We love cookbook author Leah Koenig's approach to traditional Jewish cuisine.
Take, for example, a few modern kitchen staples that Koenig uses with a deft hand in her mouthwatering recipes (and that your Grandma Sadie probably did not have in her kitchen, God love her), from seasonal green market vegetables, bouquets of fresh herbs and balsamic vinegar to smoking hot jalapenos (yes, truly).
She also incorporates regional influences, from North Africa to Central Europe, to add excitement and variety to her dishes.
Her new book, Modern Jewish Cooking: Recipes and Customs for Today's Kitchens (Chronicle Books, 2015) comes out this month, just in time for Passover. We thought her brisket might be just the thing for your family sitdown this year. Here it is, below, along with her commentary. Stay tuned for her matzo ball soup recipe which we'll post tomorrow, too!
For many people, brisket is the Proustian madeleine of Jewish cooking. The rich, savory scent of caramelizing meat that perfumes the house as it cooks seems to stir people into a nostalgia-fueled fervor. There is no question that the brisket your bubbe made was the best ever, and you cannot compete with the layers of memories that flavor her version in your mind. That’s okay, because you have a few tricks of your own up your sleeve. This version slow-cooks the meat in a sweet and tangy mixture of honey and red wine until it sighs and falls apart at the touch of a fork. I included the red wine as a nod to stracotto, the Roman Jewish take on brisket, which simmers beef in wine and spices. Serve it for Rosh Hashanah dinner, and start building the next generation of memories.
SERVES 8 TO 10
This recipe calls for second-cut brisket, which is sometimes referred to as deckle. It can be difficult to find second-cut brisket packaged in the grocery store, so ask your butcher about it. While you’re asking for things, see if the butcher will trim off any excess fat, too. If you have first-cut brisket on hand, go ahead and use it—the dish will still be delicious.
Brisket’s flavor and texture improve with age, so while you can certainly serve it right away, it will taste best if you make it a day in advance. Once the brisket has chilled in the refrigerator overnight, spoon off and discard any excess fat congealed at the top and transfer the meat to a cutting board. Thinly slice the brisket against the grain (meat is easier to slice when it’s cold), then place the slices back into the Dutch oven or roasting pan, spooning some of the saucy onion mixture over the top. Warm in a 300°F/150°C oven until hot and bubbling, 20 to 30 minutes.
4-5 lb brisket, preferably second cut
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 large yellow onions, halved through the root and thinly sliced
8 sprigs fresh thyme
8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 cup chicken broth
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F/165°C. Generously sprinkle both sides of the brisket with salt and pepper.
2. Heat the vegetable oil in a Dutch oven or large pot set over medium-high heat. Add the brisket and cook, turning once, until browned on both sides, 8 to 10 minutes total. (If the brisket does not fit all at once, cut it in half and sear it in batches.)
3. Remove the brisket from the pot and set aside on a cutting board. Add the onions, thyme, garlic, and bay leaves to the pot, followed by 1/2 cup/120 ml of the wine and the vinegar. Cook, stirring often, until the onions soften slightly and the mixture is fragrant, about 5 minutes.
4. Whisk together the remaining 1 cup/240 ml wine, honey, onion powder, garlic powder, broth, and 1 tsp salt in a medium bowl until fully combined. If you used a Dutch oven, lay the brisket on top of the onions and pour the wine mixture over the top. Cover and transfer to the oven. If you used a pot, transfer the onion mixture to a roasting pan and top with the brisket. Pour the wine mixture over the top. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and transfer to the oven.
5. Cook the brisket for 2 hours. Remove from the oven, uncover, and carefully turn the meat to the other side. Re-cover and continue cooking until the meat is fork-tender, 2 to 21/2 hours more.
6. Remove from the oven and transfer the brisket to a cutting board. Cover loosely with foil and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing. Locate the thin lines running in one direction along the brisket and use a sharp knife to cut thin slices perpendicular to those lines. Remove and discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaves from the cooking liquid. Use a slotted spoon to remove the onions and arrange around the brisket. Spoon the desired amount of pan juices over the brisket. Serve hot.