In my household, December is not for the faint of heart. Both Bae and I have birthdays in December and they are less than a week apart. My sister and father both have birthdays this month as well. And, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned elsewhere, Bae is Jewish and I am not. That means we celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah. Gosh! I feel tired just writing this. Yes, our December is definitely a marathon and the whole thing kicks off this Sunday with the first night of Hanukkah. So, how am I feeling? A little underprepared, exhausted in anticipation, and beside myself excited about latkes and this Red Wine Braised Brisket. It’s a medley of emotions.
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It’s not a new thing to write about the stresses of the holiday season. Honestly, when I was a kid, I thought adults hated the holidays because every advertisement seemed to allude to their disdain. But now that I am an adult with more holiday-related responsibilities than opening presents and eating my weight in shortbread, I can definitely say I don’t feel any disdain. Sure, there is pressure, but how many times a year do you get to nurture your social life without feeling like your shirking your responsibilities? You are expected to get together with your nearest and dearest. I just don’t know how that can be bad.
Yes, there is the expectation of a tree floating on a sea of presents, perfectly dressed holiday tables groaning under the weight of elaborate feasts, and a house coated in fairy lights. This is what we see on TV. This is the unfair standard we hold ourselves to, obsess about. And then, we chastise ourselves when we inevitably fall short. But, I say, no more! The holidays are not about going gourmet or DIY-crazy. You don’t have to outstrip the Barefoot Contessa to have yourself a Merry Little Christmas. The holidays are about tradition, warmth, comfort, and familiarity. And I guarantee, you already have the building blocks of a truly righteous holiday feast tucked away in some forgotten cupboard.
What am I talking about? I’m talking about your own family’s culinary history. And why am I drudging that up? Well, because today’s Red Wine Braised Brisket is a Hanukkah mainstay from Bae’s childhood. And, believe me, you will be able to tell by the ingredients. Look out! We’re going retro, people.
There are times when I think we take food too seriously. I know that is absolutely hilarious coming from me. I very obviously obsess about food. But I don’t obsess over what is the “right” and the “wrong” kind of food. In some ways, I believe we’ve gotten too gourmet for our own good. I, of course, believe in eating good, high-quality food but I also believe in eating for nostalgia. The bottom line is, food should always be fun and sometimes that fun involves powdered onion soup mix and bottled chili sauce, as it does today.
Bae held onto his Grandmother’s recipe book after she died. The book is a Better Homes & Gardens scrapbook/recipe book combo that is now held together by duck tape. The book is practically dripping with loose newspaper clippings and hastily handwritten recipes. You know, the kind of recipes that were only meant to make sense to the person writing them. So, when Bae said he wanted to recreate his Grandmother’s brisket, we had our work cut out for us.
Over the course of a day, we were able to determine the all-important backbone of this nostalgic brisket, and that turned out to be comprised of three things. The brisket had to be a double brisket, it had to be cooked for at least four hours, and, for authenticity’s sake, it had to have powdered onion soup mix and bottled chili sauce. I totally got this because my grandmother always used powdered onion soup mix in her meatloaf, which I adored and can’t seem to replicate. Honestly, it’s probably because I can’t get off my high horse long enough to purchase an envelope of the stuff.
To be honest, I agonized over whether I should even share this Red Wine Braised Brisket with you. Yes, the packaged ingredients gave me pause. And now that I’ve brought it to the blog, I’m ashamed I ever thought this brisket wasn’t good enough. It is absolutely delicious and super easy to prepare. And even though I did not grow up in the household that served this brisket, it somehow triggers my nostalgia too, which I think proves a very important point.
Good food isn’t just about doing the right things with the right ingredients, it’s about tickling the senses and eliciting an emotional response. Food is so tied to experience and nostalgia that it makes labeling ingredients as “good” or “bad” a perilous feat. For Bae and I, the nearly unidentifiable flavor of onion soup mix was introduced to our tastebuds early and became intertwined with our love for our grandparents. And yeah, it’s swimming with sodium and it’s not artisanal, but it fills a void once a year that we often forget we have.
But before I run away with the preachiness of it all, let’s talk nitty gritty about this Red Wine Braised Brisket. Now, we used a 2-pound brisket because this was a test run and we were only feeding two (we still had leftovers). We will be doubling the recipe below and using a 5-7 pound brisket for the main event this Sunday. I think it’s best to use the same amount of wine regardless of the size of the brisket. But if you think you might need more, grab another bottle and pour away. The liquid should come halfway up the side of the uncooked brisket once it’s placed in the roaster.
And speaking of the roaster, you will need a decent roaster. Heck, even if you’re not making brisket, you need a decent roaster. A decent roaster is sort of the white button-up shirt of bakeware. The roaster I’m using here is the Le Creuset Rectangular Roaster in Blueberry. And if you’re wondering if I’m somehow affiliated, the answer is yes. But I do actually love Le Creuset and have some awesome, seemingly indestructible pieces in my collection that predate this blog by nearly 10 years.
After everything is nestled in its roaster, its a quick blast of high heat followed by a long, slow cook. Following the slow cook, the brisket takes an overnight trip to the fridge, which makes it easier to remove the fat from the braising liquid. Chilled brisket is also easier to cut. Then, you simply roast the veg in the braising liquid and return the brisket to the pot. After that, it’s just a matter of warming the meat back up and boom! You got Red Wine Braised Brisket!
So, that’s everything you need to know about this Red Wine Braised Brisket. Happy Hanukkah to all who celebrate and happy holidays to everyone who gives this blog their attention. You’re the best!
Red Wine Braised Brisket
- 1 large white onion halved and sliced
- 12 clove garlic peeled and halved
- 900 g 2 lbs double brisket
- 1 bottle red wine divided
- 1/2 cup chili sauce
- 1/4 cup 1 pkg onion soup mix
- 2 tablespoon prepared horseradish
- 1 tablespoon dry mustard
- 2 cups fingerling potatoes halved lengthwise
- 5 small carrots peeled and halve crosswise
- 1 1/2 cups button mushrooms
- 1/4 cup fresh thyme
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Spread the onions in an even layer along the base of the a roaster or a large casserole dish. Sprinkle the the garlic over top and nestle the brisket into the onions and garlic.
- In a small bowl, whisk the 1/2 cup of the wine, the chili sauce, onion soup mix, prepared horseradish, and dry mustard until a thin sauce forms. Pour the sauce over top of the brisket. Take the rest of the wine and pour it over top of the brisket as well. There should be enough liquid in the roaster to completely immerse the bottom half of the brisket.
- Place the brisket in the oven and cook for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350°F and cover the brisket with foil. Roast the brisket for 4 hours, turning once halfway through. Transfer the brisket to the fridge and let chill overnight.
- The next day, scoop the solidified fat off of the surface of the braising liquid and discard. Remove the brisket from the roaster and add the vegetables.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F and return the roaster to the oven. Roast the vegetables uncovered for 20 -25 minutes or until just tender.
- While the veg is roasting, carve the cold brisket into slices against the grain. After the veg is done roasting, snuggle the brisket slices back into the roaster. Drop the temperature to 350°F and roast for 15 minutes or until the meat is heated through.
- Remove the roaster from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with fresh thyme and serve immediately.