Brisket! ‘Tis the season.
I mean to make brisket more than I actually do. I keep hoping a smoker will magically appear in my back yard, so that I might spend a day in a lawn chair like a lady in waiting to an enormous brisket, mopping it hourly, in pursuit of the perfect smoke ring.
But braising will do too. Because brisket comes from the lower chest of the animal, it contains plenty of connective tissue, requiring a long, slow braise to break it all down. Because smokers have not yet become a common household item, braising is by far the most common way to cook brisket – and there are as many ways to do it as there are people making it.
Braising is simple – all you need is a heavy pot, a chunk of meat, low heat and some liquid. I love my enamel-coated cast iron braising pots – you can set them on the stovetop, brown your meat and veg, then add liquid and slide the whole thing into the oven, making use of those browned bits in the bottom of the pan, the heavy lid keeping just enough moisture in to reduce everything to an intensely thick, rich gravy. (With no need for flour to thicken.) You could do all this in the slow cooker, but I like the darker, deeper sauce you get from a pot in the oven.
I started mine with a dry rub of paprika, thyme, salt and pepper. Common enough. Brown it until it has dark, crispy edges, then do the same with the onions, until they’re soft and turning golden. Then return the meat to the pan, add tomatoes and stock (or beer, or wine) and some sprigs of thyme and bay leaves, if you have them, and then let the oven do the rest.
I like to let brisket go for a good 4 hours – it’s even better the next day, so feel free to make it one day, cool, cover the pot and refrigerate the whole thing overnight, then slide it back into the oven to rewarm when you’re ready to serve it. I’ve heard of Jewish grandmas making it days in advance of their big dinners, or freezing it for weeks beforehand. (Because everything has broken down so well, braised dishes are perfect candidates for freezing.)
Apologies for the quick, early morning brisket shot on a white tile that makes it look as if it’s floating –