Brisket is my go-to dish when I am feeding a crowd, especially for the holidays. I usually buy a whole brisket weighing in at between 8 and 9 pounds since left-overs are always welcome. The beauty is that it can (and actually should) be made ahead, freezes and reheats wonderfully. It makes great sandwiches and I even grind up the bits and pieces to stuff into dumplings or mix with eggs. I’ve even used the meat mixed in with ground meat for burgers or meatloaf and half placed some meat on top of pizza. My favorite recipe uses onion soup mix, Bennett’s Chili Sauce and Coca Cola. I know that sounds awful but it is actually incredibly delicious. You do have to buy the real Coca Cola – preferably made with sugar instead of corn syrup – none of this diet stuff. It is the sugar that caramelizes the meat as it cooks and no one would ever guess the ingredient. But as much of a crowd-pleaser as that version is, I get bored making it. I can do it in my sleep. So this past weekend I bought a first-cut piece of brisket weighing a little over 4 pounds and decided to experiment since it is only my husband and me at home right now. Here’s what I came up with. It might not replace my holiday brisket, but sometimes it’s nice for a change.
Yield: 8 servings
4-5 pound first-cut brisket
1 Tablespoon unsweetened, Dutch-process cocoa
1 packet Onion Soup mix (8 Tablespoons)
15 ounce can, dark, sweet pitted cherries in syrup
6 ounces dark porter (I used a chocolate porter. Drink the remainder – you probably deserve it! A nice stout should work as well.)
1/2 cup strong, black coffee
1 Tablespoon tamarind paste
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1/2 Tablespoon chili powder
2 Tablespoons dark brown sugar
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
- In a baking dish that is large enough to hold the brisket laid out flat with room for the other ingredients, place the brisket fat-side up. Add all of the other ingredients and smush them over and under the brisket. Cover the pan with parchment and a tight-fitting lid or foil.
- Place on a baking sheet in the oven and bake for 3.25 hours. No peaking.
- At the end of the baking time, allow the brisket to cool enough until it is easy to handle. Remove the brisket (I use my hands!) allowing the liquid to drip into the pan and place on a large cutting board. Pour the liquid into a large saucepan. Bring the liquid to a boil and boil the sauce until it is reduced by about half. It should nicely coat a spoon at this point. Remove the sauce from the heat and using an immersion blender, puree the sauce.
- Meanwhile, using a long, sharp knife, slice the brisket against the grain into slices that are about 3/8 inch thick. At this point, either place the slices in containers to use later or in a baking dish if you plan on serving it that day. Cover the meat with sauce. You will have plenty!
- When you are ready to eat the brisket, it can be re-warmed in a 325 degree F oven for 30 minutes or can even be microwaved. Serve it with a favorite starch – polenta, noodles or potatoes for example – and a salad or veg.