When I think of the High Holy Days in an American Ashkenazi Jewish household, perhaps the most iconic main dish is fall-apart-tender brisket. I usually make brisket only once or twice a year- on Rosh Hashanah (some years I switch off with a whole roasted fish like last year) and Passover.
Beef has become a special occasion meat for us, mostly for environmental and sustainability reasons. It’s funny, since it’s always been a special occasion meat for many of our ancestors; we’re just now realizing the value of their wisdom.
I encourage you to purchase your beef from a trustworthy source with sustainable practices. I get mine at a local butcher shop, where they are dedicated to using the whole animal. They are also are able to provide 100% organic, grass fed beef. Most grass fed beef is fattened with grain at the end of it’s life, unless it states 100% grass fed or “grass finished.” It’s a splurge, but it’s worth it once or twice a year for very special occasions.
There’s a recipe in the New York Times Jewish Cookbook for sweet and sour brisket that has been my go-to for years. Whenever I make it, I think about how the sauce is similar in flavor to a Japanese tonkatsu sauce, which is usually served over fried and breaded chicken or pork on a bed of finely shredded cabbage.
I decided to combine recipes this year and it makes for a beautiful presentation – plus, it’s delicious and likely something your guests have never had! Enjoy.
Ingredients for 10 servings
1 5-lb. untrimmed brisket (leave the fat on!)
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup red wine
1.5 cups tomato puree
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin
2 tablespoons miso
1/4 cup dijon mustard
1/2 peeled and roughly chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 cup sesame oil
1 head of cabbage, shredded very finely on a mandolin
Season the brisket with salt and pepper. Set it aside while you prepare the sauce.
In a food processor or blender, purée all of the sauce ingredients together.
Heat oil in a large dutch oven or oven-proof pot over medium-high. Brown the brisket, turning until browned and crispy on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer the brisket to a plate.
Turn the heat back up to medium and deglaze the pot with red wine, scraping up any browned bits. Cook the wine until the alcohol burns off and it thickens slightly, about 6-8 minutes.
Add the brisket back to the pot, then pour the sauce over it. Cover and braise in the oven, spooning the juices over the brisket every hour until the meat starts to come apart, about 3 1/2 hours. The sauce may burn at the edges of the pot. I used a paper towel and tongs to wipe the burned bits off whenever I opened the pot to braise the meat.
Remove the pot from the oven. Skim the fat from the surface of the sauce.
If you’re not planning to serve it immediately, transfer the brisket to large baking dish. Give the sauce a good stir and pour it over the brisket to cool. Cover and place it in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. As any good Jewish mother will tell you, brisket is always better on the second day. Making brisket a day or two ahead is a great entertaining trick. One less thing to do on the day of a party!
To reheat, preheat the oven to 325°F. Skim any additional fat from the surface of the sauce and discard. Cover and reheat brisket in sauce for about an hour or until heated through. You may need to spoon the sauce over the brisket once or twice while reheating to make sure no parts of it dry out. Place the brisket on a cutting board and slice it against the grain.
Serve on a bed of finely shredded cabbage, drizzle the sauce on top (I like to use a pastry bag and make thin strokes, tonkatsu style- see images). Sprinkle with freshly chopped chives and pickled onion or ginger for a bit of acidity and color.
If you have leftovers, this also makes a great weeknight meal over a bed of hot white rice with some finely shredded cabbage in between.
Kristin Eriko Posner (she/her) is a Japanese American Jew and the founder of Nourish Co., a website that inspires multiethnic people and families to create nourishing new rituals drawn from time-honored wisdom. She does this through her writing, recipe development, and a limited-edition collection of modern heirlooms, all of which explore and celebrate her intersecting identities.