. Even though it's beef, I tend to use chicken broth, because I almost always have some in my freezer, remnants of the most recent pot of chicken soup with matzo balls. You can, however, use beef broth or even beef bouillon cubes, though in the latter case I'd go easy when you salt the meat. Or you can even use wine, though that will change the taste significantly; red probably works better than white, but feel free to experiment. And, to be honest, the world will not come to an end if you just braise it in water. Just be sure to season more liberally as you go.)
Ginger (fresh or powdered, optional)
Other veggies (optional; I added peas tonight because neither Baroy nor Em likes cooked carrots, and I wanted them to have some kind of veggies, but it's not a necessity; Molly Goldberg suggests adding chunks of sweet potato alongside the carrots, but I've never actually done that.)
In a dutch oven or similarly wide, deep pan, heat a couple of tablespoons of oil. Season meat with salt, pepper, garlic powder (or not), then add to pan and brown on both sides, about three or four minutes per side. (See photo above; I'd have liked that to be slightly more browned, actually.)
When meat is almost fully browned, add onions and saute until slightly translucent. (A real chef would probably suggest you remove the meat for this, but I just kind of shove the meat over and go on with my life. Did I mention The Lazy?) Then, add carrots and saute along with the onions for just another minute or so.
Add broth/wine/water/whatever. How much? I was afraid you'd ask. I haven't a clue. I add enough so that the liquid climbs to about halfway to two-thirds up the side of the piece of meat I'm cooking. I don't know if that's the official amount of liquid for braising, but it's what I do.
Cover the pot and let cook for a while. A pretty long while. This little brisket cooked for close to two hours; a four-pounder should probably be left to braise for three or more.
BUT. About halfway through the cooking, I will start tasting and then adding stuff to the liquid if it doesn't quite excite me. Tonight, I added a little bit of powdered ginger, just to give it a little zing. When I make brisket for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, I always add a few tablespoons of honey because honey is pretty ubiquitous on Rosh Hashanah. (It's the whole "have a sweet new year" thing.) And I sometimes add it on Passover as well, even if "have a sweet escape from slavery" doesn't quite have the same ring to it.
Once the braising liquid tastes 'right' to me, I generally turn the meat over, put the cover back on the pot, and leave it alone for the rest of the time it's cooking. Of course, if you're doing as I did and totally ruining the whole traditional-Jewish-dish thing by adding peas (not that Jews have anything against peas, mind you, just that I've never really seen them added to brisket before), you'll want to do that just five or so minutes before you serve the dish, so that they don't get mushy. Nothing worse than mushy peas, if you ask me. Not that you did.
There you have it. (And by you, I mean Kristen, who specifically requested this recipe.) When I make brisket just for the sake of brisket, I always make rice to serve it over, because that sauce? Is to die for. But mashed potatoes would work well, too. Or egg noodles. Or biscuits. Or whatever your little heart desires. Brisket is easy that way.