Celebrate Passover with (Almost) Mom’s Amazing Belgian Brisket

Ma’s Passover Brisket (Wendy Goodfriend)

Wendy Goodfriend’s lovely mom Suzi has been making this brisket for longer than I can remember, and I’ve known her for well over twenty years. In fact, she’s been making it for so long, and serving it at her annual Passover dinners, that it’s become legendary amongst her friends and family. I was lucky enough to get her recipe years ago, a scribbled note on a well-used (splattered) recipe card, which contains brief instructions that can be interpreted in multiple ways.

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This is my version of Suzi’s brisket, but with more detailed directions (and maybe a few embellishments of my own). I used a first cut brisket, which is what Suzi has always used. It’s the leaner cut of brisket, but as long as you leave a nice layer of fat on top (don’t trim it all away or the brisket won’t end up meltingly tender!) it turns out great.

The brisket is seasoned simply with salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper, then seared until brown on the stovetop. I throw plenty of onions in with the browned bits left in the pan to sop up all the flavor, and cook those until tender and golden before adding celery, plenty of garlic, and a bottle of beer. The secret ingredient though is the bottle of Heinz Chili Sauce that is spread over the top of the brisket. It adds a nice sweet and chili-spiced flavor to the tender, fall-apart slices of brisket.

After about 6 hours, I like to remove the brisket, get it all prepped and sliced, and then return it to the oven to finish cooking. That way, when it is fall-apart tender and ready to eat, you can take it directly from the oven to the table without any hassle. A great time-saver when you have a lot of guests around the table.

Roast the carrots separately and then use them to garnish the brisket. If you like, you could also add a couple of finely diced carrots to the onions to sweeten the sauce.

 Ma’s Passover Brisket
Ma’s Passover Brisket (Wendy Goodfriend)

Recipe: Mom’s Passover Brisket

Makes about 10 servings

    Ingredients:
  • 5–6 pound first cut (or center cut) beef brisket
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3 large yellow onions, peeled, quartered, and thinly sliced
  • 3 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 (12 fl oz) bottle amber beer or Guinness Stout for extra rich flavor (not kosher for Passover)
  • 1 (12 oz) bottle Heinz Chili Sauce (not kosher for Passover)
  • 1 large bunch small carrots, trimmed, scrubbed, and halved if large
  • Handful fresh chopped parsley, for garnish (optional)
    Instructions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Position one oven rack in the center of the oven and one in the lower third of the oven. Trim the thick layer of fat from the brisket, leaving 1/4 inch of fat. Pat the brisket dry, then season the brisket all over with the salt and pepper.
  2. Pat the brisket dry, then season the brisket all over with the salt and pepper.
    Pat the brisket dry, then season the brisket all over with the salt and pepper. (Wendy Goodfriend)
  3. Place a heavy roasting pan just large enough to hold the brisket on the stovetop and heat over medium-high. Add the 3 tablespoons oil, then add the brisket. Sear until well-browned on both sides, turning once, about 10 minutes total. Transfer to a platter.
  4. Sear until well-browned on both sides, turning once, about 10 minutes total.
    Sear until well-browned on both sides, turning once, about 10 minutes total. (Wendy Goodfriend)
  5. Add the sliced onions to the pan and stir with a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom. Cook until golden and softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in the celery, garlic, and beer, and turn off the heat.
  6. Add the sliced onions to the pan and stir with a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom. Cook until golden and softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in the celery.
    Add the sliced onions to the pan and stir with a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom. Cook until golden and softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in the celery. (Wendy Goodfriend)
    Add beer, and turn off the heat.
    Add beer, and turn off the heat. (Wendy Goodfriend)
  7. Place the brisket, fat side up, on top of the onion mixture. Pour the chili sauce evenly over the brisket. Cover the roasting pan tightly with two layers of aluminum foil. Transfer to the middle rack of the oven and braise, basting about once an hour, until the brisket is very tender, about 6 hours. (Add another beer to the sauce/braising liquid if it gets low or dry.)
  8. Place the brisket, fat side up, on top of the onion mixture. Pour the chili sauce evenly over the brisket.
    Place the brisket, fat side up, on top of the onion mixture. Pour the chili sauce evenly over the brisket. (Wendy Goodfriend)
    Cover the roasting pan tightly with two layers of aluminum foil.
    Cover the roasting pan tightly with two layers of aluminum foil. (Wendy Goodfriend)
    Transfer to the middle rack of the oven and braise, basting about once an hour.
    Transfer to the middle rack of the oven and braise, basting about once an hour. (Wendy Goodfriend)
  9. Transfer the brisket to a cutting board and tent with foil. Pour the sauce through a sieve into a bowl and skim the grease off the top. Add about half the onions to a 9x13 inch baking dish. Scrape the chili sauce off the top of the brisket and transfer to a small bowl. Trim away as much fat as you like, then cut the brisket across the grain into thin slices. Add the brisket slices to the baking dish, spread with the chili sauce, and top with the remaining onions. Add enough of the cooking liquid to come halfway up the side of the dish. Cover tightly with the foil and return to the oven for one more hour, or until the brisket is fall-apart tender.
  10. At the same time, spread the carrots on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place the baking sheet on the lower oven rack.
  11. You can serve the brisket straight out of the baking dish, topped with the carrots or transfer to a warm serving platter and surround with the carrots.
  12. Transfer to a warm serving platter and surround with the carrots.
    Transfer to a warm serving platter and surround with the carrots. (Wendy Goodfriend)

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