One of my earliest memories of my mom’s cooking is this recipe. Nearly every single holiday not named Thanksgiving, this dish would grace our dinner table. Brisket is one of those dishes that requires time — low and slow. However, even if you make it tender, you still need a nice braising liquid. For some things, red wine will do (short ribs) and for others water or stock (stew), but not this brisket. The secret is unsweetened apricot nectar. It gives the beef a sweetness and brings out its flavor.
I highly recommend that you cook this the night before service. You want the brisket to cool completely before cutting it against the grain into slices, otherwise you end up with mush. If you want to to pull it apart like pulled brisket, then you can go ahead and do it while hot. Otherwise, let it cool overnight and then slide cold. Reheat in the oven in the braising liquid.
Another tip — the size of the brisket sounds enormous, but you end up losing about 25% of it after it’s cooked. It shrinks like crazy. You can also prepare this in a clay pot or a dutch oven. My mom uses the former, I use the latter. If you use a clay pot, be sure to soak it in water first. Also, when you buy your brisket, it’s best to get a whole brisket — one that has both the first and second cuts. Your best bet is getting one that is still vacuumed sealed from when it arrives at the store. Ask your butcher.
Serves 8+ —
1 Brisket, 5-7 lbs., trimmed but with some fat for flavor –
1 package carrots, cut into large pieces
3-4 onions, cut into large pieces
6 stalks of celery, cut into large pieces
6 medium white potatoes, cut into cubes
5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 large bottles of organic, unsweetened apricot nectar
2+ tablespoons vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Set rack to lower 1/3 of oven. Heat a very large dutch oven over medium heat (7 quarts) skillet, add the oil and when hot and the garlic.** Take a large fork and pierce meat 4 or 5 times. With brisket, fat side down, brown on all sides, moving brisket around to thoroughly brown in garlic. Add pepper liberally as you brown.
Remove brisket from heat. Add carrots, onions and celery. Season with pepper. Place brisket on top of vegetables, fat side up. Add potatoes to the top of the brisket. Pepper well. Then
pour one bottle of apricot nectar around the sides of the brisket. Then pour part of second bottle of nectar on top of potatoes and brisket. The nectar (which makes the gravy for the brisket) should reach the middle of the brisket.
Cover the pot. Place pot on lower (not middle) rack in oven. Slow cook for 5 or more hours until tender (large fork goes into brisket easily). Cool with lid off. Place in fridge overnight or remove brisket and let cool outside liquid for several hours. Slice meat and add back to gravy and place back in an over set to 325. Heat for about 30 minutes or more until hot. Serve brisket with vegetables and gravy.
**If using a clay pot, brown brisket in a large skillet.