via Wikimedia Commons

Give brisket a second life with an Italian makeover

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As a kid, I learned to read slowly. But then I fell into page-turning delight all at once one winter when I was 8 years old. My parents gave me a book of Jewish folktales that year, and I lived inside them for weeks. Something about that experience, which represented my first serious bout of reading, has forever tied Jewish folklore to winter for me. When it gets cold outside, the writing of Sholem Aleichem, the master of Yiddish literature, bursts into my head, and I can’t help but cook as if I lived inside his world (albeit with access to more meat and vegetables).

Brisket is a feature in our house during the winter months. It’s easy to cook in advance on the weekend, and if you have leftovers, incredibly versatile when paired with various Italian carbs, hence the Brisket Bolognese and the Brisket Risotto below.

Deep Winter Brisket
Serves 8

3 1/2–4 lbs. brisket
2 tsp. mild chili powder
2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. granulated garlic
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1-2 Tbs. Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tsp. salt
Plenty of freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs. oil
2 whole cloves
3 bay leaves
1 large yellow onion (or two small), peeled and cut in 1/2-inch wedges
2 cups baby carrots
2 Tbs. tomato paste
15 oz. can diced tomatoes
8 oz. dark beer, divided
1 cup beef broth

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rub brisket vigorously all over with chili powder, paprika, garlic and cinnamon. Spread Dijon mustard over both sides of brisket. Distribute salt and pepper liberally over mustard coating.

Heat oil in a large ovenproof, stovetop-safe, steep-sided French oven, or other pan just large enough to accommodate brisket. Sear brisket 2 minutes per side over medium heat. Remove meat from pan for a moment. Turn heat to low. Add cloves, bay leaves, onion, carrots and tomato paste to pan. Sauté 2 minutes.

Return brisket to pan, place over vegetables. Add diced tomatoes and 2/3 of the beer to pan. Cover pan tightly and transfer to preheated oven. Bake 3 hours, turning brisket halfway through. Remove brisket and vegetables. Degrease sauce. Return pan and remaining sauce, plus vegetables to stovetop. Add beef broth and remaining beer to pan. Simmer 10 minutes. Meanwhile, slice brisket against the grain. Serve topped with sauce and vegetables.

Brisket Bolognese
Serves 4

Deep Winter Brisket leftovers
3 cups tomato sauce
1 lb. spaghetti

Make brisket as above. Serve half one night for dinner. Coarsely chop remaining brisket. Purée sauce and vegetables with your favorite tomato sauce. Reheat puréed sauce with chopped brisket. Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Toss cooked spaghetti with 1/4 cup pasta-cooking liquid and brisket sauce. Serve.

Brisket Risotto
Serves 4

Deep Winter Brisket leftovers
3 1/2–4 cups beef broth, divided
2 Tbs. olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 cup Arborio rice
1/3 cup parsley, chopped

Make brisket as above. Serve half one night for dinner. Coarsely chop remaining brisket. Purée sauce and vegetables with 3 cups beef broth. Heat puréed sauce and broth on stove. In a separate heavy saucepot, heat olive oil on stovetop. Sauté onions 1 minute, then add Arborio rice. Ladle hot sauce-broth 1/4 cup at a time into rice, stirring constantly. Cook 18 minutes, adding more beef broth as necessary. Stir in chopped brisket and cook 2 more minutes. Add parsley and serve.

Josie A.G. Shapiro

Josie A.G. Shapiro won the 2013 Man-O-Manischewitz Cookoff and is the co-author of “The Lazy Gourmet.”