Prep 1 hr
Cook 3 hrs
This recipe is from chef Wolfgang Puck. For more on Puck's ultimate Oscar party, click here. Braising is a great way to coax tenderness from tough cuts of meat. The term applies when the main ingredient is a relatively large cut and the amount of liquid is relatively small. The moist, gentle heat gradually breaks down the meat to melting softness while releasing the big flavor that hardworking muscles develop. Beef brisket is one of my favorite candidates. The cut comes from just under the first five ribs, behind the foreshank. Large and stringy, brisket is usually sold cut into halves, one relatively square and the other tapering to a point. Both are delicious, but the point cut, as it is known, has more flavor because it is slightly fattier. Here I braise the meat in a combination of beef broth and red wine, with aromatic root vegetables and dried apricots, a popular Eastern European flourish. I have estimated prep time, but I did not include 2 hours in frige.
- 5 lbs beef brisket
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1 (750 ml) bottle red wine
- all-purpose flour
- 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 10 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- 6 large shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 medium carrots, peeled, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 2 celery ribs, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 medium leek, white part only, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 cup dried apricot
- 6 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 quarts homemade beef stock or 2 quarts good-quality canned beef broth
- 1⁄4 cup homemade beef stock or 1⁄4 cup good-quality canned beef broth
- 1 cup white pearl onion
- minced fresh parsley, for garnish
- Season the brisket evenly on both sides with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring the wine to a boil and continue boiling until it reduces to half its original volume, 15 to 20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F Evenly sprinkle the brisket all over with flour, shaking off excess. Heat a heavy Dutch oven over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil. When it is almost smoking, turn the heat to medium-high, carefully add the brisket, and sear until well browned, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer the brisket to a platter. Pour off the fat from the Dutch oven and add another 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the garlic, shallots, carrots, celery, and leek, and sauté until glossy and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add half of the apricots and all the parsley, thyme, bay leaves, and tomato paste, and continue to cook 1 minute more.
- Return the browned brisket to the Dutch oven and add the reduced wine and 2 quarts stock or broth. If the brisket is not completely covered with liquid, add enough extra stock, broth, or water to cover. Bring the liquid to a simmer. Cover the pot and carefully place it in the oven. Cook until the brisket is fork-tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Meanwhile, blanch and peel the onions as instructed in the tips (see below), leaving them whole. Cut the remaining apricots into 1/4-inch strips.
- In a small sauté pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat and sauté the pearl onions until lightly golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the apricot strips and pour in the remaining 1/4 cup stock or broth, stirring and scraping with a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan deposits. Reduce the heat and simmer gently until tender, about 5 minutes. Cover and keep warm.
- When the meat is done, carefully transfer it to a heated platter, cover with aluminum foil, and keep warm. Boil the liquid in the Dutch oven until it thickens and reduces to about 1 quart, 15 to 20 minutes. Pour it through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl, taste, and adjust the seasonings if necessary with more salt and pepper.
- To serve, use a sharp knife to cut the brisket across the grain into 1/4-inch slices. Arrange the slices on heated serving plates or on a heated platter, spoon half the sauce over it, and garnish with the pearl onions and apricots. Sprinkle with minced parsley and pass the remaining sauce on the side.
- Wolfgang's Easy Tips:.
- • If you can't find a 5-pound brisket at your supermarket, cook 2 smaller pieces.
- • While the meat braises, keep the heat gentle since boiling tightens rather than relaxes the meat's fibers. Check the liquid in the cooking vessel and if it's bubbling more than slightly, turn down the heat. The results should be so tender that you can pull the meat apart with a fork.
- • To prepare the pearl onions, bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Add the pearl onions and blanch them for 30 seconds. Drain and immediately immerse them in a bowl of ice and water. Cut the very ends off at the stem ends, peel the onions, and leave them whole.
- • For neater slices, you could let the brisket cool before cutting it across the grain. Reheat the slices in the sauce. That makes brisket an ideal dish to prepare ahead. Just cook and slice it the day before, and reheat it in the oven in its sauce for about half an hour at 300°F before serving.