|Photo Courtesy of The New York Times|
I picked up a copy of The New York Times while traveling recently. It was the Wednesday edition which always includes the Dining section. It featured a column by Melissa Clark on making a brisket you can be proud of; one that is not dry and chewy. You can read the article here. The key to a good brisket is in the cut that you use. Most supermarkets carry the first cut, which in our lean-conscious era is the preferred choice. But the fattier second cut of the brisket, sometimes called the deckle, braises better and retains the juiciness that the first cut often lacks. But finding the second cut can be a problem. This is where having a friendly butcher shop comes in handy.
|Photo courtesy of Mountain Xpress|
We are fortunate to have such a butcher shop in our area. The Chop Shop in Asheville is there to serve all of the needs of people who are looking for a personal touch when it comes to buying meat. Owner Josh Wright and butcher Karen Fowler buy whole carcasses of meat from local purveyors. Buying locally ensures quality and buying whole carcasses makes it possible to fulfill orders for every cut available. They are there to answer questions about cooking methods and suggestions on uses of lesser known cuts of meat. Karen was pleased with my request for the second cut of brisket. She said that most people judge a piece of meat by how lean it is. That might be a criteria when the meat is cooked quickly, but if you are braising meat slowly, the extra fat melts and keeps the leaner portions moist.
I made some changes to the original recipe, but the most important step suggested is critical. This is a recipe that benefits from cooking it at least a day ahead. The fat layer that forms when it is refrigerated can easily be removed. The sauce becomes fat free and is delicious drizzled on the tender meat and potatoes. What I omitted were the plums. It was suggested that the plums would add a sweet overtone to the dish, but I was looking for a more meaty flavor. You can find the original recipe in the article listed above. Here is my version.
BRAISED BRISKET WITH PORT (adapted from The New York Times)
1 brisket (4 to 5 pounds), preferably second cut
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 cup ruby port
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 bunch of thyme, tied with twine
2 whole cloves
2 bay leaves
Beef broth if needed if sauce reduces too much
Thyme leaves, for garnish
Season brisket all over with salt and pepper. Heat oven to 325 degrees F. Place a very large Dutch oven over high heat. Add oil. Place brisket in pot and cook, with moving, until browned, about 7 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
Add onions to pot and reduce heat to medium-high. Cook onions, tossing occasionally, until golden brown around the edges and very tender. Add sliced garlic near end of cooking time. Pour in port and wine and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Stir in thyme, whole cloves, and bay leaves. Return meat and any juices to the pot. Cover pot and transfer to oven. Cook, turning occasionally until meat is completely fork tender about 4 hours.
Let brisket cool completely in the pot, then refrigerate, covered, overnight. (This makes it easier to remove the fat from the top with a slotted spoon.) Put meat on a plate and reheat sauce. Add beef broth to the sauce if it has reduced too much. Strain sauce. Return to pot. Return meat to pot and reheat the casserole in a 300 degree oven for about 45 minutes. Slice meat and serve with the sauce garnished with thyme leaves if you like.