Our home right now is permeated with the smell o’ deliciousness.
In a word — brisket. Make that briskets. Three of ’em. One average size, one large, and one from a monster cow. This brisket is larger than some of the Balkan states.
Everyone seems to have his/her own special formula for a Passover brisket. Some swear by braising it in Coca-Cola, which is known as an “Atlanta Brisket” for obvious reasons. Some include ketchup in the braising liquid, to which I say, Eww.
I cannot claim to have invented the method which is now permeating our home with deliciousness. It’s from the New York Times Passover Cookbook. (Even if you never plan on holding a Seder, you need this book: it is simply brimming with deliciousness.)
So here’s the method. First, take a brisket. Not a first-cut brisket: they are not as flavorful as the regular one. Slice a couple of large onions, very thinly. (If you have a large brisket, you may need three onions, or even four for a monster brisket like the one that is simmering away as I type this.) Heat up the ol’ broiler and put the brisket on a rack on top of the broiling pan. Broil it, fat side up, until the fat side is nice and brown and looks like a giant fried pork rind (not that I eat those, mind you–not that there’s anything wrong with that). Then turn it over and let the other side brown too. (Heat-proof Kevlar gloves are recommended.)
After both sides have browned, remove the brisket from the oven and turn off the broiler. Then set the oven for 350 degrees. Pour the rendered fat from the broiling pan into a covered roaster (removing the cover from the roaster first will make this step much easier). Place the roasting pan on the stove and heat up the rendered fat, then throw in the sliced onions until they turn brown and (more importantly) until they achieve the smell of deliciousness. If you are olfactorily challenged, have someone who is a good smeller to come in and tell you if deliciousness has been achieved. If it has, pour some beef stock in with the onions, about 1-2 inches deep in the pan. Put the brisket in the pan (fat side up), cover and put it in the oven. It will take 3-4 hours to cook. I recommend walking outside at frequent intervals and then walking back inside so that you may be greeted anew by the smell of deliciousness.
When the brisket is done, it is not ready to eat. Put the brisket and all the lovely liquids from the pan in a container, seal it, and refrigerate overnight. The next day, take out the cold brisket, remove any congealed fat from the meat and from the top of the liquid, and slice the brisket thinly. Slice against the grain unless you like meat that resembles silly string. Place the slices and all the liquid into your trusty Crock Pot. Set the Crock Pot on low and cook the brisket all day long. That evening, it will be ready to eat. Yes, it takes a long time, but you won’t regret it.
Mark can vouch for the deliciousness of brisket cooked using the two-day method.
IMHO, the smell of Thanksgiving turkey in the oven has nothing on Passover brisket. What is it about a brisket? I think part of it is the whole silk-purse-from-a-sow’s-ear thing: a brisket is a cheap cut (Hey! $1.94 a pound from the Tech Meat Lab!) and can be the toughest, most flavorless cut if it’s cooked wrong. A lot of work has to go into making a brisket taste good, whether it’s being braised (as above), smoked, or barbecued. But, oh, is it worth it!