Monday, September 14, 2015

Shana Tova - 5776 Brisket and Vegetables in BBQ Sauce

Oh no, not again. I am not losing another day to fibro-fucking-myaligia. I have things I want to do today. Tonight (Sunday) is the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, and while my big holiday cooking days are over - big multi-course family dinners for 15 or 20, all that great Jewish food to weigh us down - I still have a brisket in the fridge and I am going to cook it.  I think I can get that one thing done, breaking back and aching arms be damned.

Feeding family and friends was always such a joyous project for me, and over the years there were so many holidays to celebrate. Not all of them every year - my mother-in-law, and a sister-in-law, an aunt and a cousin all hosted different holiday dinners.  It was quite nice when everyone got together, whether it was Rosh Hashanah, Passover, Thanksgiving or Christmas.

The Jewish holidays have their own list of special dishes, all that symbolic stuff I love.  If this was 20 years ago, I'd be cutting up apples to dip in honey to symbolize a sweet new year, grating potatoes and onions for kugel, baking honey cake and trying to find room in my oven for brisket and turkey and trays of special stuffing. If this was 30 years ago, I would also be baking my own challah.

But today is neither and the family is far-flung or even worse, gone forever.  Still, my boys deserve a taste of the past, and I've got just the brisket to do it.

Of course, I won't be participating in the macaroni and cheese challenge next week. Who was I kidding? What next, competing on "Chopped"?  If this had been all about producing one perfect baking pan full of the best mac and cheese recipe, I could have done it.  But having to prepare the equivalent of 4 trays and having to do it all at the same time, the morning of the competition, and then worry about keeping it at 145 degrees - well, as Mother Superior Helen Gaius Mohiam explains to a young Paul Atriedes when he asked what happened to the men who undertook the spice agony, "they tried, and died."

Today I will consider myself lucky to do my shopping at Publix and BJs, cook the brisket, and prepare mushroom risotto.

Brisket is one of my favorite cuts of beef, and the one most associated with Jewish cooking.  Our pot roasts were from briskets, unlike many other pot roast recipes I've come across over the years. Brisket is also the cut of choice for Texas pitmasters.  I have successfully smoked a brisket or two in my day, and the results are fabulous.  I briefly considered smoking this brisket, but the weather has been iffy this whole week, and I am simply not up to tending to smoked meat during a tsunami.  This recipe is a minor variation on my favorite, extra-simple pot roast.  I added the vegetables and some seasoning, but even with that it is ridiculously easy to prepare and virtually mistake-proof.

There is a fabulous gravy that is created during the cooking process, and it can be served with any kind of potato preparation. Traditionally, I would make a potato kugel to accompany a Passover brisket, potato latkes for Hanukkah, and either one for Rosh Hashanah.  If I was feeding a whole bunch of people, I would probably also prepare a smallish turkey and bake my High Holy Day Cornbread Stuffing, full of turkey sausage, apples, challah and cornbread.  In that case, I would definitely go for the potato latkes, to maintain some variety in the texture. And let's face it, you can never go wrong service mashed potatoes.  Never.  I can't emphasize that enough.

But this will be for my immediate family, and I've been filling them full of mashed potatoes lately, and I just happened to have a half pound of mushrooms in the fridge begging to be cooked.  I'll post that recipe tomorrow. Today is for that lovely brisket. Incidentally, if my mother could see the current price per pound of brisket, she would plotz.  It used to be a cheap cut, cheap because it was tough and required hours of slow cooking. Now that it's trendy, you may have to float a bank loan, but once in a while, it is very well worth it.

5776 Brisket and Vegetables in BBQ Sauce

4 large sliced onions
2-3 large carrots
3 stalks celery
1-2 zucchini
4-6 cloves garlic
Emeril's Original Essence

6 pounds beef brisket
McCormick Montreal steak seasoning

2 cups Heinz ketchup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup water

Halve and slice the onions. Cut the carrots, celery into 3-inch pieces. If the garlic cloves are very large, cut them in half lengthwise. Place all these vegetable in the bottom of a very large baking pan. Sprinkle with Emeril's Essence.

Rinse the brisket under cold water and lay it on top of the vegetables, fat side up.  Sprinkle the top with the Montreal steak seasoning.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the ketchup, brown sugar, cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and water. Stir until smooth. Pour over the top of the brisket so that it is completely covered and drizzle any remaining sauce over the vegetables. Cover tightly with heavy duty aluminum and place into the preheated oven. Cook undisturbed for 2 hours.  Check to make sure there is liquid under the brisket and that nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Return the covered pan to the oven for another 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until a large fork can pierce the brisket all or almost all the way through.  Remove the foil and with a wooden spoon scrape any sauce remaining on top of the brisket into the liquid in the pan.  Return the uncovered pan to the oven for another 30 minutes. If you have left the fat cap intact, switch the oven to broil for a few minutes to give the top a more finished look.

Remove the pan from the oven and carefully remove the brisket to a large cutting board and let it cool. Slice against the grain. I recommend using an electric knife if you have one. Serve with the gravy and vegetables.

I do not remove the fat cap.  I live for that fat - it is a special treat and remember, fat is flavor.  You can always remove most of it before cooking, but best that you cook with it on, and just remove before eating, if you can't eat it for any reason.  Leftovers should be placed back in the gravy and stored in the fridge.  This will only get better as a leftover.  Enjoy - I know you will.                                                                

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