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My Favorite Brisket

(recipe, Joan Nathan)

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Gedemte Fleyshe — well-stewed — that’s how Eastern European Jews prefer their meat. Slow cooking, of course, became a practical necessity with grainy cuts of forequarter meat. Because a brisket stretched into many meals, it was an economical cut for large families in Europe. Leftovers were ground up to stuff knishes or kreplach. The meaty gravy become the base for a midweek cabbage or potato soup or a sauce to cover pompushki, Ukrainian baked dumplings, which resemble Pepperidge Farm’s rolls. In this country it became particularly popular. Brisket comes from the front quarters of the steer, the chest area. The whole piece of meat, from three to 10 pounds, is potted (hence the term pot roast) and cooked slowly by braising in liquid. It should be covered and simmered in a 325-degree oven for several hours. Brisket needs to be simmered slowly to transform it into the succulent morsels I remember as a child. It is a dish I serve frequently — on Friday night, at holidays, and at dinner parties.


  1. 2 tsp. salt
  2. Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  3. 5 lb. brisket of beef, shoulder roast of beef, chuck roast, or end of steak
  4. 1 garlic clove, peeled
  5. 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  6. 3 onions, peeled and diced
  7. 1 can (10 ounces) tomatoes
  8. 2 cups red wine
  9. 2 celery stalks with the leaves, chopped
  10. 1 bay leaf
  11. 1 sprig fresh thyme
  12. 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  13. ¼ cup chopped parsley
  14. 6 to 8 carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal


  1. Sprinkle the salt and pepper over the brisket and rub with the garlic. Sear the brisket in the oil and then place, fat side up, on top of the onions in a large casserole dish. Cover with the tomatoes, red wine, celery, bay leaf, thyme, and rosemary.
  2. Cover and bake in a preheated 325-degree oven for about 3 hours, basting often with pan juices.
  3. Add the parsley and carrots and bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes more, or until the carrots are cooked. To test for doneness, stick a fork in the flat (thinner or leaner) end of the brisket. When there is a light pull on the fork as it is removed from the meat, it is “fork tender.”
  4. This dish is best prepared in advance and refrigerated so that the fat can be easily skimmed from the surface of the gravy. Trim off all the visible fat from the cold brisket. Then place the brisket, on what was the fat side down, on a cutting board. Look for the grain — that is, the muscle lines of the brisket — and, with a sharp knife, cut across the grain.
  5. When ready to serve, reheat the gravy.
  6. Put the sliced brisket in a roasting pan. Pour the hot gravy on the meat, cover, and reheat in a preheated 350-degree oven for 45 minutes. Some people like to strain the gravy, but I prefer to keep the onions because they are so delicious.
  7. Serve with farfel (boiled egg barley noodles), noodle kugel, or potato pancakes. A colorful winter salad goes well with this.


Try adding a jar of sun-dried tomatoes to the canned tomatoes. They add a more intense flavor to the brisket.