If a man cannot or will not cook, he is not a man. All REAL men – manly men, if you will – know how to cook, and by cook I don’t mean scurry around a studio kitchen yelling “BAM!” and cooking stuff most ordinary chefs don’t cook, like that wretched little Emeril does on his stupid Food Network show. Honestly…what kind of serious chef has his own studio band, complete with an African-American Doc Severinsen? I learned to cook because my mother – God rest her soul – was a superb cook. When I moved out and lived on my own, I had no choice but to teach myself the arcane ways of the kitchen.
Cooked to perfection, an otherwise inedible cut of beef known as “brisket” melts in your mouth. Cooked imperfectly? You might as well try to eat a saddle. The trick lies in slow-cooking the brisket between 5 and 6 hours – depending on the size of the cut. This recipe calls for a 3 to 4-lb. cut, which means a slow-cook time of 6 hours.
I can already hear the caterwauling: “SIX HOURS?! Who has time to hang around the stove for six hours?”
Hush, hush, sweet harlot: much like Ron Popiel’s famous rotisserie oven, when you slow-cook the Bulldog way you can set it and forget it. Well… Almost. You still have to be there at the end of the cooking period to turn off the oven. But trust me when I tell you that your patience will be rewarded.
4 large garlic cloves, smashed
½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
4 sprigs fresh rosemary, needles striped from the stem and chopped
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 beef brisket, 4 lb. first-cut
Coarsely ground black pepper
2 large carrots, cut in 2-inch chunks
2 celery stalks, cut in 2-inch chunks
4 large white onions, coarsely chopped
2 vine-ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 cups dry red wine
1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small onion, finely diced
1 cup beef broth or 1 tsp bouillon paste dissolved in 1 cup water
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F.
On a cutting board, mash the garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt together with the flat-side of a knife into a paste. Add the rosemary and continue to mash until incorporated. Or you can do all of this with a mortar and pestle. Your call. Put the garlic-rosemary paste in a small bowl and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil; stir to combine.
Dry the surface of the brisket with paper towels and then smear both sides with a thin layer of canola oil. Season both sides with a fair amount of kosher salt and ground black pepper. Place a 12″ cast iron skillet (or, if the brisket is bigger than the skillet, a Dutch oven) over high heat and get it rocket-hot – about five minutes. Put the brisket in the skillet or pan and sear to form a brown crust on both sides.
Lay out a 3 foot long sheet of heavy duty 18″ wide aluminum foil and place the brisket in the middle. Crimp up the long sides and short sides of the foil to form a sort of “pan” so that the wine doesn’t run off. Lay the vegetables all around the brisket and pour the rosemary paste over the whole thing. Add the wine and tomatoes; toss in the parsley and bay leaves.
Carefully pull up the long sides of the foil to form a tent and then fold the edges together to seal them. Crimp the short sides to the top of the tent. Place on the middle rack of the oven, with a cookie sheet underneath to catch any drips if they happen. Close the oven door and don’t open it again for 6 hours.
After 6 hours have passed, turn off the oven and remove the foil pouch from the oven. Hold the pouch over a bowl and pierce one end of the foil to permit all the accumulated fat and juice to run out. Strain the liquid and reserve it – this will become the gravy. Place the pouch in a shallow baking dish and return to the oven to keep warm.
Skim off as much fat from the top of the reserved liquid. Put 4 tablespoons of the fat into a medium saucepan on medium heat and add the diced onions. Saute until a deep brown color, then add the flour and cook for a few more minutes. Whisk in the beef broth and minced garlic and continue whisking while adding the reserved cooking liquid. Boil gently on medium heat until the volume of liquid reduces by half. If the sauce is too thin for your liking, mix 1 tablespoon of flour with 2 tablespoons of wine or water and blend into the gravy.
Cut the brisket into 1/2 thick slices across the grain at a slight diagonal. Serve with potato pancakes (see recipe below) and a garden salad with balsamic vinaigrette dressing.
Crispy Potato Pancakes
4 medium russet potatoes, peeled
2 medium onions
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
¼ cup finely chopped chives
Canola oil for frying
Using a box grater or food processor, coarsely grate the potatoes and onions. Put the grated potatoes and onions together in cheesecloth or a tea towel and twist it to squeeze out the excess liquid. Put the dry potatoes and onions in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Fold in the egg whites and chives to bind the mixture together.
Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat and coat with 1/4-inch of oil. For each pancake, take about 2 tablespoons of the potato mixture and drop into the hot oil; gently flatten with a spatula so they fry up thin and crispy. Fry for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until golden. Remove to a cake cooling grid to drain; season with salt while the potato pancakes are still hot. Continue frying, adding more oil as needed, until all of the mixture is used up. Serve immediately with a dollop of sour cream on top, if desired.