Brisket can make for a perfect make-ahead dish for spring feasting. Cooking it a day or two before serving not only allows for deeper flavor to develop, but also lets you completely degrease the sauce, and all that’s left is a wonderful, rich mouthfeel. Whole brisket of beef usually weighs about 8 to 10 pounds and often comes cut into two pieces — the flat/first-cut and the second or point end cut; opt for a flat-cut — 5 to 7 pounds — that’s even in thickness, well-marbled, not too lean, and preferably with a cap of fat on one side. I usually love braising a smoked brisket that I often find at Butcher Block 9 in Anchorage. Fresh brisket is also a good option and more readily available, but you’ll need a much longer cook time, so that’s another good reason to plan on making this at least a day or two before serving.
Start with a base of onion or leeks, tomatoes, red wine and broth, and build from there. Tuck in quicker-cooking vegetables, like carrot and turnip, once the meat starts to become fork-tender. The beauty of this dish is that it’s mostly hands-off; you’ll mainly want to check the amount of liquid — enough to keep it moist as it braises — and the tenderness of the meat, being careful not to overcook it. Adjust the flavors as desired. I like spring leeks and orange as well as a few anchovies; no one will guess they’re even in the mix as they melt into the tomato and wine-rich broth. I also like to toss in some prunes and olives for added umami and depth of flavor. Serve with potatoes or rice, and a green salad with a bright and tangy vinaigrette. Leftovers make for decadent sandwiches or a filling for tacos, or as a thick and rich sauce for pasta. — Kim Sunée
Braised smoked brisket
Makes 8 to 10 servings
1 first/flat-cut smoked beef brisket or fresh beef brisket (4 1/2 to 6 pounds), preferably untrimmed
1 medium yellow or white onion, thinly sliced or two leeks rinsed and sliced (about 2 cups)
2 tablespoons olive oil or other vegetable oil
Freshly ground black pepper and salt, to taste; hold off on salt if using anchovies or a smoked brisket
1 to 2 tablespoons tomato paste, preferably double or triple concentrate in a tube
1 (750-ml) bottle dry red wine
1 to 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock, homemade or store-bought
1 (28-ounce) can diced or whole peeled tomatoes
2 anchovies in oil, rinsed as needed
4 cloves garlic, plus more for garnish
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs or herbes de Provence or sprigs fresh rosemary and thyme
3 medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1 to 2 turnips, potatoes, etc. cut into wedges or quarters
4 to 5 ounces prunes (or to taste)
Optional: 2 tablespoons black olive tapenade or 1 cup green or black olives
Garnish: Orange zest, parsley, 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced + grated fresh or prepared horseradish
• Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly rinse and pat dry brisket. Slice onion or, if using leeks, rinse well of any grit and sand, and slice. Place a large roasting pan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil. If using a fresh unsmoked brisket, season lightly with salt and pepper and sear on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Remove brisket to a large plate or platter. (Note: If using a smoked brisket, hold off on salt until later as some smoked briskets can be quite salty. And no need to sear.) Add a bit more oil to the pan if needed, and when hot, add leeks and tomato paste; cook, stirring occasionally, smashing paste into oil, about 5 minutes. Add wine, stock, tomatoes (crushing whole ones, if using, with hands or large fork), anchovies if using, garlic, paprika, black pepper and dried Italian seasoning or fresh rosemary/thyme sprigs. Bring liquid to a gentle boil and skim froth as needed.
• Zest the orange into a small bowl; reserve. Cut orange in half. Reserve one half — you’ll squeeze it over the brisket just before serving — and slice the other half and add slices to pot. Place brisket back into pot or roasting pan. Cover tightly with aluminum foil or tight-fitting lid and place in oven and cook 60 to 70 minutes; spoon juices over beef after 60 minutes and add prunes and carrots and turnips, or other veg, if using. Check liquid and tenderness of beef, adding more liquid as needed.
• Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Allow to cook another 30 to 45 minutes for smoked brisket and another hour or more for unsmoked or until meat is fork-tender. Ideally, the temperature of the meat should be between 190 degrees and 204 degrees. Be careful not to overcook; you want nice clean but tender slices and not shreds. (Note: If using a fresh brisket, adjust cooking time accordingly and check amount of liquid often.)
• If making ahead of time, let cool completely. Cover and chill in fridge. To serve, reheat in oven at 325 degrees or on stovetop, skimming and discarding fat. Remove brisket to a cutting board and let rest 15 minutes. While meat is resting, skim more fat from juices, taste and add salt or pepper, as needed; make garnish by combining reserved orange zest and chopped flat-leaf parsley and minced garlic cloves, to taste. Serve sliced brisket with vegetables and extra sauce. Squeeze reserved orange half over brisket and garnish; serve with horseradish.
[A pantry-forward dish great for weeknights, this chicken stir-fry is packed with heat and flavor]
[This sheet pan salmon will make you excited about defrosting Alaska fish]