FINALLY, I’m addressing the second specialized request from my first ever poll, which asked for “something meaty with a kick for autumn.” Well, it’s not autumn any more, but this is the first dish I thought of when I saw that request, I just didn’t have an opportunity to make it until this past weekend (the last weekend before Christmas).
This is another of my favorite dishes is from the Casual Hanukkah Buffet menu from my Williams-Sonoma Complete Entertaining cookbook. Yes, I know, Williams-Sonoma can seem pretentious and they do have some rather pricey items for sale, but this stunningly gorgeous cookbook has given me more inspiration in more ways than I ever thought possible — and it’s something I never would have thought of for myself (I received it as a Christmas gift many years ago). At first glance, I’d thought it was on the pretentious side, too, but I’ve come to learn that it is chock-a-block full of approachable recipes — many of them quite healthy or easy to make healthier — and ideas for making any event, be it formal or informal, more festive.
My take on their Spiced Beef Brisket recipe (you can find the original one here: http://www.williams-sonoma.com/recipe/spiced-beef-brisket.html?cm_src=RECIPESEARCH ) has become one of our favorite ways to make a beef brisket when we’re wanting something a bit different. While I generally prefer to bake it “low and slow” in the oven, because we were curing our homemade salami last Sunday (which ties up the oven for over four hours), I cooked it long and slow on the stove top.
The Middle Eastern spices give it a warm aroma and flavor that puts me in mind of what a pumpkin pie might taste like if it were made from meat instead of pumpkin, which makes it a perfect comfort meal for fall and winter nights. It’s so yummy, though, that you may find yourself making it sometimes in the spring and summer when you’re wanting something a bit different.
I prefer to pay more per pound for a flat cut brisket, as it is a leaner cut, but you can purchase a less expensive brisket and trim away the bulk of the fat cap yourself if you prefer. Season the meat to taste depending upon the level of spice you want. We like lots of flavor, so I use a generous hand with the spices in relation to the amount of meat; you can use more or less to suit your tastes. When you brown the brisket, it develops a crust, almost like one would see on a blackened Cajun meat, but as it slow cooks, that crust softens and disintegrates into the meat and sauce.
So whether you’re celebrating Hanukkah or you’re just in the mood for something different when it comes to beef brisket, give Spiced Beef Brisket a try — it will add a yummy, festive air to any occasion.
Spiced Beef Brisket (Number of servings depends upon appetites being fed; can easily be scaled up or down)
- Well-trimmed (suggest flat cut) beef brisket of desired size (I typically cook a 2 1/2 to 3 pound brisket)
- Couple teaspoons of sugar (eyeball it)
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 2 – 3 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- Vegetable or olive oil as needed
- 1 large onion, diced or sliced (your preference)
- 1 cup beef stock OR 1 beef bouillon and a cup or so of water
- Few splashes of Worcestershire sauce, to taste
- 1 can (14 – 15 ounces) tomatoes, UNDRAINED and pureed (I used my wee little food processor)
- In a large Ziploc-style bag or other non-reactive (e.g., glass) container large enough to hold your brisket, mix together the spices to taste (sugar, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, coarse ground black pepper, and ginger). Coat brisket thoroughly in spices. Let marinate in refrigerator overnight, or up to 24 hours, turning a few times occasionally.
- Remove brisket from refrigerator and let sit out for about an hour to lose its chill. In a non-stick skillet large enough to hold the brisket, heat just enough oil over medium to medium-high heat to coat the bottom of the pan. Brown brisket on both sides.
- Add in onions and cook over medium to medium low heat until they just begin to soften. Add in beef stock or beef bouillon and water (I like to swish it around in the bag that held my brisket so I can pour any remaining spice residue into with the meat). Add in Worcestershire sauce to taste. Simmer (low and slow!), covered, for two or three hours, occasionally spooning the juices over the meat. (Alternatively, bake, covered, “low and slow” — suggest 250F – 300F — in the oven for a few hours.)
- Puree UNDRAINED tomatoes (I used my wee little food processor). Pour over meat and onions. Simmer/bake for another hour or two, occasionally spooning the juices over the meat.
- When the brisket is tender, remove to a platter, cover with foil, and let rest in a warm spot for 10 minutes or so.
- If juices need thickening, bring to a boil and then simmer, uncovered, to reduce. Add additional seasonings if desired or needed. If juices won’t reduce to desired consistency, you can mix together equal parts flour and water (or cornstarch and water), bring the juices to a boil, and then pour in the flour/water mixture, stirring constantly, and cook until thickened.
- Slice brisket against the grain (I’ve generally found that slicing it at an angle, which means the first few slices are rather triangular in shape, seems to work best). Serve with the pan juices.
- Refrigerate or freeze leftovers.
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