A vegetarian cooking brisket?

by Leah Hadad on September 2, 2010

The house is still suffused with the faint, sweet aroma of the slab of brisket that this morning was slowly roasting, covered in a blanket of thinly sliced onion, resting in a pool of white wine and honey, speckled with ground pepper and garlic powder. I am a vegetarian now. I don’t eat the brisket, but I can still enjoy the delicious smell.

A vegetarian cooking brisket?

I was not always a vegetarian.  Growing up, I ate all parts of the animal.  At a Seder at friends’ house several years ago, the hostess’ mother and I reminisced about the old days when all parts of the animal were devoured, from brain to marrow.  Our conversation was interrupted by a curt and a stern admonition by a guest at the other end of the table because her young daughter was in tears as our conversation made her nauseous. I understand modern day sensibilities about all things involving animal flesh. This is a sensitivity born of affluence (unless you are Hindu, I guess).  In the old days, with limited resources, one simply couldn’t afford to let goat feet go to waste.

Brisket was not in my repertoire growing up.  I learned to cook brisket from a recipe in a book that was given me as a gift by a friend when my oldest son was about to enter nursery school.  A collection of recipes contributed by the parents and faculty, the cookbook was published as a school fundraiser.

The brisket I cooked today is my variation of that recipe.  Instead of using brown sugar, I use honey for Rosh Hashanah.  Brisket is a festive holiday food, and cooking it ahead is not only convenient, it also enhances its flavor.  I like to cook brisket ahead of time and freeze it.  The freezing, on top of the slow cooking, make for a more tender meat.  I take it out the day before, defrost it in the refrigerator and skim the coagulated fat before it is fully melted.  Then, I cut it thinly against the grain.  I warm it up in the oven before dinner.

Tip:  Brisket is braised and cooked slowly.  To braise the meat without adding oil, I first sear it by broiling both sides in the oven, before I dress it.  The high heat melts most of the fat.  It takes about 10-15 min. on each side.  I then add the wine and honey, spices, and onion, cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and continue to roast in a 350 degree F oven for about 2 hrs.  I determine doneness with the aid of a thermometer.  Cutting against the grain is a must, for a tender slice of brisket.

I will have seconds…of fish, that is.

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