Sunday Dinner Braised Brisket with Leek & Carrot Gravy


Photo by Michael Piazza / Styled by Catrine Kelty

I adore brisket any time of year, but the traditional braising liquid of red wine, onions and tomato sauce seemed too heavy for a springtime meal, so I replaced it with white wine and leeks. This lighter sauce pairs well with spring vegetable sides like peas, asparagus or sautéed spinach, and is especially nice with mashed potato. The added gremolata and horseradish cream make the dish festive—but obviously leave out the cream if you keep kosher. The recipe is loosely based on a beer-braised brisket from the excellent Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin, where salsa verde, black lentils and rapini greens are its wintertime accompaniments, all of which would be equally delicious in spring.

Serves 6–8 people, with leftovers
(to serve a larger crowd, get a bigger piece of meat but keep the rest of the recipe the same, adding at least another hour to the cooking time.)

For the brisket:
4 pounds beef brisket, fat cap intact
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
granulated garlic
4 onions, sliced lengthwise into ½-inch wedges
12 carrots, mix of orange and yellow, peeled and cut into 2-inch lengths
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
4 leeks, cleaned, halved lengthwise, and sliced into ½-inch half moons
3½ cups homemade chicken or beef stock (organic boxed broth is fine, too)
1½ cups dry white wine
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
6 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half lengthwise, any green shoots removed
½ teaspoon organic cane sugar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
thyme sprigs

Preheat the oven to 350°. About an hour before you plan to cook the brisket, remove it from the fridge and score the fat cap with a sharp knife. Season it heavily all over with lots of kosher salt and cracked pepper, then sprinkle lightly on both sides with a dusting of granulated garlic. Cover loosely with wax paper and let sit at room temperature until ready to cook (you can season up to a day ahead and store in the refrigerator, if you like, but remember to bring the meat out an hour before cooking to bring to room temperature).

Heat a well-seasoned cast iron skillet to smoking hot and add the brisket, fat side down, and sear 6-8 minutes per side or until well-browned. Remove the meat to a platter and add the onions and carrots to the skillet; season with salt and pepper and the thyme leaves and sauté until lightly browned. Scrape the onions and carrots into the bottom of a large roasting pan, big enough to hold the brisket. Repeat with the leeks, letting them soften and brown lightly before adding to the onions and carrots; stir to combine. Warm the stock, wine, and vinegar in the residual heat of the skillet, pour over the vegetables, and place the browned brisket on top.

Sprinkle the meat with the sugar, spread the mustard on top with an offset spatula, and season again with plenty of cracked pepper. Scatter some thyme sprigs around the pan, cut a piece of parchment paper to fit inside the roasting pan and cover the pan with a tight layer of aluminum foil. Place in the oven and braise, covered, 2 hours.

After 2 hours has elapsed, remove the foil and parchment (but save them for a later use) and return to the oven for another 2 hours. When the brisket is tender all the way through (test with the tip of a sharp knife), remove from the oven and cover loosely with the reserved parchment and foil to rest, at least 15 minutes.

You can serve the brisket right away, but it’s even better cooked a day or so in advance, sliced once cool, and reheated smothered in the leek and carrot gravy. Serve with a generous sprinkle of gremolata and a dollop of horseradish whipped cream.

For the gremolata:
1 bunch flat-leaf Italian parsley, finely minced
zest of 2 Meyer lemons (or combined zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon)
2 cloves garlic, minced

Combine all three ingredients in a small bowl. Sprinkle over each serving of brisket at the table.

For the optional horseradish whipped cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons jarred horseradish (or 1 tablespoon if freshly grated)
1 tablespoon Meyer lemon juice
1 tablespoon Meyer lemon zest or a combination of orange and lemon
salt, sugar, and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Using an electric mixer, whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Fold in the horseradish, lemon juice, lemon zest, and season with salt, a pinch of sugar, and lots of black pepper. Spoon over the sliced brisket at the table, if desired.

This recipe appeared in the Spring 2015 issue.