(photo by Josh Evnin)
In traditional Jewish cooking, brisket is most often braised as a pot roast, especially as a holiday main course, usually served at Rosh Hashanah, Passover and on the Sabbath. For reasons of economics and kashrut, it was historically one of the more popular cuts of beef among Ashkenazi Jews. Brisket is also the most popular cut for corned beef, which can be further spiced and smoked to make pastrami. But why not try it for Chanukah? It’d make a great holiday main dish.
First, some background. Brisket is a cut of meat from the breast or lower chest of a cow. It is one of the nine primal cuts of beef, though the precise definition of the cut differs internationally. The brisket muscles include the superficial and deep pectorals. As cattle do not have collarbones, these muscles support about 60% of the body weight of standing or moving cattle. This requires a significant amount of connective tissue, so the resulting meat must be cooked correctly to tenderize the connective tissue. The term brisket is derived from the Middle English brusket, which comes from the earlier Old Norse brjósk, meaning cartilage.
MOM’S EASY-TO-MAKE BRISKET
2/3 package onion soup mix
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Place the brisket in a foil-line baking pan. Sprinkle onion soup mix, paprika, parsley flakes and dill on top. Add carrots and potatoes. Seal in foil.
- Bake for one hour per pound of meat.
BRISKET AND FRUIT
2 sliced onions
1 3- to 4-pound brisket
1 1/2 cups beer or wine
1 cup pitted prunes
1 cup dry apricots
3 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp orange marmalade
1 tsp brandy
1 tsp grated lemon peel
juice of 1 lemon
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking pan with foil to cover brisket.
- Sprinkle half the onions on foil, place brisket on top; place remaining onions on top of brisket and seal. Roast three hours.
- Combine beer or wine, prunes, apricots, sugar, marmalade, brandy, lemon peel, lemon juice, ginger, cinnamon and Worcestershire sauce in a bowl and blend.
- Spread mixture on top of brisket. Reduce heat to 300°F. Cover pan and cook one hour, adding more beer or wine if sauce appears dry.
Sybil Kaplan is a journalist, lecturer, book reviewer and food writer in Jerusalem. She created and leads the weekly English-language Shuk Walks in Machane Yehuda, she has compiled and edited nine kosher cookbooks.