October 14, 2019

THE BEST BRISKET EVER. with potatoes. [Recipe]

I don’t compliment myself too easily. In fact I have a complex about not being good enough. I am terrified that everything I do will suck and bring embarrassment to my family and the entire Jewish people at large. A neurotic Jew- that is so cliche, which only makes me feel more pathetic. I have been to therapy, I have seen healers, done yoga, tried alcoholism and acupuncture. If it wasn’t for a small dose of zoloft I wouldn’t even have the guts be writing this. But let me be clear: I don’t need the zoloft to tell you that I know how to make a friggin’ brisket.

My brisket is made with Jewish heart and Italian flavors. I cook it much in the same way a Northern Italian might braise a different cut of beef (in wine, tomatoes, and aromatics: meaning rosemary, thyme, bay leaf, etc.) to create a dish that tastes like Tuscany but feels like Shabbat.

While I am aware that there is such a thing as BBQ Texan Brisket, I do not acknowledge that as brisket. Until the state of Texas chooses to recognize reproductive rights, gay marriage and the replacement of oil with renewable energy, I will not recognize their brisket. Until then, no stars for the lone star.

Please let it be known that even though I keep throwing out the Jewish card on this one, my brisket is not only meant for the chosen people. Anyone who eats it feels chosen. You can line a hundred Jews up to tell me that my brisket is amazing but it won’t carry the weight of one Italian who gives me the same compliment.  Of course, they call it spezzatino…my Italian friends still remember and still talk about my spezzatino.  (FYI, spezzatino is usually made with cubed beef from a different cut.)

One day a few years ago, I made a brisket to combat a wave of depression that was trying to creep its way in, quite a lot of food and time when no one but misery is coming over to eat. If you bake it, they will come. Just as I was taking it out of the oven,  in walked a group of my Italian friends (they called about 2 minutes beforehand to notify-  very typical) in order to pick up something they needed. When they smelled and saw an 8 pound spezzatino in my kitchen they almost went through the roof. They called other friends, had them bring wine and before I knew it a dinner party was well on its way with a meal that no one has ever forgotten. And as for that wave of depression, postponed.

Brisket is actually incredibly easy to make and pretty hard to mess up. You can add a little too much of this or a little too little of that but as long as you have a few basics (which I will of course share with you) all the flavors will meld perfectly with time in the oven to bring you a delicious, juicy brisket. The problem with many briskets, however, is that they are either too sweet, too dry and/or too fatty. Sweet briskets can be tasty but I don’t want dessert for dinner and I don’t want my main course to further contribute to my hangover. (Note: It’s the sugars that makes you feel icky in the morning and quite frankly I would rather have wine and dessert than beef that topples over the glycemic index.) Furthermore, briskets don’t need to be dry in order not to be fatty. The trick to making a juicy, tender brisket is four-fold:

  1. Make sure you have enough liquid in the pot. (wine, broth, etc)

  2. Make sure you have a good pot. An important factor in making an amazing, fool-proof brisket is to cook it in the right pot. I use a Le Creuset enameled cast-iron dutch oven (buy

    Cook the meat with the fat still on it and with the fat side up so that the fat will insulate the beef and keep in the juices. Once the brisket is done, take it out of its juices, let it cool,  and scrape off the fat before slicing it and returning it to its sauce.

  3. Time.  Brisket is a slow-cooked, braised meat. As long as the liquid is plentiful, the longer it cooks the better. (Note: The brisket cut of meat  is historically poor man’s food; it cost less than tender cuts of meat like filet mignon, however if cooked long enough will be just as tender.) It needs lots and lots of time at a low temperature to break down the tension in the meat so that it will fall apart with no knife needed. I have even set my oven to 200°F, stuck the thing in at night and woke up in the morning to brisket breakfast. Time is so of essence that you will find your brisket to be even better the next day. (Always make it ahead of time for company and reheat.)


Ingredients: for 8-10 hungry people plus leftovers