This version of a traditional Jewish holiday dish makes a beautiful presentation. Whole, flat-cut brisket is stuffed, tied, grill-seared and then smoked for an hour before being braised. Caramelized onions thicken the pomegranate and red-wine gravy. A stuffing of apricots and dates reflects the tradition of eating sweet foods at Rosh Hashanah (in hopes of being blessed with a good and sweet year). This Mediterranean-inspired recipe includes nuts, which many people avoid eating at Rosh Hashanah; if you don't want them, simply replace them with extra fruit.
Make Ahead: Soak 2 cups of wood chips for 30 minutes before you smoke the brisket on the grill. The stuffing can be made 2 days in advance; the brisket can be cooked 1 day in advance and refrigerated in its gravy. If you wish to present the brisket whole, let it come to room temperature for an hour, then reheat it at 300 degrees, covered, for 1 hour.
Servings: 12 - 16
- 1 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms
- 3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
- 1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
- 5 large (4 pounds) yellow onions, cut in half, then into 1/4-inch slices
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 cups red wine
- 1 cup pine nuts, toasted (optional; see NOTE)
- 8 ounces pitted whole dates
- 12 ounces (2 cups) dried unsulphured unsweetened apricots (preferably sulfurated), cut in half
- Leaves from half of a small bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped (1/2 cup)
- 1 bunch trimmed scallions, white and light-green parts, chopped
- 6 medium cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 small bunch thyme, tied with kitchen twine
- 1 6-pound beef brisket (preferably first cut), trimmed to 1/8-inch fat
- Kosher salt
- Cracked or coarsely ground black pepper, for rubbing
Place the shiitakes in a large bowl and cover with 4 cups of hot tap water. Add the pomegranate molasses and stir to combine. Let the mushrooms rehydrate for at least 30 minutes but not more than 60 minutes.
Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers. Add the onions and stir lightly to coat; season with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often, until the onions' moisture has evaporated and the onions begin to sizzle and brown. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring often, until the onions are deep brown and caramelized; adjust the heat as needed so the onions do not burn.
Transfer half of the caramelized onions to a large bowl.
Add the red wine to the remaining onions in the pan; use a wooden spoon to scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Transfer the mixture to a heat-proof (stainless-steel) bowl that will be used as a drip pan underneath the brisket while the meat is being smoked on the grill.
Use a slotted spoon to transfer the rehydrated mushrooms to the bowl of reserved caramelized onions, being careful to skim them from the top so any grit will be left behind. Reserve the liquid.
Add the pine nuts, if desired, to the bowl, along with the dates, apricots, parsley, scallions, garlic, thyme, black pepper and the remaining teaspoon of salt. Stir to mix well; this will be the stuffing for the brisket.
Strain the reserved mushroom liquid through a fine-mesh strainer and into the bowl of the red wine-onion mixture. Add the bay leaf and thyme.
Cut six 2-foot lengths of kitchen twine; soak them in water.
Place the brisket fat side up on a well-anchored cutting board. Use a thin-bladed knife, preferably a boning knife, to trim the brisket on the short ends, if necessary, to square the edges. Then trim a 1-inch-wide strip lengthwise from one side of the brisket; reserve.
Cut a horizontal slit in the trimmed brisket to form the pocket that will hold the stuffing. Leave a 1-inch border on the three closed sides to ensure that the stuffing will not come out. Open the pocket wide and spoon the stuffing into it, using the end of the spoon to guide stuffing into the corners. When the brisket is filled, lay it flat on the cutting board. The stuffing will have created a dome in the meat, and the bottom of the brisket will now be wider than the top. Push the reserved trimmed length of meat (and any trimmings from the ends, if there are any) into the opening, and fold the top of the brisket over it, like a flap.
Place one of the soaked lengths of twine underneath the center of the brisket and tie it (widthwise). Make a double knot, pulling the string taut, but not so tight that it makes a deep indentation in the meat. Starting from the ends and working toward the center, tie the brisket at 1-inch intervals. (You might not need all the pre-cut lengths.) Rub the meat generously on all sides with salt and pepper.
Prepare the grill for direct and indirect heat. If using a gas grill, preheat to medium-high (450 degrees). If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or wood briquettes; when the briquettes are ready, distribute them on one side of the cooking area. For a medium-hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand about 6 inches above the coals for about 4 or 5 seconds. Place the bowl with the red wine-onion mixture on the indirect-heat side of the grill (away from the coals). Lightly coat a hinged grill rack with oil and place it on the grill.
Place the brisket fat side down directly over the coals. Let the brisket sear until it browns and chars slightly, which may take only 30 seconds or so if the fat causes a flare-up. Turn the brisket over and brown it on the bottom for several minutes, then on both sides. (It is a good idea to now retie or add new ties to the brisket, in case the fire has caused any of the twine to come apart.) Place the brisket fat side up over the bowl. Lift the hinged side of the grill grate and place 5 or 6 large chunks of hickory wood (or 2 cups of hickory chips that have been soaked in water for 30 minutes) over the coals. Place the lid on the grill with the top vents open halfway. Smoke the brisket for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Transfer the smoked stuffed brisket to a heavy Dutch oven. Pour the red wine-onion mixture (that now has drippings from the brisket) around the sides of the meat. Cover the brisket with a large piece of aluminum foil, molding it directly onto the meat, then cover with the pot lid. Slow-roast for 2 hours or until a fork easily pierces the meat. Transfer the brisket to a cutting board and discard the twine. Let it rest for 10 minutes before carving.
To prepare the gravy from the pan juices: Strain the liquid through a fine-mesh strainer; discard the bay leaf and thyme. Return the onions to the the pot. Pour the liquid into a fat separator and return 3 cups of liquid to the pot. (Save the remaining liquid for another use, if desired.) Use an immersion (stick) blender to form a gravylike pureed sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
To serve, arrange the warm slices of stuffed brisket on a large platter and spoon some of the gravy over them. Serve the remaining sauce on the side.
NOTE: Spread the pine nuts on a small baking sheet or in a pie plate. Toast in a 350-degree oven for 6 or 7 minutes or until golden brown. Watch closely, because they burn easily. Let cool completely.
From Real Entertaining columnist David Hagedorn.
Tested by David Hagedorn.
E-mail questions to the Food Section at email@example.com.