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Braised Brisket -- Cook-Off 43

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#1 weinoo

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 11:34 AM

Welcome to the eGullet Cook-Off XLIII. Click here for the Cook-Off index.

In the past, we've taken a look at braised brisket in a topic devoted to anything and everything about the dish. This cook-off will dive even more deeply into that most complex of cuts.

Ahhh, brisket...that wondrous cut of, in this case, beef (other animals have briskets too) - from the front part of the animal...take a look and see from where it comes...

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The brisket is the front part of the breast, and a whole boneless brisket weighs anywhere from 10 to 20 pounds. A brisket is generally divided into two parts, called the flat and the point, with the flat cut being leaner and the point cut having (imo) more flavor due to it's extra fat cap (btw, the point is often called the deckel). It is also an inexpensive cut that requires long, slow cooking to break down the collagen in the connective muscle tissues in order to achieve tenderness. The fat helps to keep it nice and moist.

Briskets can be prepared in many ways. In some places, the whole brisket is smoked - low and slow, sometimes for as long as 24 hours. Lots of brisket is corned (a wet cure), and then cooked up with potatoes and cabbage, or, sliced and piled high on a sandwich, lunchtime dreams are fulfilled...often with pickles and cole slaw, but hold the mayo, please. In Asian cooking, brisket is often used as a wonderful base for soup - think beef pho, and you'll get the picture. Pastrami, by the way, is prepared in a similar way to corned beef - but dry cured and then smoked.

Now, for our purposes and this cook-off, we're going to look at braised brisket. Whether you braise it on top of the stove or in the oven, wrapped in aluminum foil or naked, with wine, beef broth, water (liquids are necessary because this is braised brisket, after all) it's time to get out those heavy duty pots and pans, prepare your mirepoix, and share with us your most wonderful braised brisket recipes.
Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"
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#2 Chris Amirault

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 12:47 PM

Excellent. I have been playing with a braised brisket that uses a lot of dried porcini mushrooms I've found on sale. I also will happily report on using brisket for beef penang, a Thai curry, when I get out from under here.
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#3 snowangel

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 02:44 PM

I have braised a brisket before. Actually, not a whole brisket -- but the fattier end. Molly Stevens Pot-Roasted Brisket with Rhubarb and Honey. Although I hate raisins in general -- they are either shriveled or plump and well, squishy, they did prove to be essential.

I did document the finished product here.

Do note what most of of mention in the "Braising with Molly" topic -- low and slow in the oven. Her temps are simply too high.

I've also done this dish with a venison brisket, to rave reviews.

I am, however, interested in a braise with a more Mexican/Hispanic bent. Some onions and poblanos? Shredded and served in tortillas with some pico with the last of this summer's tomatoes and peppers and cilantro? I have another venicon brisket i the freezer...
Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

#4 Pam R

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 04:20 PM

I've eaten many a brisket in my time -- I don't think a holiday passes without some family member serving it. I've also cooked a few, but almost every one of them was the same (not a bad thing):
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Cooked long and slow with lots of garlic and only a little liquid added, cooked in foil. I'd love to try some new recipes. I think I'll take a brisket out of the freezer tomorrow.

What size briskets are being cooked?

#5 Lapin d'Argent

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 04:44 PM

Braised almost anything is wonderful, but brisket is divine!

Cooks Illustrated January/February 2005 has an excellent recipe for Onion-Braised Beef Brisket. I've made it a bunch of times and served it to guests who insist on stuffing their pockets with leftovers, whether I am inclined to part with them or not.

CI's method has you make it ahead and let it rest overnight so the meat reabsorbs the juice, which can be convenient. But if you like your brisket falling apart instead of firm, go ahead and eat it the same day.

Hubby is being dispatched to the store tomorrow to bring home a nice piece of brisket for the weekend.

#6 Pam R

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 05:16 PM

I prefer making it the day before too. Let it cool overnight and it's easier to remove the excess fat. It'll still be falling-apart good. Of course, you always have to have a slice or two (of a chunk) just out of the oven.

#7 weinoo

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 05:25 PM

CI's method has you make it ahead and let it rest overnight so the meat reabsorbs the juice, which can be convenient.  But if you like your brisket falling apart instead of firm, go ahead and eat it the same day.

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If you want to eat the brisket the same day you cook it, I find that a couple of hours rest firms it up nicely for slicing. It can then be rewarmed in the reduced juices, and the meat practically soaks those juices up.
Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"
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#8 Chris Hennes

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 07:40 AM

Cooks Illustrated January/February 2005 has an excellent recipe for Onion-Braised Beef Brisket. 

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This is my go-to braised Brisket recipe: it is really phenomenal. It's hard to go wrong with brisket, but this one in particular is excellent. Good call -- I'll have to pick up a brisket and make it this weekend.

