Once you understand the basic technique of searing and braising, you can customize your own version with a variety of flavorful additions that excite you — 40 cloves of garlic; herbs like thyme or a little rosemary; spices such as cumin, cinnamon, or curry powder; red wine instead of beer; or carrots and parsnips added during the last hour of cooking.
If you're not in the mood for brisket, go ahead and braise short ribs. Or a shoulder of pork. The concept is the same: Season and sear the meat, add aromatics like garlic and onion, and then cook slowly in a flavorful liquid until it gets as tender as you are tough.
Serve alongside something that will welcome all the sauce, like mashed potatoes, noodles, couscous, or a baguette, and some bagged salad greens with a sprinkle of olive oil, lemon, and salt.
- One 3-pound beef brisket
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
- 1 tablespoon salt, plus more to taste
- 1 tablespoon ground black pepper, plus more to taste
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2-3 bottles lager or amber beer*
- 4 large onions, sliced
- One 10-ounce can crushed tomatoes or 1 small can of tomato paste
- ½ teaspoon cayenne or hot Hungarian paprika (optional)
Pat the brisket dry. With the tip of a sharp knife, make slits in both sides of the meat and stuff with thin slices of garlic. (The more you like garlic, the more slits you'll make.) Season each side very generously with 2/3 of the salt and pepper.
To a large heavy bottomed pot over medium-high flame, add the oil. When the oil is hot, brown the brisket on both sides, lowering the heat as necessary so as not to burn the meat. (You're looking for a nice brown color, not burnt.)
Once the meat is browned, add the beer, onions, tomato product, and cayenne (if using). There should be enough liquid to cover about 2/3 of the brisket. If you need more liquid, you can also use broth to supplement the beer. Add the remaining salt and pepper. Stir and bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the flame so that liquid remains simmering (not vigorously, but still moving gently). Cover the pot.**
Cook until meat is very tender but not totally falling apart, at least 2 hours. (Just make sure to check along the way to ensure that you still have sufficient liquid in the pot to partially cover the meat. Add more if necessary.)
Remove the brisket to a carving board, and cover it with aluminum foil. Now look at the remaining onion-y broth or gravy, and decide if you would like it to be thicker. If there is a lot of liquid, you can reduce it considerably by putting it back on the stove top, at a higher temperature, and cooking it until it reaches the consistency you desire. This can take a good 20-30 minutes if you have a lot of liquid in the pot. Taste, and add more salt or pepper if necessary. Then, slice the brisket against the grain and top with the onion gravy.