Brisket? Go pure and simple, or jazz it up for Passover
Amelia Saltsman’s brisket is, to put it simply, the “anti-Lipton soup version” of the beloved classic. The Santa Monica, California, cookbook author has been making it “pure and simple” for over 40 years, so the “essence of pure meat flavor” shines forth.
But you know there are always going to be those hungry to jazz it up with all sorts of things, even that iconic onion soup mix. Nothing wrong with that; the results can be delicious, and the funnier fixings can pass into family lore.
Whether you cook your brisket plain or dressy come Passover, which begins at sundown Friday, here’s how to do it. Follow Saltsman’s roasting then braising recipe, or your own method. Then flavor the braising liquid with one of our five variations.
Variations on a brisket
What gives your brisket that special flavor? I asked followers on social media for their secret braising ingredients — the more unusual the better. (Some of the ingredients may not be kosher for Passover; follow your faith community’s guidelines.) Here are five ideas:
Ketchup, Dijon mustard, onion soup mix: Mix 1 cup each ketchup and Dijon mustard; smear on brisket. Sprinkle one packet of onion soup mix over beef; braise until tender. Recipe from Laura Ustick of Edison Park, general manager of Chicago’s iconic Superdawg. She got the recipe from her mother-in-law in Kingston, Rhode Island. Ustick was doubtful about the recipe at first, but says, “It gives a zesty, tangy flavor.”
Dill pickle juice: Stir 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of pickle brine into each cup of braising liquid or sauce before serving. “It’s your finishing secret,” said Tim Hanni, a Bend, Oregon-based master of wine and wine educator.
Orange juice, fish sauce, star anise: Mark Graham, a Tribune test kitchen chef and managing partner of New Food Studio, a product development consulting firm, and co-owner of Metropolitan Dinners, a Chicago-based manufacturer of dips, spreads, pastas and vinaigrettes, offers this version: Sear the meat in a braising pot on all sides on the top of the stove, and then remove the meat from the pot. Saute 1 sliced onion, 2 minced cloves of garlic, 1 thinly sliced carrot and half a serrano chili pepper in the pot until the onions are translucent. Add 2 cups orange juice, 1 cup chicken broth, 1/4 cup fish sauce and two pods of star anise. Bring the liquid to a simmer, return the meat to the pot, cover tightly and braise in a 300-degree oven for 2 1/2 hours.
Coca-Cola, ketchup, apricot jam, onion soup mix: Dawn Lerman, the New York City nutritionist and author of 2015’s “My Fat Dad: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Family, with Recipes,” uses her grandmother’s recipe calling for Coca-Cola. Her grandfather sold Coca-Cola (and her father coined the “Coke Is It” slogan), she wrote in an email. Place brisket fat-side-down in a roasting pan. Spread 1/2 cup ketchup and 1/4 cup apricot jam on the meat; sprinkle one packet dry onion soup mix on the ketchup mix. Add enough water to pan to come up 1 inch; pour one 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola around meat. Braise meat in covered pan. Cool, slice meat and return to the pan with juices. Reheat brisket with 1 cup of water mixed with 2 tablespoons ketchup. Spoon gravy over meat.
Wood smoke: Season the brisket with salt and pepper, and smoke for 1 to 2 hours over hickory or oak wood to “build up a little crust,” says Jeffrey Hunt Jr. of Amarillo, Texas, a barbecue aficionado and caterer. Follow by braising the brisket in the oven or slow cooker. “Adding that smoke in the initial portion helps make it stand out,” he says.
Pure And Simple Brisket
From Amelia Saltsman’s 2015 book, “The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen.”
1 beef brisket, 6 pounds, about 8-by-12-by-3 inches thick, including at least some of the point
2 large onions, chopped, about 3 cups
6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
3 bay leaves
4 cups homemade beef stock or 2 cups canned beef broth diluted with 2 cups water, heated
Trim the excess fat from the brisket, especially around the point, or cap. Leave a layer of fat no more than 1/4 inch thick. Place the meat, point side down, in a large roasting pan; roast in a 475-degree oven, turning halfway through the cooking, until thoroughly browned and crisp on both sides, about 1 hour. Add onions, scattering them around the brisket. Stir to coat the onions with the drippings, and scrape up any browned bits. Roast until the onions are soft, about 15 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven; reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Add garlic and bay leaves to the pan. The brisket should be point side up. Pour in enough stock to reach about 1 inch up the sides of the brisket (about 2 cups), and stir to scrape up brown bits. Cover the pan tightly with a lid or heavy-duty foil; return it to the oven. Braise until very tender, about 3 hours. Check the meat every 30 minutes, and add stock as needed to keep the simmering juice about 1 inch deep and to keep the onions from burning. You may not need all 4 cups of stock; if you run out of stock, add water.
Remove the pan from the oven; transfer the brisket to a shallow pan or platter. Pour the pan juices and onions into a glass container. Add a little water to the pan, place over medium heat and stir, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom. Add these drippings to the container.
Let the meat and juices cool; preferably covered tightly in the refrigerator. When ready to serve, lift the congealed fat from the juices and discard. Spread a few spoonfuls of the jellied meat juices and onions over the bottom of an ovenproof rimmed platter or shallow 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Slice brisket; lay the meat slices, overlapping, on a platter. Scatter a few spoonfuls of the juices and onions over the meat and reheat, tightly covered, in a 325-degree oven until the brisket is heated through. Warm the extra pan juices and onions separately. Spoon some of them over the warm meat, and serve the remainder at the table. Makes 12 servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 690 calories, 61 g fat, 23 g saturated fat, 106 mg cholesterol, 4 g carbohydrates, 2 g sugar, 32 g protein, 208 mg sodium, 0 g fiber