Monday, April 18, 2011

Happy Passover

I grew up on Long Island, in a predominantly Jewish area. At Christmas time, our Christmas lights were often in the minority after the familiar glow of lighted menorahs in the windows of our neighbors. One year, my father did our Christmas lights in all blue and white bulbs.

The Jewish holiday of Passover begins tomorrow. For one thing it means this place will be closed for the duration of the holiday. Remember, you can't get bacon and egg on a bagel there. You can't get bacon there at all.

For all of my Jewish friends a very happy Passover to you all. King Kullen, the local Long Island grocery store, which is one of the largest grocery stores with Kosher products, offered several recipes recently. In addition, Epicurious put out an article on preparing the best Seder. Here is one of my favorite recipes. I mean, really with that much garlic, how could it be bad?

Braised Brisket with Thirty-Six Cloves of Garlic
  • About 36 fat unpeeled garlic cloves (1 2/3 to 2 cups) or an equivalent amount of smaller cloves, plus 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • A first-or second-cut beef brisket (about 5 pounds), trimmed of excess fat, wiped with a damp paper towel, and patted dry
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 3 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade or good-quality low-sodium purchased
  • 3 or 4 fresh thyme sprigs, or 2 teaspoons dried leaves
  • 2 fresh rosemary sprigs, plus 1 teaspoon chopped leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Drop the garlic cloves into a small saucepan of boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain immediately. Peel as soon as the garlic is cool enough to handle. Set aside on paper towels to dry.

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed roasting pan or casserole large enough to accommodate the meat in one layer. Use two burners, if necessary. Add the brisket and brown well on both sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer the brisket to a platter and set aside. (Or brown the meat under the broiler: place the brisket, fat side up, on a foil-lined broiler pan under a preheated broiler. Broil for 5 to 6 minutes on each side, until browned. Don’t allow it to develop a hard, dark crust, which might make the meat tough or bitter. Move the meat around as necessary, so it sears evenly.)

Pour off all but about 1 tablespoon of fat remaining in the pan and add the garlic cloves. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic edges are tinged with gold. Add the vinegar and deglaze the pan, scraping up all the browned bits from the bottom with a wooden spoon. Add the stock, thyme, and rosemary sprigs, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Salt and pepper the brisket to taste on all sides, and add it to the pan, fat side up. Spoon the garlic cloves over the meat.

Place the brisket in the oven, cover (if you have no lid, use heavy-duty foil), and cook, basting every half-hour, until the meat is fork tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours or longer. (As the meat cooks, periodically check that the liquid is bubbling gently. If it is boiling rapidly, turn the oven down to 300°F.)

The brisket tastes best if it is allowed to rest, reabsorbing the juices lost during braising, and it's easiest to defat the gravy if you prepare the meat ahead and refrigerate it until the fat solidifies. That is the method I use, given here, but the gravy can be prepared by skimming the fat in the traditional way, if you prefer. If you go that route though, do let the meat rest in the pan sauce for at least an hour.

Cool the brisket in the pan sauce, cover well with foil, and refrigerate until the fat congeals. Scrape off all solid fat. Remove the brisket from the pan and slice thinly across the grain.

Prepare the gravy: Bring the braising mixture to room temperature, then strain it, reserving the garlic and discarding the thyme and rosemary sprigs. Skim and discard as much fat as possible from the liquid. Puree about one half of the cooked garlic with 1 cup of the defatted braising liquid in a food processor or a blender. (If you want a smooth gravy, puree all of the cooked garlic cloves.) Transfer the pureed mixture, the remaining braising liquid, and the rest of the cooked garlic to a skillet. Add the chopped rosemary, minced garlic, and lemon zest. Boil down the gravy over high heat, uncovered, to the desired consistency. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Rewarm the brisket in the gravy until heated through.

Arrange the sliced brisket on a serving platter. Spoon some of the hot gravy all over the meat and pass the rest in a separate sauce boat.


Amphyx said...

36 cloves of garlic? Are you mad? You would have Jews everywhere reeling in agony eating that much garlic!

Does sound quite yummy though

Lana Gramlich said...

I have to say, the only way I know it's Passover these days is when I see matzoh & gefilte fish on the end caps at the local grocery store. I still do indulge in both from time to time, though.
Sorry I haven't visited your blog lately--I've been really busy in "real" life (I know you can sympathize.) I've leaned away from paintings & more towards photos in my visual arts business & things are REALLY starting to take off!

Brave Astronaut said...

Amphyx - but garlic is great!

Lana - Without a doubt, I can sympathize. I am doing so much that I am getting nothing done.