Ben’s Non-Traditional But Traditional Hanukkah Brisket 1

A braised beef brisket in gravy is to a family Hanukkah dinner as turkey is to Thanksgiving or ham is to Easter dinner. Frankly, as someone who has sat through many years of braised to death brisket in watery gravy or a Heinz Chili sauce concoction (instant heartburn!), I will tell you that I am not very fond of it—even my Bubba’s version….and she was an incredible cook!

Since I enjoy cooking as much as I do eating, I came up with a solution to my Hanukkah conundrum—it’s easy to shop for, prepare and cook. Because I include a selection of organic vegetables along with the meat, it’s also healthy. Add potato latkes and a salad to the table and the meal is complete.

Everything goes into a large Dutch oven—mine is a cast iron ceramic coated Le Creuset. When I place it into our convection oven at 275 degrees, it does an outstanding job of braising all kinds of beef, chicken and even infusing pasta sauces with more flavor from the ingredients.

Next, I must warn cooks who slavishly follow recipes in exact amounts. I don’t. Instead, I add small amounts of what I think will work—herbs, spices, garlic, salt, pepper, wine…and then taste and add more as needed. Basically, start small and add, because you cannot take it out if you add too much, but you can always add as needed. That way the mix of flavors is always balanced to my palate. If you think the following recipe looks more French or Italian than traditional Jewish…well, it is. Happy Hanukkah and welcome to Chez Benny!

The following recipe serves 8 to 10:

  • • A well-trimmed 5.5- to 6-pound brisket. Do not buy grass-fed beef—it is way too lean and will never get tender. This may not be trendy advice, but it is realistic. However, organic and “never fed hormones or antibiotics” is a great choice.
  • • Add canola oil to the Dutch oven with crushed garlic. Heat until it sizzles, but do not burn the garlic. I use at least three cloves—I love garlic and hate vampires!
  • • Dust the brisket with flour and pepper and brown on both sides.
  • • Add enough beef stock to cover the brisket. Now here is one of my secrets: I cheat. Sometimes I use Lawry’s Au Jus, Lawry’s Beef Stew mix and/or Lipton Onion Soup mix instead. I just add water to the mixes…really works well.
  • • Add at least a cup of dry red wine.
  • • Add basil, thyme, oregano, a little rosemary and pepper…plus more garlic! This is all to taste. I also use dried herbs so the flavors do not get cooked out.
  • • I never add salt—there is more than enough in the beef stock or mixes.
  • • Heat everything to a simmer on your stove top.
  • • Your oven should be heated to 400 degrees and then turned back to 275.
  • • Place the Dutch oven on the lowest rack and let it braise for at least three hours.
  • • Earlier you will have prepared your yummy vegetables—organic, if possible. Carrots, new potatoes or thickly sliced russets, green beans, button mushrooms, sliced shallots or pearl onions; plus, a large can of drained and cut San Marzano tomatoes.
  • • After three hours, add the vegetables and let it all braise for an additional hour.
  • • Place Dutch oven on your stove top. Use a good quality paper towel to soak up extra fat from gravy.
  • • Using a flour or cornstarch roux, thicken the gravy after the brisket is placed on a slicing board.
  • • Slice brisket on a large serving platter and spoon the veggies on top. 
  • • Have your guests serve themselves the brisket, veggies and gravy. It is a one pot and one plate meal.