A Hanukkah Celebration
Although we aren’t Jewish, my family likes to celebrate at least one night of the 8 days of Hanukkah. In theory, Christmas is a celebration of the birth and gift of Jesus, combined with Pagan rituals celebrating the Solstice, but do we ever ask what he celebrated? We learn from each account in the New Testament that Jesus participated in Passover with his apostles. I personally believe this is sufficient evidence to support that he probably participated in other Jewish holidays, or at least had family who did. As Hanukkah is considered a lesser holiday, meaning that food preparation can be done on the holiday itself instead of before, and due to the fact that much is missing about his childhood and even his everyday life walking among men, there was probably little reason to include it in any of the records.
Brisket became a popular Jewish food to serve during the holidays for several reasons, but primarily due to it being kosher (because it comes from the front of the animal) and from the cost.
Brisket comes from the front part of the cow, (see section “O”). This chest section of the animal is responsible for supporting over half the weight of the cow.
Due to high levels of connective tissue in this particular cut, brisket needs to be cooked for an extended period of time.
Butchers had a harder time selling brisket because of the difficulty and time it took to cook. Harder sell = lower price. Lower price + ability to feed lots of people = celebration success.
Buying and Prepping Your Brisket
I got my brisket cut from Costco at 15 lbs. for $50. A little over $5/lbs. Not too bad a price for meat in the middle of a pandemic with broken supply chains. Experts suggest choosing a brisket fresh from a butcher because a shrink wrapped cut might have been frozen and thawed for any length of time. However, I trust Coscto and don’t care to spend extra for a butcher. Maybe someday when my husband and I have jobs instead of student papers to write.
Since most recipes call for 4-5 lbs. of meat, I divided mine up and wrapped the other 2 and froze them.
Never trim the fat off of your brisket, you need it to keep the meat juicy.
Brisket takes a long time to cook. Don’t cheat yourself by checking on it too early or too often.
Basic brisket goodness. Sweetness comes from the onions, bite and umami from the garlic, a little bit of smokiness from the paprika, and spice from cayenne. The best part? This tastes even better the next day.
- 4-5 lbs. brisket
- 2 lbs. yellow onions, cut length-wise and then into 1/2″ slices
- 1 T brown sugar
- 2 T garlic or 6 cloves, minced
- 1 T paprika
- pinch of cayenne
- 3 T flour
- 2 cups beef broth
- 3 bay leaves
- pinch of dried thyme leaves
- 2 tsp cider vinegar
- Heat oven to 300 F and line a 9×13 roasting pan with foil.
- Take 2x 24-inch lengths of foil, lay side-by-side length-wise, and crimp center together. This foil will encase the brisket while it roasts, so make sure your bottom crimp is tight. Line the pan so the length of the pan and the length of foil lies perpendicular to each other.
- With a fork, poke holes 1 inch deep over the surface of the brisket, cover surface liberally with salt and black pepper.
- Heat a large skillet over high heat. Once hot, add 2 T oil and wait until oil is shimmering. Add brisket fat side down.
- Olive oil is preferable, but has a lower smoking point than vegetable or canola oil. If you’re prone to smoking out your home by accident, use canola like I do.
- Weigh the brisket down with a heavy pan or cast iron skillet. Once underside has reached a dark brown color, about 5 minutes, remove pan weight and flip brisket over.
- Allow the brisket to brown on the opposite side, another 5 minutes, then transfer to the lined roasting pan.
- Discard any oil or fat from the pan and clean with a paper towel.
- Heat pan again over Medium High heat, once hot, add 2 T oil.
- Once oil is shimmering, add onions, sugar, and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring every so often until onions are soft and beginning to color, 10-15 minutes.
- Once onions are cooked, make a well in the center so the pan is exposed, add garlic and allow it to sauté for 30 seconds.
- Mix in paprika and cayenne and cook for 30 more seconds. Stir in flour, allow to cook for 1 minute.
- Add beef broth, bay leaves, and thyme. Mix together and bring to simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes.
- Once sauce has finished simmering, pour over the top of the brisket, try to keep within the foil package. Lift brisket to allow juice to flow underneath. Pack top and sides of the brisket with onions.
- Close foil, not tightly, you will want to be able to open it without tearing the foil to check on the meat after 3 hours. Put onto the center rack of the oven and allow to cook 3-4 hours.
- Once brisket is fall-apart tender remove it from the oven and allow it to rest at room temperature for 45 minutes.
- After brisket has rested, strain juices to separate onions and sauce. Put onions in one bowl, cover, and sauce in another bowl, cover. Put meat into a separate airtight container. Add all three to the refrigerator and leave overnight.
- One hour before serving, turn oven to 350 F. Reduce bowl of sauce in small saucepan to equal 2.5 cups. Add bowl of onions to reduced sauce.
- Cut brisket on a large cutting board. Cut against the grain into 1/4″ slices. Arrange brisket in a 9×13 pan, pour sauce and onions over the top, cover with foil, and heat on middle rack in the oven until warmed through, about 20-25 minutes.
- Serve with friends and family and enjoy!
- Keep refrigerated for 3-4 days in an airtight container.