Photo by Ivan Soto
I don’t typically cook a lot of meat. During my dinner parties I’ll sometimes have one meat dish, while everything else will be vegetarian friendly. Dating a vegetarian has also sharply curtailed my meat consumption. So in the menu planning for my “traditional” Passover Seder my co-host insisted on brisket. I agreed, but only if it was conscientious meat (the fish I put into my gefilte fish were all on the “good” fish list). To him this meant kosher, to me this meant sustainable so we started searching for kosher sustainable brisket.
This was a bit more challenging than we expected. I had heard about Kol Foods the organization that provides kosher sustainable meat. The problem we faced was that we only wanted one brisket and they sell their product in much larger quantities. Of course we thought about asking around to see if we couldn’t find someone who might want to share a box, but because it was rather last minute (the meat order deadline was that day) it didn’t seem likely. So a little Internet searching later we came across some organic kosher brisket that could be delivered in most parts of Manhattan. That seemed like the logical compromise so we ended up with two three-pound chunks of meat, a coupon for our next order and a complimentary oven mitt.
But once it arrived, I wasn’t really prepared for the long flat flaps of meat I had sitting in front of me (see picture). I had always thought brisket was more like a roast, but these were thin, wide and long. How do I cook that? I’m not even sure I have the right pan. Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything was helpful on the basics, it even has a pencil drawing of a cow letting me know where the brisket comes from. But doesn’t everyone has that relative that has that great brisket recipe – I felt that the pressure was really on. And Passover being such a big food holiday, I turned to the maven of Jewish cooking – Joan Nathan. In her Jewish Holiday Cookbook she published her mother’s brisket recipe. It looked good, but I had thought you cooked brisket in wine.
Years ago, before I ever decided to become Jewish I worked for a Jewish man who shared his brisket recipe with me. Well, actually to be more accurate he told me a wonderful story (he is an amazing story teller) about making brisket every year for Passover. It’s a fantastic tale full of misadventures in the butcher shops with intimidating zaydes, lots of wine drinking and the family politics of keeping everyone out the kitchen while you cook. However the story never really got around to giving out too many details about the “how to” of the brisket.
So I have a couple of resources at hand to help the basics, I have a bottle of kosher for Passover wine ready to help me get through the dinner preparation (and maybe splash on the meat?) but what can I do to really make this brisket stand out? Because after all the effort put into procuring the meat, I would hate to prepare it badly.