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Recipe: Festive dishes will make you happy

Some of the very best dishes are those that take a long time — time you never used to have. These comforting but festive holiday recipes don’t require much prep time or hands-on attention, but they do need you to be around the house. You just have to wait while the dishes fill your home with the aromas you want at this time of year.

Case in point: Braised brisket takes only 30 minutes to be ready for the oven, but its spiced, meaty scent will waft through the kitchen for the next four hours or so. And it needs that time. If not cooked long enough, a lean brisket can be tough and dry. The meat seems to tighten as it cooks, until all of a sudden it relaxes into tenderness, like a rubber band that finally snaps. After the meat is sliced, it gets heated in the sauce to further tenderize it and ensure it’s moist.

Both these dishes deliver on that same promise. That they can be prepped ahead by at least a day adds to their leisurely vibe.

They may just make you want to always stay home.

SPICE-RUBBED BRAISED BRISKET

  • 1 (4- to 5-pound) first-cut brisket (also called flat-cut)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1-1/2 cups pomegranate juice
  • 1 cup chicken stock or water
  • 1-1/2 pounds cipollini onions or small shallots, peeled
  • >> Spice rub:
  • 2 tablespoons finely ground coffee
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • >> For serving:
  • 1 cup lightly packed Italian parsley leaves with tender stems
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
  • Mashed potatoes

Heat oven to 300 degrees. In a small bowl, combine spice rub ingredients. Rub all over brisket.

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium. Add oil and brown brisket, taking care not to burn spices, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add sliced onion, garlic and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and golden, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add wine, scrape up any brown bits and reduce liquid by half. Add pomegranate juice and stock. Bring to a simmer and return brisket to pot, fatty side up. Cover, place in center of oven, and braise until fork-tender, about 3-1/2 hours, basting every hour or so.

Uncover and nestle cipollini onions in liquid. Cover and braise another 45 minutes, until meat is very tender. Uncover and carefully transfer meat to a cutting board. Let stand until cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile, scoop cipollini onions into a bowl. Pour liquid into a fat separator or a tall container and remove as much fat as you can, then pour back into pot. Slice meat and return it to pot along with onions, using a brush or spoon to get liquid between slices.

Heat broiler with rack 8 inches from heat source.

Partly cover Dutch oven and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat; simmer until meat is warmed through. Uncover and return to oven under broiler. Baste a few times, until liquid thickens and top is glazed, about 8 minutes.

To serve toss parsley in lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, and sprinkle over brisket along with pomegranate seeds. Serve immediately with mashed potatoes. Serves 8 to 10.

>> TIPS: Brisket can be braised up to 3 days ahead. Let cool to room temperature in the pot. If you have space, refrigerate the Dutch oven. Otherwise, store meat and onions in one container and liquid in another. When ready to serve, slice meat. Remove hardened fat from liquid. Return meat, onions and liquid to Dutch oven, bring to boil, then broil as directed above.

THE FRENCH tradition of cooking whole fruit in sugar over days produces glasslike orbs that are lovely to look at but are more of a conversation piece. This clementine confit is a decidedly edible version that captures the spirit of the method, with less sugar and time but just as much beauty and a lot more ease.

Segments of the tiny orange go into simple syrup, then into the oven for two to three hours. During this time, they morph into something more complex, chewy, concentrated and kind of fancy.

They’re prefect atop a simple ginger chocolate cake that is everything a chocolate cake should be: easy, gorgeous and just rich enough. The cake — with the clementines or without — may remain in your repertoire forever.

GINGER CHOCOLATE CAKE WITH CLEMENTINE CONFIT

  • 3/4 cup (170 grams) unsalted butter (1-1/2 sticks), plus softened butter for greasing pan
  • 12 ounces (340 grams) bittersweet chocolate (60%), broken into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup (25 grams) Dutch-processed cocoa powder, plus more for dusting
  • 1 rounded tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup (8-ounces) creme fraiche, divided
  • 1 cup (200 grams) sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon ginger liqueur or cognac (optional)
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • >> Clementine Confit:
  • 4 clementines (10 ounces), peeled and segmented
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (118 milliliters) water

>> To make confit: Heat oven to 275 degrees. Arrange clementines in single layer in small baking dish that fits them snugly. Simmer sugar and water in small saucepan until sugar is dissolved. Pour over clementines, stirring gently to coat. Bake, stirring every 45 minutes or so, until segments are slightly translucent and brown on edges, 2-1/4 to 3 hours. Cool completely. Makes about 1/2 cup (clementines and syrup may be stored for a week at room temperature).

>> To make cake: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with softened butter. Line bottom with parchment and butter paper.

Combine butter and chocolate in medium bowl; set bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Stir occasionally until mostly melted and remove from heat. Continue stirring until smooth; let cool slightly.

Add cocoa, fresh ginger, ground ginger, vanilla, salt, 1/4 cup creme fraiche, 1/4 cup sugar and liqueur, if using. Whisk until smooth.

Lightly beat egg yolks in another bowl and whisk into chocolate mixture until smooth. Set aside in a warm place to keep mixture loose.

Meanwhile, beat egg whites on medium until foamy. Gradually sprinkle in remaining 3/4 cup sugar. Increase speed to high and continue beating until egg whites are billowy and hold a peak.

Add 1/4 of whites to chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth. Add mixture to remaining whites. Fold gently until no white streaks remain. Scrape into prepared pan and smooth top. Place on baking sheet and onto center oven rack. Bake until center bounces a little when pan is gently shaken and a toothpick inserted 1-1/2 inches from edge comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Cool completely on rack.

Remove ring and slide cake onto a serving plate. You can leave the parchment in place. Pat any crumbling edges back onto cake. Cake may be wrapped and kept at room temperature for a few days, or frozen.

To serve, chill a bowl and whisk, and use to whip remaining 3/4 cup creme fraiche. It will thin out at first, then hold its shape. Dust cake with cocoa powder and slice with hot knife. Serve slices with creme fraiche and clementine confit. Serves 8 to 10.

>> Tips: 1/4 cup sour cream may be substituted for creme fraiche in the batter. Serve the cake with regular whipped cream if you’d like.

Nutritional information unavailable.

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