"Brisket is the Zelig of the food world," says Joan Nathan, the Jewish-American cooking authority and author. "It takes on the flavor of whatever goes with it."
A "mountain" of onions and a bit of tomato flavor the brisket made by Joyce Goldstein, the San Francisco-based chef and author of "Tapas: Sensational Small Plates From Spain." But she notes some cooks are gussying the beef up with dried onion soup mix, chili sauce, honey, cranberry sauce, even Coca-Cola.
"So much stuff," she exclaimed. "And, so many liquids! Brisket can be so juicy, maybe they're cooking with horrible, dry meat."
A more elegant approach is achieved in the two versions here, which take inspiration and flavor from two different cuisines: Mexican and Persian.
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 1 hour, 25 minutes
Note: Mexican spicing gives a twist to brisket in this recipe from Jamie Geller's "Quick & Kosher Meals in Minutes." If you like, add pieces of zucchini or carrots to the pan during the last 40 minutes of cooking.
2 tablespoons each: packed dark brown sugar; dry mustard powder
1 tablespoon each: garlic powder, ground cumin, dried coriander, salt
1 teaspoon ancho or chipotle chili powder
1 beef brisket, about 2 1/2 pounds
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup beef broth
1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together brown sugar, mustard, garlic powder, cumin, coriander, salt and chili powder in a small bowl. Rub spice mixture all over the meat.
2. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the brisket; cook to brown one side, about 3 minutes. Turn, brown other side, about 3 minutes. Add broth to pan; cover. Cook to desired tenderness, 1 hour, 20 minutes to 2 hours. Let rest 15 minutes before slicing. Serve with pan juices.
Per serving: 326 calories, 40% of calories from fat, 14 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 80 mg cholesterol, 7 g carbohydrates, 41 g protein, 1,361 mg sodium, 1 g fiber.
Persian brisket with prunes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 1 hour, 20 minutes
Note: This recipe calls for beef brisket but can be made with veal brisket or lamb as originally published in Reyna Simnegar's "Persian Food from the Non-Persian Bride." Serve with rice, mashed potatoes or couscous.
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, presse
1 large onion, chopped
1 beef brisket, about 4 pounds
1 cup water
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed, optional
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg or allspice
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cups pitted prunes
1 tablespoon honey, optional
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, optional
1. Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onion; cook 1 minute. Add the brisket; cook to brown one side, about 3 minutes. Turn, brown other side, about 3 minutes. Add the water, ginger, salt, saffron, nutmeg and pepper. Stir well. Heat to a boil; reduce heat to simmer. Cover; cook 40 minutes.
2. Add the prunes, honey and cinnamon. Cover; simmer, stirring occasionally, to desired tenderness, 30-60 minutes. Let rest 15 minutes before slicing. Serve with pan juices; sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Per serving: 363 calories, 30% of calories from fat, 12 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 77 mg cholesterol, 23 g carbohydrates, 38 g protein, 181 mg sodium, 2 g fiber.
A note on ingredients:
Mustard is among items not eaten by Ashkenazic Jews during Passover, according to the New York City-based Orthodox Union.
Saffron could also prove a controversial addition because it may or may not be acceptable depending on custom, noted Rabbi Eli Eleff, rabbinic coordinator for the New York City-based Orthodox Union's kashruth division.
Cumin, dried coriander and ancho chili powder found in the Mexican brisket: The Union says these may require special checking to determine if they are kosher for Passover.