The brisket is my favorite cut of beef to braise. It lends itself perfectly to the process of low, slow, and moist cooking. Once it becomes tender and begins to come apart, it falls into neat, evenly sized threads, or grains, of meat. The brisket is a working muscle and is, therefore, heavily striated. These striations keep it from turning into mush when you cook it for hours on end.
This is the basic concept of braising. It is possible to only braise meat for a little while, but you would only do that because the meat was fragile enough that it would turn to mush if you cooked it any longer. This means that the meat already is tender and should not be braised. Grilled, fried, broiled, or roasted would be better options for an already tender meat.
1. Pick up some lovely beef brisket from the butcher. The beef brisket is a rather large piece of meat. In general, it is divided into two pieces: the flat and the round portion. The part you want is the flat part. Unfortunately, I got the round part of the brisket for this recipe. It will still work, but it has a little more fat than the flat portion. That huge chunk of brisket to the right is about 3 pounds, or enough for 4 people.
2. Season the beef brisket with salt and pepper. Before you season the brisket, trim away any excess fat. Don't go too crazy on it, and just trim the stuff you can get to easily. Use a liberal amount of salt and pepper, and rub it on the brisket. Don't bother using a fancy salt for this part, since you won't be able to taste it anyway. Use a kosher salt or plain sea salt. However, do use fresh cracked black pepper, over ground black pepper, for more flavor.
3. Pan fry the beef brisket in the braising pan. Heat the braising pan over medium-high heat on the stove. Put 2 Tbsp of vegetable oil in the braising pan, and spread it around. Once the pan is hot, 5–7 minutes, pan fry the brisket until it is dark brown on all sides. Remove the brisket to a plate, and turn the heat down to medium. It will drip some liquid, so make sure you use a plate deep enough to prevent spillage.
4. Remove the brisket to fry the onions, carrot, and garlic. Switch out your metal, spring-loaded tongs for a flat-bottomed wooden spoon. The flat bottom is for scraping at the bottom of the braising pan to loosen up all the fond (drippings). After the onions, carrots, and garlic are nice and brown, deglaze the pan with the wine, stock, molasses, and tomato. Add the brisket back into the mix, and top with bay leaves.
5. Braise the beef brisket in the oven for 3–4 hours. Heat up the oven to 400°F, and move the racks so the braising pan will fit in the middle. Once the oven is up to heat, cover and place it in the oven. Braise for 3–4 hours, flipping the brisket every hour. If the pan is getting too dry after 2 hours, you may want to add more wine, stock, or water. Once the brisket is fork tender, let it rest for 30 minutes in its own juice before slicing. Cut it against or across the grain, and serve with the pan juices.
When asking the butcher for brisket, be sure to ask for the flat brisket. They should know what you mean, but if not, say you want the less fatty piece.
Use a wine that you enjoy drinking since you will use less than half of the bottle.
If you use cipollini onions, like I have here, use medium sized ones. Larger ones should be cut in half, like I should have done here.
You may notice that the only herb I use in this recipe is a couple bay leaves. That is because I truly enjoy the flavor of meat. I think you will enjoy this recipe, too. My guests certainly did, and I got a catering offer before the meal was half over.
For this beef brisket recipe season the meat within a few minutes of cooking, otherwise it might get soggy.
Make sure your lid fits tightly on the braising pan. If it doesn't, all the juices may evaporate and you'll burn your meat. Use aluminum foil as a substitute.
Make sure you let the meat rest for 30 minutes before you cut it up. This allows the meat juices time to cool and coagulate, so they don't go spurting out of the meat when its cut.
When you do cut the meat, make sure you cut across the grain. If you don't, it will be chewy as hell.