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#9 PopsicleToze

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 10:12 AM

Cooks Illustrated January/February 2005 has an excellent recipe for Onion-Braised Beef Brisket. 

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This is my go-to braised Brisket recipe: it is really phenomenal. It's hard to go wrong with brisket, but this one in particular is excellent. Good call -- I'll have to pick up a brisket and make it this weekend.

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This is our go-to recipe, also, and I'm not even a big recipe person. But this one is worth it. I was already planning to cook it Saturday for Sunday's dinner.

#10 Pam R

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 11:16 AM

So what other flavours are in the recipe, other than the brisket and onions?

#11 Chris Hennes

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 12:24 PM

The gist of it is that you carmelize a bunch of onions in the pan you used to sear the brisket, add the tomato paste, garlic, brown sugar paprika and cayenne and toast them up, then deglaze the pan with red wine and stock. Add in some thyme and a bay leaf and pop in the oven (they have you do it in foil). Then, let it chill overnight in the liquid, defat it, reheat with a bit of vinegar, and voila!

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#12 Marlene

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 12:27 PM

When ordering a brisket from a butcher, what would one ask for? Just "a brisket"?
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#13 weinoo

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 12:42 PM

A "whole" brisket will be around 12 to 15 pounds or so. Most, but not all, people are accustomed to the "flat," or first cut of brisket...around 5 - 6 pounds...have the butcher leave the fat on top, if at all possible.

The "point" cut, or deckel, or second cut, is a heck of a lot fattier - and, as some would say, tastier. I've had deckel that tasted like beef custard.

So it all depends on your personal preference. If you cook a whole brisket, you'll get to try a lot of each :smile: .

Figure 1/2 pound uncooked per person...or a pound.
Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"
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#14 Pam R

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 01:01 PM

Different butchers will also call it different things. A whole brisket (the ones I get here go up to 20 lbs.) will take up a full-size, commercial sheet-pan.

I have customers who like them without any fat left on them -- I feel that this is wrong. Definitely ask the butcher to leave a layer.

And as Mitch suggests, at least 1 pound per person. You can lose up to 1/3 to shrinkage.

#15 Lapin d'Argent

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 05:08 PM

When ordering a brisket from a butcher, what would one ask for?  Just "a brisket"?

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And sometimes you just end up with what they have. Today hubby went to the Whole Foods in Brighton, MA, as promised, in search of a 4-5lb piece of brisket from the flat-cut end, per the recipe. But they only had a 3lb piece and a 2lb piece, so that's what he came home with.

So I will just cook them up together as if they were one harmonious single piece. Another benefit to the CI technique is that they have you wrap the brisket with the minimal liquid and other ingredients in a tight foil jacket, so that the juices have minimal space to circulate around in. Given that, I don't think I'll even have to tie the separate meat pieces together -- even if I could think of a way to do it that wouldn't be supremely weird.

Stay tuned for details and pictorial on Saturday.

- L.

#16 Chris Hennes

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 06:29 PM

My normal grocery store was out of brisket this evening so I stopped at the Super Walmart: they actually had quite the selection, ranging in size from a small, tightly-trimmed point cut at 3 lbs up to a basically completely untrimmed 18-lb monster. Three guesses which one I bought...

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#17 Marlene

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 06:44 PM

When ordering a brisket from a butcher, what would one ask for?  Just "a brisket"?

View Post

And sometimes you just end up with what they have. Today hubby went to the Whole Foods in Brighton, MA, as promised, in search of a 4-5lb piece of brisket from the flat-cut end, per the recipe. But they only had a 3lb piece and a 2lb piece, so that's what he came home with.

So I will just cook them up together as if they were one harmonious single piece. Another benefit to the CI technique is that they have you wrap the brisket with the minimal liquid and other ingredients in a tight foil jacket, so that the juices have minimal space to circulate around in. Given that, I don't think I'll even have to tie the separate meat pieces together -- even if I could think of a way to do it that wouldn't be supremely weird.

Stay tuned for details and pictorial on Saturday.

- L.

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You just can't buy brisket in the grocery stores here. Even our little Whole Foods doesn't carry it. I figure I might be able to special order it from my butcher though, which is why I was wondering. Maybe I'll get a whole one and cut it up for different uses. Some smoked, some braised etc.
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#18 snowangel

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 06:53 PM

Chris (and Marlene, if you are able to score a whole brisket), if you aren't intended to braise the entire thing, braise the flat and smoke the deckle (or the thick fatty part).

