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Building a Better Brisket

Jeff and I share an uncanny ability to get to "yes." A theater trip to New York? Yes! Late night screening of the new Star Wars movie? Yes! Would you like fries with that? Yes! Yes! Yes! So when we accepted a last minute invitation to dinner on the eve of Yom Kippur, that "yes" set into motion the best brisket I've ever made.

For me, brisket is the ultimate comfort food. And I would hold my longtime recipe to anyone's. It's a low and slow preparation with an aromatic puree that I've perfected over the years. I cook it on very special occasions and for the Jewish High Holidays. But this year I decided to mix it up. Throw a little change in the mix. Two years into my second marriage and everything still feels new. So why not try a new brisket preparation? Prior to receiving that last minute invitation I had thought it would just be the two of us for dinner. No harm no foul on a botched brisket for the two of us. And if it really stunk I would have The Day of Repentance to ponder my error. So I eliminated a lot of the chopping and pureeing that my normal recipe calls for and just seared it, tossed it into a slow cooker with chopped onions, garlic and red wine and cooked it on low for about 10 hours. When the invitation came I strained the wine into one container, put the brisket in another and tossed them both into the freezer before setting off to our last minute dinner with friends, followed by a 24-hour fast.

Brisket's always better the next night anyway. And it was a couple of nights after that that I thawed it, trimmed the fat, sliced it against the grain and heated it through in a skillet with a sautéed onion. I skimmed the fat off the red wine and cooked it down in a sauce pan before pouring it over the brisket to deglaze the pan and create a sauce. I served it with Scott Peacock's grits. And it was amazing.

It's so easy to get bogged down by the way things always are. I had dinner with an old friend the other night who told me that she described me to her hairdresser as someone who runs a company, has a family, lives her passion of riding horses, sits on boards, travels, and she went on and on. Hearing it that way made me throw up in my mouth a little. I do all that. And as much as I love to be busy - the idea of slowing down, taking stock and re-thinking how I do things and - more importantly - how I can do them better and smarter hit me.

The Jewish High Holidays will do that for you. A time for reflection and goal-setting. Don't get me wrong, our goals should be loftier than a better brisket recipe. I'm still working on it. But this new brisket is a great start.


One 3 lb. brisket

2 T olive oil

3 onions chopped

1 head garlic chopped

1 bottle red wine

Salt and pepper to taste

Let the brisket sit on the counter for about 20 minutes. Season it heavily with salt and pepper. In a cast iron skillet on high heat the olive oil. Sear the brisket on both sides until brown - about 10 minutes per side. Place the seared brisket, two chopped onions, chopped garlic and the wine in a slow cooker. Cook on low for 10 hours. Remove the brisket and strain the wine. Let both come to room temp and place them both in separate containers in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours or the freezer for up to two months. When ready to re-heat and serve, slice the brisket to your desired thickness against the grain. Strain the fat from the wine and bring it to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce the heat and let the wine cook down. In a separate pan, sautee the third chopped onion until golden. Place the sliced brisket in the skillet with the onion and heat through. Pour the wine sauce over the brisket and let simmer for about 10 minutes.

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