Friday, September 27, 2019

Vic the Butcher's Beef Brisket-Recipe

As Rosh Hashanna is coming up (Sunday at sundown) I thought it might be a good time to offer up a brisket recipe for anyone faced with a giant slab of meat and no idea how to cook it. I've been a vegetarian since the early 80s, and I understand how intimidating that can be. Maybe this is your first year hosting the dinner, maybe you just bought a brisket because it was inexpensive and now you don't know what to do with it?  It doesn't matter why you need to cook it, if the fact is you're confronted with what looks like a terrifyingly large cut of beef.


Hopefully, your butcher has cut the brisket into a "Flat" and a "Point." The point is, as the name suggests, the pointed side of the brisket. The point has less beef and more fat, so I have it wrapped for the freezer and keep it for a smaller family meal during the year. It does well with "Oven-barbecue" style recipes, and that sort of thing. If your butcher hasn't done this, just whack it about 1/4 of the way down and wrap it tightly in freezer paper. Some butchers will sell you just the flat, but at significantly higher cost. You do what's best for you. If you're buying an already trimmed flat, look for one with a good layer of fat. because brisket is a tough cut of meat, you'll want that as a sort of insulation for the several hours of roasting. You can always trim it away after cooking. The fat that melts into the roasting pan juices can be cooled and skimmed when solid and used for roasting potatoes-and it keeps forever in the fridge. Fat is your friend.

The only way you can ruin a brisket is by cooking it at too high of a temperature. As cuts of beef go, it is quite forgiving. Essentially, you want some fat and some liquid to slow braise it. I use wine for the liquid, but there's no reason you couldn't use grape juice, or broth. If you're preparing this for the High Holidays, I'll warn you that people tend to prefer what they grew up with. In other words, this isn't the time go get creative with sriracha sauce, It might be delicious, but you still have the point in the freezer to experiment with later on in the year.

My mother wasn't terribly interested in cooking. That's not a criticism, it just wasn't her thing. What she lacked in skill was balanced out by the fact we had a great butcher who would write down recipes for her. Everyone should have a butcher like Vic. I'm pretty sure Vic was Italian, but when you work in a Jewish neighbourhood you get a feel for the local tastes. His holiday brisket recipe has been standard in my life for more than 50 years. This is a textbook illustration of the expression, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." I've resisted the urge to tweak it over the years as you can't improve on perfection. Vic is probably long gone, but if I have anything to do with it, his brisket recipe will live on.

The beef needs to marinate 24 hours in the fridge. I do it right in the roasting pan so it can go straight to the oven. Make sure to leave space for it. I also like to cook it a day ahead as cold brisket is easier to slice thin, and you get a chance to skim the fat off the gravy. Re-heating the slices in gravy keeps them from drying out. If you're planning to serve roasted potatoes, the flavoured fat is a nice addition.

You Will Need:

About a 5 lb. piece of brisket, fat on
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 cups concord grape sweet wine (Mogen David (or if you were our housekeeper, "Morgan Davis" which sounds like a law firm) is my standard, but anything works) divided
1/4 cup corn oil
2 teaspoons salt
An entire bottle of chili sauce (I prefer Bennett's but in Nebraska we can only get Heinz)
2 large onions, quartered and thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, chopped
2-3 large carrots, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
a good grind or two of black pepper
1 bay leaf

Lay the brisket in a deep roasting pan, fat side up. scatter on the onions, garlic, and carrots. In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, 1 cup of wine, corn oil, salt, sugar, pepper, and bay leaf. Empty in the bottle of chili sauce and the use second cup of wine poured into chili sauce bottle to get out the rest. Pour it all over the brisket.

Cover the roasting pan tightly with foil and let marinate 24 hours in the fridge. I never bother turning mine, but if you do, just remember to have it fat side up to cook.

Cooking day:
Heat the oven to 325 degrees F. Place the entire foil covered pan in the oven. If it has a lid, use that as well. You want a tight seal. Cook 2 hours at 325 degrees F. Then, reduce heat to 300 degrees F. for remaining two hours. At this point carefully remove it from the oven and check for tenderness. Be careful not to give yourself a steam burn opening the foil. A fork should easily pierce the meat. If not, stick it back in for another half hour. Carefully remove the brisket from the roasting pan to a plate or baking sheet to cool before wrapping tightly and placing in the fridge overnight. Strain out the vegetables from the gravy and reserve (those onions and carrots are full of flavour and you'll want to serve them later with the sliced brisket). Chill the liquid gravy. When it is cold you should be able to skim the solid fat easily. The beautiful orange colour it gets from the wine and chili sauce makes the most gorgeous roast potatoes.
The cooked vegetables

The pan gravy. You'll skim that fat when cold.

Use a serrated knife to cut the brisket thinly against the grain. Re-heat in a pan with the gravy and some of the vegetables. Brisket keeps well, and makes a lovely cold sandwich on the holiday challahs with raisins. You did bake challah, didn't you?

