No matter how pink the tulips or yellow the daffodils, when Seder- celebrating cooks plan their menus, a stodgy brown brisket is almost always on it. It’s as traditional to the Passover meal as gefilte fish and matzo ball soup, a gravy-covered centerpiece year after year.
It doesn’t have to be that way; there are plenty of other entrees that will bolster you through those four glasses of wine. But even if a platter of tender brisket is as central to your family’s holiday happiness as matzo toffee, you can still try something new.
Braised brisket is warming, cozy, rich and hearty, a perfect meal for cooler whether, but what about in the spring, during Passover?
This year, with Passover falling so late in April (it starts on Friday), I’m offering a brisket recipe that’s brighter and fresher than anything your grandmother may have done with her carrots and onion soup mix, but just as satisfying.
It’s based on the lemon pot roast that my mother used to make, a recipe she got from Edda Servi Machlin’s “Classic Cuisine of the Italian Jews.” Machlin’s recipe called for eye of round as the beef to be pot-roasted. But my mother always used brisket, which works equally well and seems more fitting for the Passover table, or at any gathering during the spring season.
I made several changes to my mother’s recipe, both to deepen the flavor and to lighten it up.
The first was to sear the brisket, letting the browned layer at the bottom of the pot add richness to the sauce. Those browned bits are dissolved into the gravy as the brisket cooks, helped along by the acid in the wine, orange and lemon juice.
As for the lightening up, I do that in two ways, both in the brisket pot as it cooks, and on the plate as garnish.
In the pot, there’s the citrus juice and wine to add tanginess, spiked with loads of grated zest and garlic, all of which cuts the perceived heaviness of the meat. And for serving, the tender slices of meat are topped with a jumble of spring greens dressed with even more citrus. Use whatever good, baby greens you can find. I love a mix of lettuces and herbs with some slivered radicchio tossed in for vibrancy and crunch.
It’s a new style of brisket, all decked out in the colors of spring.
CITRUSY BRISKET WITH SPRING LETTUCE
By Melissa Clark
- 1 (3-1/2- to 4-pound) beef brisket
- 2-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 4 teaspoons finely grated garlic, divided (from about 5 large cloves)
- 1 tablespoon chopped thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon chopped rosemary leaves
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for serving
- 2 large white onions, halved and thinly sliced
- Juice from 2 lemons, divided
- Juice from 2 oranges
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
- 1 garlic clove, finely grated or minced
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to taste
- 4 cups spring lettuces or baby spinach
- 2 cups sliced endive (from 2 to 3 endives)
- 1 small head radicchio, sliced (about 2 cups)
- 1 cup mixed soft herbs (leaves and tender stems), such as dill, basil or tarragon
Season brisket all over with salt and pepper, then rub with 2 teaspoons grated garlic, thyme and rosemary. Place brisket in bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
When ready to cook the brisket, heat oven to 325 degrees.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high. Sear brisket until browned on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer meat to a plate.
Add remaining 4 tablespoons oil and onions to pot, and saute until lightly browned on the edges and very tender, about 8 minutes. Return brisket and any juices to pot with the onions.
Measure out 2 tablespoons lemon juice and reserve for salad dressing. Pour remaining lemon juice, orange juice and wine over brisket, then add enough water to come halfway up the sides of the meat (about 1 cup). Bring liquid to a simmer over high heat.
Cover pot, transfer to oven, and cook for 90 minutes. Turn meat and stir in remaining 2 teaspoons garlic. Cover pot and continue to cook until meat shreds easily with a fork, about 60 to 90 minutes longer.
Uncover pot, stir in lemon and orange zests, and continue to cook, uncovered, 15 minutes more.
Just before serving, prepare salad: In a large bowl, whisk together reserved 2 tablespoons lemon juice, garlic and salt. Let sit 1 minute, then whisk in oil. Toss with greens, endive, radicchio and herbs. Taste and add more salt or olive oil, if needed.
Slice meat and serve, with pan juices spooned over and some of the salad piled on top. Serve the rest of the salad in a bowl on the side. Serves 8 to 10.
Nutritional information unavailable.
AND TO DRINK…
This brisket would be good under any circumstances, but if it is to be the main dish at your Seder table, you are in luck.
The selection of kosher wines has never been better, with a wide array of good Israeli wines, and U.S. kosher producers like Covenant, Hagafen and Baron Herzog.
It may be easier, though, to find cabernet sauvignons and Bordeaux blends, which will be fine if they are not too oaky and overpowering.
Although this dish has a bright, citrusy tang, and white wine is used in the cooking, it still calls for a red — any type you like, really.
— Eric Asimov, New York Times