I don’t know about you, but growing up for me was like a culinary merry-go-round. Sure my Mom might make a variety of dinners for our family to eat, but too often it was from the same playbook week after week. As a kid, my favorite time of year was always the holidays, and not because of the presents – because of the food!
No matter what you celebrate, the holidays are always a time to bring together family to celebrate life around the ritual of food. Everyone has memories since childhood of one or two dishes that are so sacred that a special occasion is the only time they will be prepared. For me there are two. My Dad is a pie master, and any time that our family gets together you can be assured there will be heavenly pie to be had. But the one food that brings back childhood memories for me like no other is my Mom’s brisket.
My Mom’s version of brisket is the best (by default, with one grandmother who I never knew and the other who lived too far away when I grew up to have culinary influence). Its simple, sweet onion, tomato, and wine flavors are the standard by which I judge all other briskets. I love brisket because it is a humble piece of meat with a low cost that can still be made into a deeply satisfying meal. The meat is braised in the oven until it is falling apart tender, and then rested in the juices overnight so that the flavors develop a rich, comforting succulence. I’m getting hungry just writing this!
And so with Passover and Easter coming up soon, I figure it’s a good time to update this time-honored recipe with some more refined approaches than my Mom might have used.
Succulent Beef Brisket
•1 3- to 5-pound beef brisket, trimmed of fat
•2 tablespoons soybean or vegetable oil
•1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes in juice (preferably San Marzano)
•1 cup dry red wine
•4 large onions, sliced
•4 carrots, peeled and sliced into ¼” rounds
•1 head of garlic, peeled and sliced
•1.5 cups packed pitted prunes, sliced in half
•1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
•1/2 cup prune juice
•3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
•2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
Preheat to 325°F. Pat brisket dry and season well with salt and pepper. Heat oil in extra-large skillet over high heat, add brisket, and cook until deep brown, 4-5 minutes per side. Place brisket in a large roasting pan. Deglaze the skillet with wine, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, and pour over top of the brisket. Add the next seven ingredients to the roasting pan, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Cover the pan with one layer of parchment paper and cover this with one layer of aluminum foil (two layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil will also work) and place in the oven until the brisket is tender and falling apart, about 3 hours 15 minutes. Place covered roasting pan in refrigerator overnight.
The following day, spoon off any fat from top of pan juices. Remove brisket from roasting pan, scraping off juices. Place on a cutting board and cut across grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Add remaining 1 tablespoon prune juice and 1 teaspoon vinegar to pan, season with salt and pepper as needed, and add sliced brisket back into the roasting pan, separating slices to allow some sauce to flow between.
Rewarm brisket, covered, in 350°F oven for 30 minutes. Sprinkle brisket with parsley, serve and enjoy!