Life / Food

COOKING ON DEADLINE: Hanukkah Brisket

This September 2016 photo shows brisket with wild mushrooms, in New York. Brisket is a tough and fairly inexpensive cut of meat that gets amazingly tender after some quality time in the oven, and it requires little attention or care while it cooks. (Lucy Beni via AP)

This September 2016 photo shows brisket with wild mushrooms, in New York. Brisket is a tough and fairly inexpensive cut of meat that gets amazingly tender after some quality time in the oven, and it requires little attention or care while it cooks. (Lucy Beni via AP)

Whether or not you celebrate the Jewish holidays, a good brisket recipe is a nice thing to have in your winter repertoire. Brisket is a tough and fairly inexpensive cut of meat that gets amazingly tender after some quality time in the oven, and it requires little attention or care while it cooks. That's a nice characteristic in a piece of beef.

You can use a larger size piece of brisket and just bump up the quantities of the other ingredients proportionately. Brisket is a very flexible meat as long as you cook it low and slow, so the exact measurements of onions and liquid are not so important — just keep the flavours balanced.

Brisket shrinks when it cooks, so keep that in mind as you are assessing the size you need. You can make brisket a couple of days ahead and keep it in the fridge. Skim off any fat that has accumulated on the top, and slice the brisket before returning it to the pot with the sauce and heating it gently in the oven or on the stove.

Adding almost two heads of garlic cloves to the sauce may seem crazy, but they will mellow and also turn meltingly soft in their papery skins as the brisket cooks. Tell your guests to squeeze out the roasted garlic from the skins and add it to their sauce, or spread it on toast or crusty bread (which you should provide!). Make sure to serve this with egg noodles or potatoes to soak up all the sauce.

If you want a more subtle mushroom flavour , mix in some sliced button or cremini mushrooms with the wild mushrooms. This is also helpful budget-wise, as wild mushrooms can be pricey (but as any mushroom lover will tell you, worth every penny).

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BEEF BRISKET WITH WILD MUSHROOMS

Serves 6

Start to finish: 4 hours

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2 heads garlic, cloves separated but unpeeled

1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms

2/3 cup boiling water

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 2 1/2 - to 3-pound piece beef brisket

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 red onion, halved and sliced

1 cup dry red wine

1 1/2 cups beef broth

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 pound sliced wild mushrooms, any sort

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Chopped parsley or arugula to garnish

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Preheat the oven to 300 F. Peel and mince two of the garlic cloves and set aside.

Place the porcini mushrooms in a small bowl and add the boiling water. Let the mushrooms soak for 20 minutes. Remove them, squeeze out any extra water back into the bowl, and then strain the soaking liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl. Chop the soaked mushrooms, and set the mushrooms and the strained soaking liquid aside.

Meanwhile, heat a large, deep ovenproof pan or stockpot with a lid over medium high heat. Add the oil. Season the brisket on both sides with salt and pepper. Sear the brisket on both sides for about 4 minutes per side, until browned. Transfer the brisket to a large plate.

Return the pan with the oil to medium heat. Add the onions, season with salt and pepper, and saute for 5 minutes until softened and lightly browned. Add the wine and stir, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom, until the wine is reduced by half. Add the beef broth, the chopped soaked mushrooms, the strained mushroom soaking liquid, and the thyme to the pot. Tuck the brisket back into the pot; the meat will be about halfway submerged. Tuck the remaining garlic cloves in their skins around the meat into the liquid. Cover the pot and transfer it to the preheated oven.

Cook for about 3 1/2 hours until the brisket is fork tender. Remove it from the pot to a cutting board with a moat to catch the juices, and let it rest for at least 15 minutes. Let the braising liquid rest in the pot.

Meanwhile, heat the butter in a very large skillet over medium-high heat until melted. Add the wild mushrooms and reserved, minced garlic, season with salt and pepper, and saute until the mushrooms have turned nicely brown, and any liquid that was released has been evaporated, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle in the balsamic vinegar and stir to release any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Skim and discard any fat that has accumulated on the braising liquid. Stir the sauteed mushrooms into the pot.

When the meat has finished resting, cut it into slices as thin or thick as you like, across the grain. Transfer the slices neatly back to the pot, and nestle them into the sauce and mushrooms. Serve hot. Alternately, you may place the meat on a deep serving platter with sides, and ladle the sauce with the whole garlic cloves and mushrooms over the top. Sprinkle over the parsley or arugula.

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Nutrition information per serving: 446 calories; 249 calories from fat; 28 g fat (10 g saturated; 1 g trans fats); 91 mg cholesterol; 264 mg sodium; 10 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 4 g sugar; 33 g protein.

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Katie Workman has written two cookbooks focused on easy, family-friendly cooking, "Dinner Solved!" and "The Mom 100 Cookbook." She blogs at http://www.themom100.com/about-katie-workman/