When the weather turns nippy, my thoughts greedily shift in happy anticipation of braised dishes. Osso bucco, lamb shanks, coq au vin, pot roast and stew, yum! Not only does the house smell wonderful while they bubble away in the oven, I know we’ll have great leftovers for the freezer.
Brisket has recently joined the ranks of my repertoire. This recipe came from a cookbook I acquired during a recent trip to Sonoma. While our friends were tasting Chardonnay at Cakebread Cellars vineyard ( I’m not a fan of oaked Chardonnays, which I jokingly refer to as “Chateau 2×4”), I immersed myself in The Cakebread Cellars American Harvest Cookbook. To each his own!
This is one of several recipes I’ve now made from that cookbook. The dried fruit lends a rich complexity to the dish and it’s also beautiful to behold.
- 6 oz (about a cup) dried cherries
- 4 oz (about 3/4 cup) dried apricots
- 5 lbs beef brisket, in a single piece, with 1/4" layer of surface fat
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 6 yellow onions, halved, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 c good quality Cabernet Sauvignon
- chicken stock (if needed)
- Place a rack in the bottom third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325ºF.
- Place the dried apricots and cherries in a medium sized bowl and cover with hot water. Let them soak for 1 hour. Drain and set aside.
- Season the brisket on both sides with kosher salt and pepper.
- Heat the olive oil in a large, deep and wide braising pot until it's almost smoking. Add the brisket and sear it on both sides until nicely browned ( 3-5 minutes per side). Don't hurry this process. The deep browning provides lovely, rich flavour to the final product. Remove the brisket to a platter and set aside.
- Reduce the heat under the braising pot to medium-high. Add the onions to the pot and stir until wilted and starting to caramelize (10-12 minutes). Add the spices and toss the onions until coated with them. Sauté to toast the spices (about a minute). Add the bay leaves and the wine and stir, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom and sides of the pot. Bring the liquid to a brisk simmer, add the brisket, cover and transfer to the oven.
- Braise for 2 1/2 hours, basting with the juices every half hour.
- Add the drained apricots and cherries. Return the covered pot to the oven until the meat is fork tender (another 30-45 minutes). If the sauce has reduced too much, add a little chicken stock or water. If the stock is too thin, uncover the pot and continue cooking to reduce the sauce.
- Remove the pot from the oven, and discard the bay leaf. Let the pot cool to room temperature and refrigerate it overnight (the brisket slices much more easily the next day).
- The following day, remove the considerable fat which will have hardened overnight on the surface of the sauce. Carve the brisket into 1/4" slices while still cold. Arrange the slices in a gratin or baking dish and spoon the sauce over it. Cover the dish and reheat in an oven pre-heated to 350ºF until the brisket is hot throughout (about 45 minutes).
- If you have run short on time and need to serve it the day it's made, once it comes out of the oven, transfer it with tongs to a cutting board and let it rest for at least 30 minutes. Carve it into 1/4" thick slices and transfer those to a warm platter. Reheat the sauce (if needed) and spoon over the meat.
- This dish is excellent with mashed potatoes, small roast potatoes or noodles. We served it with roasted carrots, sautéed kale and roasted fingerling potatoes.