The Shiksa Does Brisket (and Another Prune Recipe)

When I was in med school, all my Jewish friends thought I was Jewish. It may have been because I was funny and smart-alecky and fresh from 3 years of grad school in New York City. Or because somewhere on my mother’s Irish face I reflect my father’s Czech heritage. Or maybe I subconsciously channel the spirit of my dad’s mother’s grandfather, who, we are told, was Jewish.

All of which may explain why, even though I was raised Catholic, attended Catholic grade school, Catholic high school and yes, a Catholic college, I make a mean brisket. Every year in recent memory I have brought the brisket to my friend Linda and Andy’s seder, and every year it gets rave reviews.

Of course, it may just be simply that I have always used my Jewish mother-in-law’s recipe.

Well, this year, the shiksa is branching out. It’s time to stand on my own two Irish-Czech feet, and stop basking in Irene’s reflected glow. I got a new brisket recipe, which I made and brought to Seder last night. Now my brisket reputation with my friends was made on Irene’s recipe, so I was a little worried about shaking that by doing something different this year. But I came across this recipe at Epicurious, and just had to try it. And guess what? It even has prunes in it.

Well, I am ever-so-pleased to report that the new brisket recipe is a winner. It was absolutely delicious. My husband likes it better than the traditional recipe. My friends went back for seconds and even third helpings. (That’s what was left up there in the photo.) And I survived, reputation intact. (Whew!)

Maybe it’s time to flex my Irish cooking muscles and try corned beef and cabbage…

Brisket with Dried Apricots, Prunes and Aromatic Spices
Note: Quantities shown are total used, but amounts are split for use. Read the recipe carefully. I modified the recipe by dusting the brisket with a litte flour before browning, and increased the fruit slightly. I also added tomato paste to the sauce to make it even richer and fuller flavor. Some of the Epicurious reviewers recommended longer cooking times at a lower temperature of 275 instead of 300 fahrenheit. I didn’t have time for that, but think I’ll try it that way next time to see if it makes the meat even more tender than it already was. Finally, the apricot mixture can burn while you are browning the meat, so be careful.

3/4 cup quartered dried apricots (about 4 ounces)
9 large garlic cloves
31/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 4 1/2- to 5-pound flat-cut beef brisket
2-3 tbsp flour mixed with 1-2 tsp kosher salt and 1/2 tsp pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups chopped onions
2 medium carrots, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup dry red wine
3 cups homemade beef stock or canned low-salt beef broth
3/4 cup pitted prunes, quartered
Chopped fresh cilantro.

Combine 1/3 cup apricots, 3 garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon cumin, salt, cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in processor. Using on/off turns, chop to coarse puree. Using small sharp knife, make 1/2-inch-deep slits all over brisket. Set aside 1 tablespoon apricot mixture. Press remaining apricot mixture into slits.

Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 300°F. Heat oil in heavy large oven-proof pot over medium-high heat. Gently rub brisket all over with flour mixed with salt and pepper to taste. Add brisket to pot and sauté until brown, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to plate, fat side up; spread with reserved 1 tablespoon apricot mixture.

Add onions to same pot. Sauté over medium-high heat 5 minutes. Add carrots, tomato paste, ginger, coriander, cayenne pepper, remaining 6 garlic cloves and 2 1/2 teaspoons cumin; sauté 3 minutes. Add wine and boil until reduced almost to glaze, stirring up any browned bits, about 5 minutes. Return brisket to pot. Add stock and bring to simmer. Spoon some of vegetable mixture over brisket.

Cover pot and place in oven. Roast brisket 2 1/2 hours, basting every 30 minutes with pan juices. Add prunes and remaining apricots. Cover; roast until brisket is tender, about 30 minutes longer. Cool brisket uncovered 1 hour. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled overnight.

Spoon off any solid fat from top of gravy; discard fat. Scrape gravy off brisket into pot. Place brisket on work surface. Slice brisket thinly across grain. Bring gravy in pot to boil over medium-high heat. Boil to thicken slightly, if desired. (I found that I didn’t need to thicken the sauce.) Season gravy with salt and pepper (also not necessary.). Arrange sliced brisket in large ovenproof dish. Spoon gravy over. Reheat either on the stovetop or in a 350 degree oven for about 20-30 minutes.

Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

Iene’s Pot Roased Brisket

Haverchuck has requested that I post Irene’s recipe for comparison, and here it is. You’ll see it’s really not that different from the one I made. I think it’s pretty funny that her first ingredient is pancetta (optional, of course). I use olive oil, but I’ll bet the bacon adds great flavor.

4 oz. pancetta or bacon, cut in half inch cubes or 3 tbsps. olive oil
3 tbsps. Flour, optional
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 ½ lbs brisket or boneless beef rump roast, in one piece
2 medium onions, chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 cup fruity red wine, like Beaujolais
3 tbsps. Tomato paste
2 tbsps. Fresh thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
2 ½ cups veal or beef stock

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees
2. Place pancetta or bacon in a 5 or 6 quart oven-proof casserole dish, and saute over medium heat until it is browned. Remove pancetta, leaving fat in pan. Set pancetta aside. If you don’t want to use bacon fat substitute 3 tbsps. of olive oil.
3. Season flour with salt and pepper, dust beef roast with flour and brown it in casserole over medium high heat. Remove it from casserole, and set aside. Drain all but a film of fat from pan. (You can brown the meat without the dusting of flour)
4. Add onion, carrots, celery and garlic, and cook, stirring, over medium heat until they have softened. Add red wine, and cook over medium-high heat for several minutes. Stir in the tomato paste. Return beef to pan, and add thyme, bay leaf and stock. Bring to a simmer, cover and place in oven for 3 hours, or until meat is tender.
5. Remove meat from casserole, cool and wrap in aluminum foil. Refrigerate overnight before slicing. Store gravy separately, overnight also, and remove fat when it solidifies.
6. Slice meat and reheat in gravy.

Category: Food

3 Responses to The Shiksa Does Brisket (and Another Prune Recipe)

  1. Wow. That sounds great. Will you post the Irene recipe for purposes of comparison?

    I didn’t grow up eating brisket but my wife did, and so I prepare it to her strict specifications. I might post more details on my blog, but basically it’s minimalist: brisket, onions, salt, maybe carrots and celery. Nothing else added, not even water. Sometimes I cheat and add something that’s not in the family recipe, like a bit of wine or a bay leaf. But if I do I don’t tell a soul.

  2. Hey, Sis.
    We better be a little Jewish because I’ve been telling people we are. If Grandma is half, then dad’s a quarter, and that makes us…mutts, basically.

    Just smoked a brisket down here in Athens, GA, and I have to say the veins of fat throughout the meat made the chewing experience a little much. I think it is best slow cooked off the grill ala Irene.

    Missing you and wishing I was there to chill in your garden with you. Remember when it was just a vision? Will see you for Mom’s 80th and maybe a romp in the woods of Central Pennsylvania.

  3. Hello again from Irene. No, we’re not in a brisket war. I like the sound of your new recipe, especially the apricots, garlic and prunes. Think I’ll try it. Of course you know that I no longer use brisket but top rib which to me is a tastier, more tender cut of meat. Also, please note that the bacon and flour are no-nos at a seder, but since my family doesn’t care I do use them.

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