In addition to the Molly Steven's recipe I noted above, I've also braised one with onions, roasted poblanos and beer. As I recall, I did tuck in a coupla hot peppers, and some stock. This one I took sort of past the slicing stage and used it for a big party with corn tortillas and all the fixings.
Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

#19 mkayahara

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Posted 17 October 2008 - 05:44 AM

This cook-off couldn't have come at a better time! On Wednesday, I took a piece of brisket out of the freezer, then sat down to check eGullet and the first thread I saw was this one. There are no coincidences...

I cooked it up yesterday in the style of Carbonnade, i.e., with lots of onions and garlic and using Chimay as the braising liquid. I also threw in a few whole cloves, a bay leaf and a bunch of fresh thyme.

Posted Image
(Served here with steamed broccoli and a sorry excuse for spaetzle.)

I've only ever cooked brisket once before, so I'm not sure whether this was the flat or the point. I'm guessing point. Either way, it was delicious! :biggrin:
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#20 Chris Amirault

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Posted 18 October 2008 - 08:10 PM

The braised brisket recipe that I've been using to great success the last few weeks has been a variation of the CI theme, but with a shot of Paula Wolfert's various braised beef techniques tossed in for good measure.

Saute the S&P'ed beef in butter or lard or a combo until it's nicely caramelized. Add some chopped vegetables (roughly chopped onions first until browned, then some carrots and celery, then at the end some garlic), deglaze with stock and/or red wine, toss in the herbs you want (I've been using thyme and bay a lot, though a batch with rosemary worked well), and add water to make sure that your beef is covered. That's when I've been tossing in a couple of ounces of dried porcini mushrooms, too.

I do this all in the same dutch oven and cover the beef with a parchment cartouche before I toss the package into a 250F oven for a few hours, testing all the while. When it's not-quite done, I pull the meat out of the liquid and blend the whole braised mess (sans the herbs) to create a thick sauce. Let everything cool overnight in the fridge and rewarm in a 350F oven in a shallow ovenproof dish (the Le Creuset oval au gratins are great for this) with as much meat and sauce as you want. I usually roast some root vegetables (potatoes, carrots, parsnips especially), onions, or shallots to go with it, but I serve those on the side.

The beef penang recipe I've been using is from David Thompson's outstanding Thai Food, and he parboils the beef in boiling water, drains it, and only then braises the beef in coconut milk. When it's done, you slice it into relative thick slices, fry the paste you've been pounding for 45 minutes in cracked coconut cream, and then simmer the whole thing in some more coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves, fish sauce, and a few other things. It's sublime, really showing off the tender texture of the brisket in the silky curry sauce.
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#21 jsmeeker

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Posted 18 October 2008 - 09:49 PM

I've done the CI onion braised brisket before. Thankfully, brisket is easy to come by in Texas. The giant, completed untrimmed ones are readily available cryo-packed in many supermarkets..

Now that the weather is cooling off, braising is in order once again!

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#22 Pam R

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Posted 18 October 2008 - 10:07 PM

Saute the S&P'ed beef in butter or lard or a combo until it's nicely caramelized.

Are you cooking it whole or do you cube the meat?

I have a brisket thawed in the fridge and I'm trying to decide what to do with it. I'm thinking about doing half of it with a soy/brownsugar/garlic/ginger mix - has anybody done anything like that?

#23 pam claughton

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Posted 19 October 2008 - 03:08 PM

I discovered that if you have a recipe for short ribs that you particularly like, it may work well on brisket. Just use roughly the same amount of meat, and keep all else the same.

So far, my favorite way to make brisket is a short ribs recipe from recipe gullet. I made brisket constantly last winter, just fell in love with the stuff, and my local supermarket has many options to choose from. Brisket is popular at Patriots tailgates in my area.

This one I love, and using the fire-roasted tomatoes really livens the flavor.

http://recipes.egull...ipes/r1214.html

This one is my other favorite, along with the rissole potatoes, from Cuisine at Home. It's braised in beer and onions and creates a rich dark sauce.

http://www.forums.cu...ber=6434&page=0

~Pam

Edited by pam claughton, 19 October 2008 - 03:20 PM.


#24 Chris Amirault

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Posted 19 October 2008 - 04:09 PM

Saute the S&P'ed beef in butter or lard or a combo until it's nicely caramelized.

Are you cooking it whole or do you cube the meat?

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Whole. There's something really great about a single piece of brisket. (Not a "whole brisket," though -- just a 5-6 lb piece.)
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#25 Pam R

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Posted 19 October 2008 - 04:16 PM

I discovered that if you have a recipe for short ribs that you particularly like, it may work well on brisket. Just use roughly the same amount of meat, and keep all else the same.


That's a great suggestion. In fact, I have two chunks in the oven now and one of them uses a marinade I use on thin short ribs all the time..

For the fist chunk, I browned some onions, added garlic, tomato paste, smoked paprika, brown sugar, red wine and salt and pepper. Based on the brisket so many have been reported about -- sort of.

