Braised Beef Brisket

Every year I have the pleasure along with my cousin of making the brisket for our family seder. Now this is no ordinary seder, because it includes the extended family and usually has around 80 people attending.  For those of you who don’t know, a seder is a traditional meal to mark the beginning of Passover where the story of exodus is recited. It is said that the Last Supper was a seder.  This year I am making about 30 lbs of brisket! What a great opportunity to take pictures, accurate measurements and create a post.  So here it is. This is best made a day ahead so plan accordingly.

My Brisket Recipe

  • 4-5 lb first cut brisket, sometimes called flat cut
  • 1 T grape seed or other high smoke point oil
  • 1 – 1 1/2 lbs onions, sliced about 1/4″ thick
  • salt
  •  2 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp savory
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 -10 whole garlic cloves
  • 1 diced tomato
  • 3 carrots, cut into chunks
  • 1 shot espresso (or 2 tsp instant espresso)
  • 2 T balsamic glaze*
Nicely browned on both sides

Nicely browned on both sides

Brown the brisket on both sides. Using a heavy roasting pan you can cook in saves a lot of clean up.  Set the brisket aside.

Cook the onions until the are browned

Cook the onions until they are browned

Add the onions to the same pan and sprinkle with salt. Cook until they begin to exude juices,  deglaze the pan and start to brown.

Adding all the goodness

Adding all the goodness

Put the brisket on top of the onions and add the remaining ingredients.  Top with a layer of parchment paper and seal with foil.  Bake for 1 hour at 250°F.  Reduce heat to 200° F  and continue to roast until internal temperature of the brisket registers 185°F -190°F. about another 2-3 hours, depending on your oven and the thickness of the piece of meat. You will finish cooking it tomorrow so you don’t want it falling apart.  That makes it very hard to cut nice even slices.  Remove the meat from the juices then return the veggies and juices to the oven. Increase heat to 350°F so the mixture reduces.

Turn the brisket upside down so you can easily see the grain.  Slice the meat so your knife looks like it is the top of a T

Turn the brisket upside down so you can easily see the grain. Slice the meat so your knife looks like it is the top of a T

Thin Slices are your best bet for tender product

Thin Slices are your best bet for tender product. trim off the fat before slicing

Cool the meat and then thinly slice across the grain.  After about 30 minutes  remove the reduced pan juices from the oven and cool.  Skim off the fat and purée the veggies and juices together to make your sauce. Nestle the sliced brisket into the sauce, cover and refrigerate.  Reheat in a slow oven (about 200°F) until the meat starts to fall apart, maybe an hour.  Serve with the sauce and maybe some horseradish.  Enjoy.

*balsamic glaze is basically reduced balsamic vinegar.  If you can’t find it use 3 T of a good, sweeter balsamic vinegar. It will reduce in the oven.


Passover Brunch Brei

A wonderful brunch dish that can easily be a dinner side dish during the Passover seder.

A wonderful and delicious twist on an old classic that is great as a side dish too. You can bake it in the oven as a kugel.  Just through it all into   Caramelized onions just make everything better.  They can also be made in advance, too.

Wild Mushroom Passover Matzo Brei

  •  4 T oil or butter (about)
  • 1 lb onions, sliced thin
  • ¾ lb wild mushrooms, sliced
  • 6 matzos
  • 6 eggs beaten with 1/3 C water or milk
  • salt and pepper
  • ¼ C parsley, chopped

Heat 1 T of the oil.  Slowly sauté the onions until caramelized.  Set aside.  Heat 1 more T of the oil.  Sauté the mushrooms.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add to the onions.  Soak the matzos briefly in water.  Drain and crumble into the egg mixture.  Add the onion mixture and combine well.  Heat a large skillet with the remaining oil.  Add the matzo mixture and stir until set.  Sprinkle with the parsley & serve.


Var: Kugel

Omit the milk and add 1 C chicken or veggie stock. A 1/2 tsp thyme is nice too.  Throw into a greased baking dish and bake at 350°F for 30 minutes or so until golden and just set (not wiggly in the middle).

Butternut Squash Mushroom Soup

I think every recipe blog on the planet has a butternut squash soup recipe. So in an effort to fit in, here is mine.  For an easy basic one you can simply substitute butternut squash for the carrots in my creamy carrot soup.
I thought butternut squash soup could be more and wanted a greater complex flavor profile than just sweet kissed with spice. The idea of mushrooms in the soup happened the time  leftover sauteed mushrooms made their way into some leftover butternut squash soup.  I also wanted to do the soup with a minimal amount of cream, so a balance of flavors was even more important because I didn’t want the mushrooms to overpower the squash.
White mushrooms didn’t add enough flavor, the shiitakes were good, but it wasn’t great, dried cepes or porcini (the same thing, one is french the other italian) and especially morels over powered the delicate butternut squash flavor and made the bright orange color muddy, but the addition of chanterelles is ethereal and their flavor highlights the squash’s like no other. They are also a golden color and therefore the squash’s orange color shone.  
I did some more research and read in Cook’s Illustrated how they made a stock with the seeds and fiber from the inside of the squash to add more “squashy goodness” to the soup.  I experimented some more and found that beside concentrating the flavors, roasting the squash saved a ton of work. I didn’t have to peel it or struggle to cut it into chunks. Just cut in half, take out the seeds, etc for the stock and roast until tender and starting to brown.  The skin now easily peels off and it cuts like butter.
The  Butternut Squash Mushroom Soup
  • 2 -2 1/2 pounds whole butternut squash
  • 2 allspice berries
  • 1/2 oz dried  chanterelle mushrooms 
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion 
  • 1/2 cup chopped leeks
  • 1 carrot 
  • 1 sm rib celery or 2 T celery leaves 
  • 2-3 C stock or water 
  • 1 teaspoon of sage or one half teaspoon dried
  • 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Salt,  pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup cream  
  • Opt splash of hot sauce (sriracha has this way of making almost anything better)
Cut the butternut squash in half, scoop out & reserve the seeds and fiber.
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Roast the squash (It doesn’t have to be peeled) in 400° oven until soft, about 25 to 40 minutes depending on the size.
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Meanwhile cook the seeds & fiber in a pan with 2 cups of water and the allspice. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 20 -30 minutes.
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Rehydrate the mushrooms in 3 C hot water for 20 to 30 minutes.  
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In a larger pot sauté the onions, leeks and carrots, celery and sauté until they are softened. (if you are going to use water for your remaining broth add an extra 1 cup all together,  of onion, leek and carrot).  
Add the drained mushrooms, reserving the liquid but being cautious about any grit that may remain in the bottom. Sauté for a few more minutes.
Strain the squash stock into a measuring cup and add the reserved mushroom liquid making sure you didn’t add any of the grit that may be on the bottom. Add the stock or water to make 4 cups. Add this to the pot with the butternut squash, sage and nutmeg.
Simmer covered for 30 to 40 minutes.
Puree with a hand blender.
Add the cream, salt and  pepper to taste and  serve.
Butternut Squash Mushroom Soup

Butternut Squash Mushroom Soup

Note: If you are lucky enough to find fresh chanterelles, slice them nicely, take the most beautiful slices and saute in some butter with a sprinkle of salt. Use these as a garnish.  Add the unpretty ones to the soup when you are sauteing the veggies.

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