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Monday, April 18, 2011

A New Take on an Old Classic

I sometimes think that the only reason brisket was invested was so that there would be something to have for dinner on the Jewish holidays.  Let's face it, brisket, while tasty, is not exactly gourmet fare.  Everyone I know, myself included, has their old standby Jewish holiday brisket recipe.  It's not exciting but it is reliable.  And there's something to be said for reliability.

My friend Heidi is always on the lookout for a new twist on classics.  The other day we were talking about Passover and she announced that she has planned her menu.  That put her about 100 steps ahead of me.  I had purchased a brisket but that was about as far as I had gotten in terms of menu planning.  Not to worry, Heidi had lots of good ideas.

To start, she was making a Moroccan inspired brisket.  She described the recipe and it sounded well, gourmet.  Gourmet on a Jewish holiday?   This concept is simply unheard of.  But this recipe sounded really tasty.  This led to a little research on my part and I found that there are lots of Moroccan inspired brisket recipes out there.  I decided to go with Joan Nathan, the granddaddy (or is she the grandmother?) of all Jewish holiday cooking.

This recipe took brisket to a whole new level.  It braises in a mixture of Moroccan spices and then there's a sauce with preserved lemons and olives.  The end result is not your grandmother's brisket.  It's much lighter and feels much more modern.  This really is a reinvention of brisket and one I'm going to go back to again and again.  And not just for the holidays!

Recipe:  Moroccan Brisket with Olives, Tomatoes, and Preserved Lemons
(Joan Nathan)


5 to 6 pound brisket
5 garlic cloves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 large onions, diced (about 8 cups)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
2 bay leaves
1 celery stalk, diced
23 large tomatoes, diced
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups green Moroccan olives, pitted
2 to 3 preserved lemons (click here)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro


Preheat the oven to 350F.

With a knife, pierce the skin of the brisket in 5 places and insert the garlic cloves.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a heavy skillet or roasting pan, add the meat, and sear on all sides and remove.

Add 2 more tablespoons of the oil to the same pan and saute 3/4 of the onions until they are limp/  Add the turmeric, ginger, white pepper, bay leaves, celery, 1/3 of the diced tomatoes, and water to the pan.  Stir-fry for a minute or 2 and let cool.

Place the brisket in a baking pan and surround with the cooked vegetables.  Roast, covered, in the oven for 3 hours or until a fork goes in and out of the meat easily.  Remove, cool and refrigerate, reserving the vegetables.  You can prepare this a day ahead of time.

Tomato-Onion Sauce:  Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a frying pan; add the remaining onions and saute until the onions are translucent.  Then add the remaining diced tomatoes and simmer, covered, for a ffew minutes.  Set aside or refrigerate overnight or until ready to serve the meat,

When ready to serve, remove any fat that accumulated on the brisket as it cooled.  Cut, against the grain, into slices 1/4-inch thick.  Return the slices to the baking pan along with the reserved vegetables in which the brisket was cooked.  Preheat the oven to 350F and reheat the brisket, covered, for about 30 minutes.

Add to the tomato-onion mixture, olives, preserved lemons and 2 tablespoons each of  parsley and cilantro and heat in small saucepan.  Remove the brisket and some, or all, of the vegetables to a serving platter and serve, covered with the tomato-onion sauce and garnish with the remaining parsley and cilantro.

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