Chunk #2 went into the oven with lots of fresh garlic and ginger, brown sugar, sesame oil, soy and green onions. I use the same mix on Miami ribs (1/4" thick short ribs). They're not quite done yet, but I just tasted this one and it's going to be great.

#26 PopsicleToze

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Posted 20 October 2008 - 08:34 AM

I just made the brisket yesterday but we won't be eating it until tonight. But of course I sampled, and it was delicious. I used the CI onion-brased method in The New Best Recipe cookbook. Lots of onions. Three pounds of sliced onions to three pounds of brisket, but I upped the brisket. The one I bought was about 9#, and I cut off a third of that to save to make a beef stew later. So, the meat was the only thing doubled, and there was still plenty of gravy. The onions cook down in the gravy and it's probably even better than the brisket. The only thing I don't do by the recipe is add the little bit of vinegar at the end. I don't mind it, but the family thinks it has a funny taste.

That's one thing I always do with brisket -- save some of it for a beef stew. So, while the brisket was cooking (it only cooks 3 hours at 300 deg F), I browned the meat for the beef stew and cooked the base for the stew. This went in the freezer, and when we want stew, all I have to do is add the vegetables and we're done.

#27 snowangel

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Posted 20 October 2008 - 10:44 AM

Chris, thanks for the heads up on David Thompson's penang. The idea of braising the meat first, and then adding the coconut milk and paste is genius. You'll get the flavour of the beef, with the curry "stuff" without sacrificing the flavour of the beef.

But, one of the techniques I learned from Paula Wolfert was to hold the braise for the next day, separating the meat from the liquid. Basically, remove the meat, seal tightly in a ziplock. Liquid in another container. Both in the fridge, which makes taking the fat of the liquid very easy. Reheat gently in the oven. I do like doing this, and find it makes a big difference. She even advocates doing this process twice, which makes for an even more succulent dish (think rinse and repeat!).
Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

#28 Chris Amirault

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Posted 20 October 2008 - 11:56 AM

Chris, thanks for the heads up on David Thompson's penang.  The idea of braising the meat first, and then adding the coconut milk and paste is genius.  You'll get the flavour of the beef, with the curry "stuff" without sacrificing the flavour of the beef.


Actually, you braise it in coconut milk and then create the curry base with coconut cream and the paste, retaining the cooking milk to use to moisten later if you'd like. (He first uses the technique I've learned from Chinese cooking in which you place the meat in cold water, bring it to a boil, rinse the meat, and toss the mucky cooking liquid.) The cooking milk is very beefy, and as a result you can create two very different curries: one with that meaty umami from the braising liquid, the other a cleaner, delicate curry which the slices of brisket carry.

But, one of the techniques I learned from Paula Wolfert was to hold the braise for the next day, separating the meat from the liquid.  Basically, remove the meat, seal tightly in a ziplock.  Liquid in another container.  Both in the fridge, which makes taking the fat of the liquid very easy.  Reheat gently in the oven.  I do like doing this, and find it makes a big difference.  She even advocates doing this process twice, which makes for an even more succulent dish (think rinse and repeat!).

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I agree with Susan: this is a fantastic technique and I use it myself all the time.
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#29 Lapin d'Argent

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Posted 20 October 2008 - 03:47 PM

Finally reporting on Saturday's cooking of CI's braised brisket.

As mentioned up thread, I actually had two brisket pieces, a 3lb and a 2lb. These got browned first:
Posted Image

Next came the onions, which picked up the nice fond created by the meat:
Posted Image

Once the onions have softened, you add tomato paste and paprika:
Posted Image

Finally, after the addition of a few more ingredients, like red wine, chicken broth and bay leaf, you pour the onion mixture into a big foil envelope inside a baking pan, and nestle the browned brisket on top:
Posted Image

Here's my brisket all tucked into its foil blankie and ready for the oven:
Posted Image

And four hours later -- heaven! My terrible photography makes the meat look dried out here, but it was very succulent.
Posted Image

The flavor of the meat from this recipe is really incredible. Next time, though, I think I would just use a baking pan of the right size and cover it tightly with foil, instead of putting the meat inside the foil inside the pan. Inevitably, the foil leaks and makes a mess in the pan anyway. Why lose any of that great juice?

There wasn't enough pan juice this time to make it worth while to separate the meat from the juice when I stored the leftovers overnight, and the meat wasn't terribly fatty, so I don't think it made a difference anyway. Besides, my husband can't be trusted with a container of carmelized onion in the fridge.

#30 Chris Amirault

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Posted 20 October 2008 - 05:11 PM

I haven't been seeing a fat cap -- if that's the right word for layer of fat atop a brisket. I had one and kept it for sure. Do people usually trim it off?
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