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Brisket’s weaknesses disappear with braising

  • CULINARY INSTITUTE OF AMERICA

    A red wine-braised brisket is accompanied by asparagus and cipollini onions.

Let’s get this out of the way early: You don’t need a Passover brisket recipe, because you will never make one that is better than your grandmother’s, and you wouldn’t even try.

But maybe you’re hosting dinner for friends that happens to look a little like a Seder, and you want a great recipe that will never, ever live up to that other brisket you love unconditionally (wink wink). Luckily, this recipe for a brisket braised in red wine is perfect for any dinner party, or weeknight, for that matter.

Brisket comes from the breast of a cow, and is usually sold in one large piece or broken down into two smaller cuts, the flat and the point. It’s notoriously tough and you’ve likely had a piece that is bone-dry and bland. But done right, the thing that can make a brisket undesirable is really what makes it so good.

Brisket falls into a category of meats that shine when cooked low and slow. That can include smoking at low temperatures, a leisurely oven roast, or a long and flavorful braise. Braising is a great choice because the cooking liquid imparts flavor into an otherwise bland cut of meat.

The red wine in our marinade, which eventually becomes your braising liquid, works not just to flavor the brisket and sauce, but also to tenderize. The acidity in wine breaks down proteins, so make sure to give it enough time to really do its work. Once it cooks together with the toma­to paste and beef broth, the wine flavor will mellow and it will be the perfect combination of savory, salty, and just a little sweet.

After braising, the brisket is rubbed in persillade, which is a fancy word to describe a very simple thing. A mixture of chopped parsley, garlic, oil and other seasonings, persillade can be used to season or garnish almost any dish. It is often combined with bread crumbs (or matzoh, in this case) and used as a crunchy, colorful coating for meat and fish.

By now, you’re probably starving, and we haven’t even told you the best thing about this recipe. Not only is it delicious and amazing, but like most braises, this brisket is going to taste even better if you make it ahead of time.

That means that on the day of your dinner, all you have to do is gently reheat it. Cover it with the persillade (which you can also make ahead), and give it a quick bake to warm through. That’s basically 10 minutes of work, leaving you plenty of time to explain yourself to your grandmother.

Red Wine Braised Brisket

The key to the brisket is the marinade, and a handy way to marinate it is to place the meat in a large zipper-locked plastic bag. Pour in the marinade and seal the bag. Turn the bag a few times to thoroughly coat the meat.

  • 3 to 4 pounds beef brisket, fat trimmed
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 3 cups low-sodium beef stock
  • Persillade (recipe follows)
  • Roasted Cipollini Onions (recipe follows)
  • >> Marinade:
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, cracked
  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves

Place brisket in a sealable plastic bag or in a large, shallow baking dish.

In a bowl, combine marinade ingredients. Pour over brisket and cover (or seal). Turn bag a few times or stir mixture to thoroughly coat meat. Marinate in refrigerator at least 8 hours.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove brisket from marinade and pat dry with a paper towel. Reserve about half of the marinade.

In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven, heat oil over high heat until wisps of smoke appear. Place dry brisket in pan and sear on all sides until golden brown, then transfer to a plate.

Reduce heat to medium-low and pour off fat. Add tomato paste and cook until the color deepens and appears rusty, about 4 minutes. Add reserved marinade and use a wooden spoon to scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.

Return brisket to pan and add stock (you may not need all the stock; braising liquid should come about 1/3 of the way up the brisket).

Bring to a simmer, cover and place in preheated oven. Braise until meat is tender, about 90 minutes. (Test for doneness by piercing meat with roasting fork. If fork enters meat without resistance and brisket easily slides off, the meat is done.) Transfer brisket to a foil-lined baking sheet and set aside.

Skim any fat from cooking liquid. Carefully transfer braising liquid to a blender and process until smooth. If remaining sauce is too thick, add additional stock; if it is too thin, simmer over medium heat to reduce and thicken it. Season with salt and pepper to taste; set aside.

Sprinkle persillade over cooked brisket and gently pat down to adhere. Return meat to oven and bake until persillade is lightly golden brown, about 10 minutes.

Slice brisket thinly and serve with sauce and roasted vegetables. Serves 10.

Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 332 calories, 19 g total fat, 6 g saturated fat, 72 mg cholesterol, 173 mg sodium, 5 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 28 g protein

Persillade

  • 2 cups matzo meal
  • 1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

In a bowl, combine matzo meal, parsley, garlic and oil. Toss to combine and set aside until needed. Serves 10.

Approximate nutritional information, per serving 190 calories, 11 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, no cholesterol, 6 mg sodium, 22 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, no sugar, 3 g protein

Roasted Cipollini Onions

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • 1 pound cipollini onions, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped thyme

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

In large bowl, combine oil, garlic, onions, salt, pepper and thyme; toss to coat. Spread in a baking dish or roasting pan and cover with foil.

Cook until onions begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Remove foil, stir and return to oven.

Roast until onions are translucent, very tender and lightly browned around the edges, about 30 minutes. Serves 10.

Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 48 calories, 3 g total fat, no saturated fat or cholesterol, 193 mg sodium, 5 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 1 g protein.

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