Thanks, Vic for another successful holiday brisket!


bahnwärterin said...

thank you goody!
i have a lot of respect for big pieces of beef - i fear i get them not tender enough....and they are an expensive buy here.
vic´s recipe sounds easy enough for me! and tasty of cause!!
but i scratch my head about the bottle of chili sauce - please can you give a description and a milliliter number? we do not have the american products here....
happy holiday! xxxx

Goody said...

Despite the name, chili sauce isn't spicy beyond a pinch of cayenne. It has ground tomatoes, sweet peppers, ad onions as the main ingredients. A good substitute would be tomato ketchup with a bit of paprika and cayenne stirred in. A 12 ounce bottle is standard in the US-about 350 ml. It is also similar to the "Cocktail sauce" used on prawns in the UK.

Beth Waltz said...

Right, you are! The solution to brisket -- and any other tough cut of beef -- is a long soak in a good marinade. Note that in my household those odd bottles of booze one receives as hostess gifts are put to good use in this process. My own standard marinade recipe is "juice and booze".

Bibi Maizoon said...

Wow! That looks delicious!
My elderly Ligurian neighbor in California used to cook her brisket & osso buco in a 70s crockpot (an electric countertop slow cooker for those not from the US)- she'd just put it on in the morning and let it go till dinnertime. Made the entire neighborhood smell all autumnal and delish.
A belated “Shanah tovah”

bahnwärterin said...

thank you goody - now i have an idea what you mean with "chili sauce" - and how much! xxxx

Vronni's Style Meanderings said...

That looks delicious! Sadly, no one in my house likes beef...

Emily from Etsy said...

Thanks for sharing this recipe! I don't eat beef, but I'll file this recipe away for future reference because I think it would taste fantastic with seitan!

It's awfully sweet of you to preserve this recipe for posterity as a tribute to your local childhood butcher. Did you ever see the movie "Beautiful Girls," starring a middle-aged Timothy Hutton, a somewhat young Uma Thurman, and a barely pubescent Natalie Portman? It came out around 1995 or 1996. It's a wonderful romantic comedy with an ensemble cast and many interesting plotlines about small-town life in New England. Martha Plimpton's character was a waitress at a greasy spoon, and she was dating a butcher named Vick or Vic. The guy who was trying to woo her felt threatened because of her involvement with the town butcher, who he referred to as "Vic the meat cutter." It was a very funny scene. This is one of the few romantic comedies I enjoy so much that I watch it repeatedly about once or twice a year, usually around Christmas because it's a winter-themed movie and it leaves you with warm and fuzzy feelings. I never get tired of it.

One character proudly becomes the proprietor of a tavern, and he says with great pride that he has "apps," as in appetizers. It's charmingly quaint when he boasts about the apps on his menu because from the lens of 2019, "apps" is assumed to be "applications," as in computer and cell-phone programs. But in the '90s,"apps" were assumed to be appetizers and nothing else.

Mim said...

I love brisket, though our butcher usually sells it rolled and tied, not as a flat piece. We also never marinate ours, so perhaps that's something we should try for a change. (Do you think that's a legacy of German/Dutch settlers in the US, as my first thought on seeing the marinade was 'Deutscher sauerbraten!')

Señora Allnut said...

Really useful recipe, thanks for sharing. I always enjoy a good recipe for big pieces of meat which could be cooked in advance. I'll try it before serving to my family, because 'people tend to prefer what they grew up with' (wise words!)
Usual recipes for brisket in my neck of the woods are usually stuffed brisket, rolled and baked. It's a good way to make a cheap cut looks luxurious!

Cee said...

Holy heartburn ! ...I'd have to tone down some of the hotter ingredients for personal taste, but it looks NUMMY :)

Goody said...

Juice and booze sounds like a winner!

I'll save you some ;)

Thank you. I've never tried it in the crock pot-might be a good way to cook the point.

I've never heard of that movie! I'll have to give it a watch.
The basic ingredients work with baked tofu, just cut the time down to an hour and use a hotter oven-maybe 350 F. I've had pretty good results with it. Never tried it with seitan but it should work.

It is very similar to sauerbraten! There's also a thing people do with dill pickles rolled up inside it, but I forgot what it is called.

Always best to try something out on yourself first!

The chili sauce is rather mild-they probably should have called it chunky ketchup!

Emily from Etsy said...

I made your recipe last night, using homemade seitan dough that had been kneaded but not boiled for an hour. I divided the dough into several pieces, flattened them, and put them into the pan with some space between them so they did not touch, then added all the other ingredients as instructed. I baked the dish for two hours at 375 degrees, and it came out great! The seitan expanded and absorbed the juices nicely, and the vegetables were tender. It tastes great with baked or mashed potatoes.

Goody said...

I am so happy to hear you liked it! You make your own seitan?! Your poor hands! My husband tried it once and his hands were red and inflamed for days.

Thank you for letting me know it worked. Now I can add that to the recipe notes for anyone that might like to try it.