Growing up, my mom used to call me eagle ears — I could hear every single conversation going on in the house. I even listened to my mom doing an alumni interview for a kid applying to Princeton. This kind of got me in trouble since I was applying the following year and should not have been “overhearing” the interview.
There was no doubt that I *ahem* had a big mouth.
And when it comes to cooking and entertaining, I definitely have eyes that are bigger than my stomach.
If this is sounding strangely like a bedtime story gone wrong, fear not, I haven’t gnawed away at Grannie.
But, I do tend to grossly over-purchase groceries to the extent that much of my food has the potential to go to waste. I shop when I’m hungry. And I make half-hearted attempts at grocery lists. Reading foodblogs about mothers of 7 who feed their families each week on little more than I could spend on a pair of shoes puts me to shame. Or at least makes me reconsider my habits. A little bit.
A recent case in point – I was making a brisket for Rosh Hashana dinner and figured I would double the recipe since my parents love this so much. So I bought ten pounds of brisket.
Ten pounds of brisket.
I should have known that I was going overboard when the butcher didn’t even have a single 10-pounder but had to give me two normal, family-sized briskets, one 4 pounds, one 6, to reach my desired weight. Then, of course, the briskets didn’t fit into the cocotte I had planned on using – actually a single one would have been a tight squeeze. But that didn’t stop me. I was determined to make ten pounds of brisket, so I pulled down my huge turkey roaster and layered it with the two slabs of meat, marinated them for an hour …
…and filled the pan to the brim with tomatoes and onions.
The result – five hours later, the apartment smelled fabulous and the meat had cooled sufficiently to be sliced down.
Six carnivores barely made a dent in the four-pounder. And my vegetarian sister even tried a bite. She was feeling adventurous. But didn’t feel so well after the bite.
And we still had more than six pounds of brisket left. And I had already cooked and/or prepped three more different meals. And there are only so many brisket sandwiches that my six-foot-three father can eat!
My more experienced brisket-maker friend Michele swooped in to the rescue – following her advice, I sliced down the remaining larger brisket, covered it with sauce, and froze it in a baking dish – a main course for another dinner.
My spoiled little cat, Prescott Winslow III, hid behind the tablecloth, thinking I would not see him while I sliced (and sliced and sliced – ten pounds of brisket takes forever to slice, even when you spread out the slicing over a few days!), hoping for a few scraps to fall.
Now I have learned my lesson for brisket, but what should I do with the six butternut squashes, four pomegranates, three bags of potatoes, and two cauliflowers that I still have?
Tomato and Onion Braised Brisket
I found this recipe on Epicurean last year and it was such a success that I made it again this year, but went a bit overboard. The main modification I made to the recipe was to cut the amount of oil in half. I made a “rub” with the 1 1/4 C of oil that they call for, but it was so much that I now have a lovely jar of seasoned oil in my fridge that I have been using for salad dressings. I suggest cutting the oil down to 1/2-3/4 C depending on what cut of brisket you use. I used a “New York Cut Brisket” which the butcher explained is a bit more marbled with fat than others. If you are given a choice of first- versus second-cut brisket, my understanding is that first-cut is leaner and is often less flavorful (but might not shrink as much).
Another tip – make sure to cover the brisket tightly with a well-fitting lid or heavy-duty aluminum foil. Last year, I didn’t cover the pan tightly enough with foil and forgot to baste every hour or so — which resulted in a lot of burnt bits of tomato and onion (if you’re being generous, you can call it a nice caramelized crust). This year, I basted better, and the brisket was fabulously moist and tender. While my dad had requested some special crusty bits, the lack thereof did not seem to stop him from having his fill, and taking a few sandwiches for the road.
Also, make sure you give yourself enough time to make the brisket: 5.5 hours minimum! It requires an hour of marinating, 4 hours of roasting, and at least 20-30 minutes of cooling before you can slice it — ideally it should be refrigerated overnight, and the brisket definitely tastes better the second day.
Serves 8 with leftovers (really!). I am NOT giving you the excessive doubling of the recipe that I did.
- 4-5 pound brisket (or slightly larger if you are neurotic)
- salt and pepper
- 1.5 t dried oregano
- 1.5 t dried thyme
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2-3/4 C olive oil
- 2 large onions, thinly sliced (or chopped)
- 2 C coarsely chopped tomatoes (you can use canned tomatoes in a pinch)
Marinate the meat. Season the meat with salt and pepper on all sides. Then coat with a mixture of oregano, thyme, garlic and olive oil. You can either do this in a zip lock bag or in the pan you plan to use. Let sit at room temperature for one hour.
Preheat oven to 300ºF and prepare the vegetables.
Roast and baste. Put the brisket in your pan and cover with the onions and tomatoes. Cover tightly with foil and roast for 3.5 to 4 hours. Baste with accumulated juices every hour or so.
Cool. The brisket is ready when it has shrunk, the tomatoes and onions have lost their distinct shapes and formed a sauce (you might be able to see some bits of tomato skin, but not much else), and the end of the brisket can be pried off with a fork (but it’s not falling apart). Remove the brisket and sauce to a platter (or cutting board) and allow to cool before slicing. Degrease the pan juices and pour over sliced meat.