I’m a big believer in tradition, especially when it comes to holidays. I also believe there’s nothing wrong with updating a classic. Brisket was the time-honored Passover meal when I grew up, and I watched my mom make it every year. A beautiful brisket nestled in a hearty sauce of crushed tomatoes dotted with the classic carrots, onions, and celery, and some red wine added in the last half hour to beef up the flavor of the sauce. I love that recipe (and it was something I could make with three toddlers at my feet), and that was our dinner on the first night of Passover.
It’s funny, though, because as much as I like brisket, I only make it on Passover. Somehow, it just seems odd to eat it without gefilte fish and matzoh. In our house, brisket and noodle kugel go hand in hand, as do brisket and potato kugel, but brisket and farro risotto, not so much.
So for me, it wasn’t a question of what to make, but rather how to prepare it. Do I stay with my mom’s delicious traditional recipe or change it up a bit and see how it compares? The winner was… mom’s recipe, updated.
Rolane’s Brisket, Adapted
2 TBSN olive oil
6 lb beef brisket
1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
3 large or 5 medium carrots, cut in coins
3 cloves minced garlic
4 TBSN tomato paste
1½ cups red wine (I used Cupcake Cabernet Sauvignon; full-bodied, perfect for sauce, and reasonably priced, to boot)
3 bay leaves
2 cups crushed tomatoes, divided in half
4 cups homemade chicken stock (or reduced-sodium store-bought)
12-16 oz mushrooms, quartered or medium dice (or less, depending on how much you like mushrooms)
salt and black pepper to taste
1. Heat a large dutch oven or roasting pan on medium-high and add olive oil. While the oil is heating up, pat dry the brisket and sprinkle both sides with salt and black pepper. Then preheat the oven to 325 degrees for convection or 350 degrees for regular roasting.
2. When the oil is shimmering, place the brisket in the pan and sear about 4 to 5 minutes per side. (Turn down the heat a smidge if the oil is spattering.) Remove the brisket when both sides are seared and tent it with aluminum foil on a plate.
3. Add the onions and sauté in leftover oil until they start to look translucent, then add the carrots. After a few minutes, toss in the garlic and stir often, making sure the garlic doesn’t burn.
4. Spoon in the tomato paste and cook it for a few minutes, then pour in the wine to deglaze the pan. (Use a wooden spoon to release the bits from the pan.). Let the sauce cook a few minutes to burn off the alcohol.
5. Add the bay leaves and 1 cup of crushed tomatoes. Stir well, then pour in the chicken stock and bring the sauce to a boil.
6. When the sauce is boiling, return the brisket to the pan and put it on the middle rack in the oven.
7. Roast about 45 minutes, then stir the sauce. If the meat is starting to brown, cover it with aluminum foil.
8. Roast another 45 minutes to an hour, then stir in the mushrooms. At this point, insert a thermometer into the meat, set it for 160 degrees, and continue roasting.
9. When the thermometer reaches 160, take the pan out of the oven and move the brisket onto a cutting board. It will rest there for about 15 minutes; during that time, the meat cooks a little more (called “carryover cooking”), and will reach an internal temperature of 165. The juices also redistribute in the meat, keeping it moist. I’ve read that some folks like the meat mostly pink inside and cook it to 145, while others cook it longer in a cooler oven until the internal temperature hovers around 180 degrees and the brisket “falls apart.” It’s all a matter of preference.
10. Put the roasting pan on the range and heat a burner to medium high. Add the second cup of crushed tomatoes, stirring completely, and let the sauce reduce a bit and thicken. Taste the sauce, season with salt and pepper, if needed.
11. Slice the brisket against the grain. Serve on a platter and either top with the sauce and pass it in a bowl.
Brisket makes for great leftovers. Try some of these ideas.
- Break a matzoh board in half, top it with a few slices of brisket and sauce.
- If you’re lucky enough to have any brisket left after Passover, shred or gently pull apart the slices and make a pulled brisket sandwich on a roll and top with the sauce. Or, shred the meat and make brisket tacos with napa cabbage, a quick lime crema (lime zest and lime juice stirred into sour cream) and pickled red onions. Of course, these last two ideas certainly justify making brisket at other times of the year!
Enjoy the brisket – and the rest of your meal – and have a Sweet Pesach.