The brisket of beef is also popular with Texans who love to barbecue and grill it. We Jews love our brisket braised like a pot roast. I also found out the hard way from some lovely (ahem) elderly Pennsylvania Dutch women that brisket is not sirloin, brisket is not pot roast, and brisket is not flank. It is it's own cut of beef from the lower chest of the steer. Hmm, who knew? Apparently not this Jewish 40 something year old guy!
In preparation for this, John and I went to Dietrich's Country Store to pick up my brisket. I knew I wanted one marbled with some fat. It gives it flavor. Thankfully hanging out in the kitchens with the chefs of the Ritz-Carlton Philly (former employer) taught me something! (It also taught me how to smuggle out the largest cooked shrimp cocktail out of a walk-in fridge without getting caught by the Garde Manger chefs!) I also knew I wanted one that was just over 3 pounds since I was making it for just John and I. And Mom's recipe called for that. AND ... we know moms cannot be wrong.
Heading back to the glass case with all the meat I scanned it for the brisket. Nothing. Hmm. OK, but I see a nice pot roast so lemme see if I can use that.
When my turn came up, the 80 something senior Pennsylvania Dutch woman asked me gruffly what I wanted. I told her I was making a brisket, didn't see any, could I take that pot roast over there? (pointing to it in the case)
|Going into the oven.|
"I know, but I didn't see any!"
"There one right in front of you!" she declared.
And sure enough, there was a nice 5 pound brisket staring me in the face, right in front of me, front and center, with nothing hiding in front of it except a sign stuck into it screaming "BRISKET!"
"Well that's just too big," I began. "I need a brisket about 3 to 3 1/2 pounds. That's what the recipe calls for."
"Why don't you want this brisket?" she retorted. "This is nice brisket. You eat it all."
"Yes, I know, that's my problem, I will eat it all. No, no, no, I want a 3 to 3 1/2 pound brisket. Can't ya cut off a hunk and we'll be good?"
She looked at me incredulously. Just blinking and staring at me as if to collect her thoughts.
"No, I cannot! Who will want then a 2 pound little brisket? No one will buy a tiny brisket!"
"I don't know who will buy it! I just know I don't want 5 pounds!"
"You take 5 pounds."
"NO ...," I said firmly, "I want a 3 to 3 1/2 pound brisket! I don't want 5 pounds of brisket!"
At that point, another 80 something Pennsylvania Dutch woman who was observing this ridiculous argument came over to join in. Luckily, her aim was to just diffuse the escalation. I mean, it was about to go down!
"Helen, we have some nice smaller briskets in the back, let's go look and see what we have," she said calmly leading her by the hand.
Well, I thought, that was first correct thing that she said all day!
'Helen' then said something in Pennsylvania Dutch which I am sure was not very nice. "What did she say?" I asked out loud as they walked away.
At this point, John had retreated as far away from me as possible to the other side of the store.
After what seemed like hours (I know Helen was making me wait on purpose, I just know it!), Helen finally came back with a smaller brisket and slapped it with a thud on the meat scale.
"Here! This is small brisket. You take this one. You eat extra."
I sighed heavily. It was 3.825 pounds. Sensing that I was going to lose the 'exact weight brisket war', I settled on the slab she brought out.
"Fine, thanks, I'll take it. It's perfect." I said with a forced smile.
Mom's brisket recipe is a basic recipe, nothing fancy. If you want to jazz it up a bit, there are plenty of variations online. The Lipton onion soup pack mixed in with water and then cooked on top adds a real nice flavor. As with all of her recipes, I am cooking them as close to "as is" as possible to honor her memory. If I add or change anything, I always note it down below.
Here are a couple things that I learned along the way or maybe, um, made a mistake on. (insert 'ooops' here) I forgot to trim the majority of the fat off the brisket. It was pretty well marbled as it should be but if there is a large section of fat on the raw brisket, you want to remove that.
In addition, make sure you know which way the grain runs as you will be slicing the brisket against the grain after it is cooked. It is easier to see this when the meat is raw. Slicing the brisket against the grain will leave you with a brisket that is more tender and easy to chew. Slicing it with the grain will leave you with a brisket that is stringy and chewy. Luckily, I remembered which way the grain ran after I cooked it.
There are many arguments for how thick or thin you should slice your brisket. Mom sliced it 1/4 in. or less. I have read on various websites that you should slice it the thickness of a #2 pencil which is just a little thicker than 1/4 in. On other sites, its states the tougher the brisket, the thinner the slice. I guess it does come down to personal preference as well.
To be honest, I think I took mine out too soon. Although it was medium rare how I like my steaks and London broil, I felt it could have been cooked a bit more. Several recipes say to cook the brisket until a fork slides in easily which denotes the tenderness and I forgot to do that.
Some people say that you should discard the cooking liquid in the pan. I say NO and make a gravy out of it or just use it as an Au Jus. Some recipes also call for ketchup, chili sauce, or BBQ sauce to be poured on top. Mom used Lipton onion soup mix and I stuck with that! Certain recipes say turn the brisket once halfway through cooking time. I say put it in, set the timer, and walk away! Anyway, if you try my Mom's recipe, you will enjoy a brisket with flavor. It brought back just so many wonderful memories for me.
Basic Brisket by Abby Deeds
3 - 3 1/2 pound brisket trimmed of fat (YES I FORGOT THAT PART!)
4 medium or large potatoes quartered
4 medium carrots sliced (I used a bag of those baby carrots, just love them!)
1/2 pound mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
1 large onion sliced
1 packet Lipton onion soup mix
1/2 cup water
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350'F
Place beef on top of sliced onion in shallow baking dish
Place vegetables around beef
Combine soup mix and water, pour on top of beef
Wrap foil loosely around beef and vegetables
Seal edges air tight
No need to baste
Bake 2 hours
Take out and let rest for 15 minutes (This is important. It allows juices to redistribute.)
Slice 1/4 inch or less thick