It's an old English country dish whose savour belies the bad rap English cooking gets. Both Elizabeth David and Jane Grigson gave their versions under this name, but you find variations of it in many English sources. Therefore, it is not original to me, I stress this. I first read of it in one of Elizabeth's David's books. I use a few pounds of either brisket (fat and lean both represented if possible), chuck or top round. Any flattish, regularly-formed second cut of meat is good. Onions. Flour. Port. Beer (preferably black stout or any bitter beer). Dust meat all round with flour - no browning. You can shake in a bag for this purpose. (Salt and pepper to taste goes without saying). Place in roaster. Slice onion (any kind) relatively thickly, you may need two or three onions. Place onion slices on top of meat to cover, i.e., in one layer. Mix port and beer. Any sweet port or sherry is good. I like a cup of the alcohols for every two pounds or so, but you can use different amounts, use your judgment but don't use too much liquid, it is a braise. Pour the beer-and-port over the meat and onion. Cover. Bake at 350, it will take 1.5-2 hrs depending on size and type of meat, of course longer if you use a larger cut of meat. You can do it at 325 too but it will take longer.
I like to gather the liquid, reduce it, defat it partly, slice meat and lace the slices with the sauce. Or plate on a large oval serving dish in this way.
Serve with a good California red or the beer you used.
Gary Gillman, Toronto.
P.S. Elizabeth David advises to add a couple of tablespoons of vinegar or "mushroom ketchup" (one of those tart-sweet bottled sauces which emerged from the Anglo-Indian cuisine. This would make 6 ingredients, so I don't include it above and I find if you use a good bitter ale or stout or especially the currently fashionable "sour" beers you don't need it. But I mention it for general information. —Gary Gillman
piece of brisket, top round, or similar
black stout (craft preferred) or any bitter or sour beer or ale