Hanukkah ended on Sunday, but, brisket season continues. Robin Wachner, who as director of communications for the OC Fair & Event Center is something of an expert on deep-fried everything, made her family’s traditional 3-Hour Brisket over the holiday.
Wachner’s recipe is from her paternal grandmother, Lillian Zohn née Rosenfeld, who got it from her mother, Wachner’s great-grandmother—though as is often the case with heirloom recipes, the family doesn’t know how exactly how far back it goes. “It’s something I always want my mother to make when I visit her in Florida,” says Wachner, who lives in North Tustin with her husband and son.
It’s easy to see why this particular preparation has persisted in the family food lexicon. Loads of rich, beefy-tomatoey sauce, chunky carrots and potatoes, and ultra-tender brisket slices make a delicious one-pot meal. You can serve with crusty bread, but Wachner’s family also serves kasha varnishkes, the classic buckwheat groat-farfalle side dish, because, well, sometimes potatoes aren’t quite enough starch. (Use the recipe on the medium-granulation Wolff’s Kasha box—so good.)
Your house will rarely smell as good as it does when this brisket is burbling away in the oven. Time is quite flexible—brisket is one of those delightfully forgiving cuts of meat—you might pad the one-hour increments a bit if your brisket is more than four pounds, and you can certainly lower the heat to 300 or 275 degrees near the end if you need it to wait a bit. It’s done when a long fork can effortlessly pierce the thickest part of the roast.
Robin Wachner’s 3-Hour Brisket
(Makes 8 servings)
1 4-pound flat-cut brisket
Salt, freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, optional
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 carrots, peeled, cut in half, and then into 1-inch lengths
6 stalks celery, strings removed, cut into 1-inch lengths
2 15-ounce cans tomato sauce
5 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into eighths
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Generously season brisket all over with salt and pepper. Heat Dutch oven or other large, oven-safe pot with lid and, starting fat-side-down, brown meat well on both sides. If brisket has been completely trimmed of exterior fat, use 2 tablespoons vegetable oil to brown. Remove to plate.
Add onion and garlic to pot, and sauté a few minutes, stirring, until onion begins to look translucent. Deglaze pot with about 1 cup water, scraping up browned bits. Return meat to pot fat-side-up, with any accumulated juices. Add carrots and celery to pot, season with salt and pepper. Add additional water to almost cover, leaving top of meat exposed.
Cover pot, put in oven, and cook 1 hour.
Add tomato sauce; cook 1 hour.
Add potatoes; cook 1 hour.
When brisket is very tender, carefully remove and slice across the grain. Serve with vegetables and sauce.