If your Passover seder looks anything like mine, brisket will be in attendance. Right there next to gefilte fish and matzo, the tender, stringy meat is a standard. Bold and reliable, it feeds a crowd and keeps them happy. But why, why is it so ubiquitous? Gefilte fish, matzo, charoset all have obvious symbolism, but brisket’s is harder to pin down. A (very light) research session led me to believe that brisket persists mainly due to that most reliable Jewish tenet—tradition. Because most of the Jews in the U.S. are of Ashkenazi, or Eastern European, descent, brisket is likely a memory of the old country, carried over to today for the sake of convenience and consistency. Sephardic Jewish tables, by contrast, might feature sweet and succulent legs of lamb or roasted whole fish stuffed with herbs. Mine, and many others, will feature brisket and, hey, that’s not such a bad thing. The cut of meat is endlessly versatile and reveals its best personality after a long, slow simmer. Here are five very different preparations to get you going:
Now, cooking meat in milk is the furthest thing from kosher, but that doesn’t mean this recipe isn’t worth a shot (diet permitting). The unique braise gives the meat an absurdly silky texture.
Here’s a brisket that sticks to tradition. It’s cooked in a familiar mix of tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce, with a dash of paprika and some Tabasco to boot.
This version is speckled with dried fruit and sweetened with saba, a grape-must reduction. The result is a syrupy glaze that’s just begging to be dipped into.
This recipe takes Jewish brisket and marries it with ghormeh sabzi, an iconic Iranian stew. The meat takes well to the herby, lime-y sauce.
Nach Waxman’s brisket goes light on the add-ins and heavy on the onions. Plus he’s got a great trick for making sure every slice of brisket is the best slice.
Do you eat brisket at Passover? Tell us your take in the comments below.