Okay, I don’t usually blog about meat-based recipes, because my partner A and I have a mostly vegetarian or fish-based diet, supplemented by the occasional free range chook (that’s chicken in Australian). But on Pesakh (Passover) I usually become a bit of a backslider, and cook a brisket for 1st and 2nd night Seder. It’s probably the most traditional Passover meat to eat in Ashkenaz households. This year’s brisket worked rather well. I had about a 6 lb. piece (about 2.5kg), and started at about 9:30am on Erev Pesakh by rubbing the meat with a dry herb rub: chinese five-spice powder, a spice rub from Tasmania which included ginseng and bush pepper, some olive oil to bind and a bit of golden syrup. Then after leaving it to rest for about 20 minutes, I sealed the brisket in our outdoor barbeque. Brisket is a cut of meat that barbeque devotees in the United States consider very highly, but here in Australia we don’t tend to use it in the same way. Butchers usually chop it up for stewing meat.
Having sealed the meat all over, I brought it back inside and added more eastern spices: whole cinnamon sticks, star anise, some grated nutmeg and some green (spring) onions. Then I added root vegetables: carrots, fennel (instead of celery – I hate celery), red sweet potato (kumera), spanish (red) onions. I also added about a punnet of baby tomatoes. After this, I made up a weak stock with some kosher stock powder; then also added about half a bottle of red wine, and a bit more salt and pepper. I covered with tin-foil, and put it in a slow oven (140°) for 2 hours. Then I turned the oven fan on, and baked for another 1.5 hours. Finally I took the cover off and cooked it for a final 30 minutes. I took the meat out to rest in silver foil.
I also removed the vegetables carefully, and put them in a roasting pan along with par-boiled Dutch Cream potatoes (a particularly good roasting spud) that had been roughed up, tossed with olive oil and salt, and some thin cut parsnip pieces. The vegetables would go in later to crisp up, and they were a treat!
Meanwhile, we had this enormous amount of really fine braising stock at the bottom of the pan … what to do? Well, I decided to put it on the heat and just reduce it to about one quarter of its original volume. You can’t use thickening agents on Passover except matzo meal, and it’s pretty yuk to use in such circumstances. The reducing method worked a treat. The sauce was like a classic demi-glace, without all the irritation and labour of preparation. And the proof of the pudding was in the eating – it was, beyond doubt, the best brisket I had ever cooked. You could taste the spices in all their complexity, thanks to the sauce. All this goes to prove that sometimes, you really need to risk it for the brisket.
p.s. If you want to see les décorations séduisante and A’s haute couture for the evening, visit his blog: