This is my mother Ruth's recipe. She didn't write any of it down, but I tried to for my family and friends. I think my mom may have adapted it from a recipe that required vinegar, substituting pickle brine since she always had pickles in the refrigerator. My mom served the brisket with green peas, fresh rye bread (easily available in NYC in the 50s and 60s), butter, and sliced kosher pickles. While my sister and I waited for our Dad to come home from work, we set the table. As we got hungrier, we made little sandwiches with pickles and the end pieces (the "heels") of the rye bread. Of course, if Dad was delayed, the sandwiches got bigger as we delved further into the loaf of rye!
This brisket is perfect for a traditional Jewish holiday dinner, but it's great for any occasion. I had a "brisket cook-off" for 12 people, where I made Ruth's Brisket, Oven Barbecued Brisket (adapted from Mark Bittman), Sweet & Sour Brisket (Food52), and Lemon Brisket (Melissa Clark). We compared them and while we loved them all, when we finished, everyone agreed Ruth's Brisket was our favorite. We'd eat it anytime!
freshly ground black pepper
Hungarian sweet paprika
3 to 3 1/2 pounds
brisket, first cut
large onion, chopped
large clove garlic, minced
medium white mushrooms, sliced
dry red wine
brine from kosher pickles, strained
6 to 10 ounces
cold water (more or less as needed)
Mix together salt, pepper, paprika, and dried herbs in a small bowl.
Dry brisket with paper towels and place meat on a plate with fatty
side top up.
Season fatty side with about half of the herb mixture.
Heat a large Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium heat and add oil to slick bottom.
Lower heat and add onions, garlic, and mushrooms to pot.
Sauté until onions are transparent (but do not let garlic burn), then remove mixture to a plate.
Turn up heat under pot to medium-high and put meat, fatty side down, in the now empty pot.
Sear bottom of meat until nicely browned, about 5 minutes.
Season top side of meat with remaining herb mixture.
Turn meat to sear second side, an additional 5 minutes.
When meat is browned and there is a crust of brown bits on the bottom of the pot, remove meat to plate with onion mixture.
Add wine to the now-empty pot to de-glaze, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan.
Stir in Worcestershire sauce, pickle brine, and tomato sauce.
Return onion mixture and the meat to the pot, with fatty side of meat up.
Add water as needed to come halfway up the sides of the meat so that the meat will braise.
Stir liquids in pot together to make a sauce and use a large spoon to transfer a little of sauce over the top of the meat.
Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 2 hours.
Peel and cut the potatoes into quarters; nestle them in the pot around the meat.
Cover the pot and continue to cook over low heat for 1 more hour.
Remove the meat to a carving board and cut thinly across the grain.
Return the meat to the pot and cook until the meat is tender and the potatoes are done (but not falling apart), about 1 hour more.
Serve immediately, either from the pot or from a serving dish.
Note: The brisket tastes even better the next day! Allow brisket to cool then transfer all to an oven-proof serving dish or a large pot. After refrigerating, scrape off the fat from the top if there's a lot. Warm brisket, potatoes, and sauce in serving dish in 325° F oven for 1 hour or in pot on stove-top.