Saucy spring brisket
Article and photo by Lisa Crockett
I love magazines in much the same way I love to see old friends – they are filled with things I find interesting and they are always there for me when I need them. I like travel magazines, news magazines and craft magazines. Heck, one year I somehow ended up with a subscription to Family Handyman magazine, and though I am not at all handy, nor do I really wish to be, I found myself reading each issue from cover to cover.
Food magazines are my all-time favorite, though, since they combine my love for food with my love for beautiful words and photos. This brisket recipe is a treasure I found in a copy of Everyday Food; a fairly short-lived magazine published by Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. I was a faithful reader of the digest-style magazine, and I found every recipe it contained to be user friendly and delicious. When it ceased publication nearly a decade ago, I mourned its passing. Every time a magazine dies, I feel deeply saddened, particularly when it’s a publication that involved creative ideas for breakfast, lunch or dinner. While I mourned, I made this brisket from the April 2004 issue, and I somehow felt a little better.
This recipe is just the tiniest bit fussy (negotiating the preparation of a large slab of meat is kind of a chore) but well worth the effort. Many years ago, with the help of three friends, I cooked enough of this brisket to feed 40 people at a dinner party. It was a perfect choice because it can be cooked in large quantities. It’s tasty enough to feel a bit special, and it’s palate-friendly enough for diners with simple tastes. The vinegar in the sauce, combined with a low-cook temperature and a languorously long time in the oven produce deliciously tender results. I tend to pair it with roasted potatoes and carrots, simple-but-yummy accompaniments for this dish, along with a first course of a Caesar salad. Guests at the party gave it rave reviews and asked for seconds.
At home when I’m just feeding my family, I’ve also made it with mashed potatoes or egg noodles, and it makes a delicious, drippy sandwich atop a crusty white bread. One of the best things about it, is that if you have leftovers (and you might, a brisket is a lot of meat), you can make a magically delicious pasta ragu with minimal effort. This pasta comes together in about the same time it takes to boil eight ounces of linguini (the noodle I prefer to use); simply sauté a chopped onion and two or three chopped carrots, then add the leftover meat and sauce and enough chicken broth to cover the meat, simmering while the noodles cook. When the meat falls apart (it won’t take long since the meat is already very well done), stir in the drained noodles and serve with a generous topping of Parmesan cheese.
The sauce on the meat is tomato-y and rich, so this dish feels special even though it consists of simple pantry staples. As an added bonus, the spicy elements here make the house smell festive and welcoming. I have made this particular recipe so many times I now have it committed to memory, but I often pull out the now faded and sauce spattered pages from which I originally got this family favorite. It’s a bit like visiting an old friend – one who brings dinner and good cheer.