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Gotta love a brisket with matzoh ball dumplings

Red Wine-Braised Brisket With Aunt Rifka’s Flying Disks. (Renee Comet/For the Washington Post)

Here’s a great stick-to-your-ribs meal that can also be modified to serve as a main dish for Passover.

Before we get to the brisket, let’s discuss the “flying disk” accompaniments, which are really flattened matzoh balls. It was my husband’s Aunt Rifka who pinned the Space Age sobriquet on them. Actually, the disks are dense and heavy — not light and fluffy — which is why Bill’s Aunt Yetta described them as “sinkers” (rather than “floaters,” if you are familiar with matzoh ball density).

Whatever, they’re delicious. And they’ll turn out just fine if you cook them in the water several days ahead, then park them in the refrigerator, covered, until it’s time to reheat them in the gravy.

I developed this recipe with the flat cut of brisket in mind because it’s widely available. Brisket of beef is a tough cut from the breast or lower chest of the animal. It has two parts: the flat, or first cut, and the point, or second cut. The flat is evenly shaped. There is a fat cap on top, but relatively little internal fat. Shaped like a triangle, the point has lots of fat running through it.

As we all know, fat makes meat juicier. It’s also a conductor of flavor. Accordingly, if you can find the point cut — it’s not so readily available these days — and if you’re in a damn-the-torpedoes, bring-on-the-saturated-fat mood, go for it. It needs to be cooked low and slow — and in advance, as it is here.

Red Wine-Braised Brisket With Aunt Rifka’s Flying Disks

Serve with glazed carrots.

MAKE AHEAD: The braised meat and its liquid need to be refrigerated overnight. The brisket can be made 3 days in advance; the flavors develop further. The disks can be cooked and refrigerated a few days in advance.


For the brisket

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

One 4- to 5-pound beef brisket, cut crosswise in half (see story, above)

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

3 cups thinly sliced onions (from 2 large onions)

2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 cups dry red wine

5 cups low-sodium chicken broth, or more as needed

3 sprigs fresh thyme (may substitute 2 teaspoons dried thyme)

3 Turkish bay leaves

For the disks

4 large eggs

¼ cup low-sodium chicken broth

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup matzoh meal

For the sauce

6 to 8 tablespoons beef fat (skimmed from the top of the chilled brisket; may substitute 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or a combination of the two)

6 to 8 tablespoons flour (may use a Passover-worthy substitute)

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper


For the brisket: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season the meat generously with salt and pepper. Add it to the pot and cook for about 6 minutes per side, until nicely browned. Transfer to a plate.

Add the onions to the pot; reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover; add the garlic and tomato paste, and cook, stirring, 1 minute, then add the wine. Increase the heat to medium-high; cook until the liquid has reduced by half.

Add the broth; once it has heated through, return the meat to the pot, fat side up, along with the thyme and bay leaves. Fit parchment paper directly on the surface of the meat and liquid, then cover with a lid. Transfer to the oven and braise (middle rack) for 3 ½ to 4 hours or until the meat is fork-tender. Uncover and let the meat and liquid cool for an hour or so, then cover and refrigerate overnight.

For the disks: Lightly beat the eggs in a medium bowl. Add the broth, oil and salt and beat well, then add the matzoh meal, stirring until well incorporated. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour, and up to overnight.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Use your wet hands to create 20 equal portions of the disk mixture (which should have thickened into a scoopable dough). Shape each portion into an oblong disk, about 1/2-inch thick. Add the disks to the boiling water; they will soon rise to the surface. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 30 minutes. They should increase in size. Drain, cool and refrigerate until ready to use (up to a few days).

For the sauce: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Scoop up and reserve 6 to 8 tablespoons of the fat that has congealed on the chilled brisket. Transfer the meat to a cutting board and then measure the cooking liquid (in a large liquid measuring cup); you should have about 6 cups. If there is more, pour that into a saucepan and boil it down to the right amount; if you have less, add enough broth to make a total of 6 cups. Discard the thyme and bay leaves.

Melt the congealed fat from the brisket (to taste, depending on how thick you like your gravy), in a Dutch oven, over medium-low heat. Add the flour (to taste) and cook, whisking, for 2 minutes, then gradually add the reserved cooking liquid while you continue to whisk. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, at which time you will see the mixture thicken a bit, then reduce the heat to medium and cook for 3 minutes. Whisk in the mustard; season lightly with salt and pepper.

Trim and discard any remaining fat cap on the brisket. Slice the brisket thin, across the grain, adding it to the Dutch oven as you go. Cover the meat and gravy directly with parchment, as you did before, and cover with the lid. Bake for 40 minutes; during this time, the meat will become even more tender.

Uncover; transfer the brisket slices to a deep serving dish and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Add the cooked disks to the gravy in the pot; cover and cook over medium heat (stove top) for 10 minutes, turning them once.

Serve slices of brisket with the disks, pouring some of the gravy over each portion.

Ingredients too variable for meaningful nutritional analysis.

Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick; email questions to

Moulton is the host of “Sara’s Weeknight Meals,” a public television show now in its seventh season. She writes a weekly column for the Associated Press and is the author of four cookbooks, including, most recently, “Sara Moulton’s Home Cooking 101: How to Make Everything Taste Better.”

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