It’s a common misconception that guys don’t have dinner parties. Ask just about anybody and it’s the woman who invites the guests, prepares the meal, and plays host, while the man lends a hand when told to but mostly does his best to stay out of the way. And if a single guy has people over, he’ll usually just order a pizza or break out the chips and dip. Nothing wrong with all that. But I propose that we turn the tables, so to speak, and take the initiative ourselves. Gentlemen, let’s do some cooking.
The trick for us guys is to be able to feel relatively confident as we enter this territory, known as the kitchen. With that in mind, let me help show you how to take an ordinary piece of meat and transform it into an extraordinary meal. There are 10 good reasons for you to play along.
- It’s simple. While nothing in the kitchen is entirely foolproof, this dish is pretty hard to screw up.
- You only need one pot. Which means there’s less to clean up. Although if you’re doing the cooking, someone else should clean up anyway.
- Whether you are trying to impress a date, feeding a family or entertaining a group of football-watching friends, you can serve this dish to equal appreciation. In other words—all types dig it.
- This is one of those foods that you smell before you eat. Its rich, intoxicating scent fills the household and creates a sense of anticipation and hunger (both good things, particularly if you’re cooking for a date).
- It produces a boatload of glorious gravy on its own, which is a perfect covering for a smooth mound of mashed potatoes or can be sopped up enthusiastically with a loaf of crusty bread.
- Speaking of bread, you might want to plan on leftovers because this meat makes a serious sandwich the next day.
- It’s a great food for the fall because it’s comforting, warm, and appropriately filling.
- You need only to know two important cooking techniques: searing and braising. Don’t be afraid; everyone does it.
- The recipe is highly adaptable; you can adjust it according to your own taste and creativity. Make it as spicy or sweet, as Latino or Jewish as you like.
- Most important, it’s mouth-watering delicious and “fall-off-the-bone” tender. And there’s not even a bone.
Yes, my friends: Say hello to Beer Braised Brisket of Beef. The name brisket itself may not be sexy, but the dish is.
You need only a few things to proceed:
A large pot with a tight-fitting lid that’s big enough to house the hunk of meat you’re about to cook. It is generally called a stockpot or the more interesting sounding “Dutch Oven.”
The meat, onions, garlic, some type of tomato product, and beer. Salt, pepper, and oil also come into play.
A little bit of patience; magnificence can’t be rushed .
Here’s the process, broken down:
The amount of brisket obviously depends on how many eaters; figure about ¾ pound uncooked per person, but I’d encourage more because leftovers rock.
The onion and garlic add a lot of flavor, so I use plenty of both, particularly the onions, which benefit from long cooking to become sweet and soft.
By “tomato product” I mean some form of canned tomato. It can be whole tomatoes, crushed, pureed, or tomato paste, any of which will add color and taste to the mix. Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve also used ketchup successfully.
The beer is used to “braise” the meat, which means slow cooking in liquid. With sufficient heat and time, the alcohol will cook out of the beer but leave behind a rich flavor. So you might want to splurge on something fuller bodied, like an amber beer. But if you prefer to make this without beer, you can easily substitute beef or vegetable broth and still achieve delicious results.
The bit about patience. Once you handle the simple pre-game prep, which involves some slicing, seasoning, and searing, your brisket becomes like a reluctant starlet who wants to be left alone—at least for a couple of hours. But that’s good, too, fellas. Life is fast enough, dinner shouldn’t have to be.
Now for the game plan:
1. Get your ingredients.
1 beef brisket (about 3 pounds to feed four)
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thin
1 tablespoon salt and ground black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional, but nice if you like a little kick)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3-4 large onions, peeled and sliced
3 bottles lager or amber beer (can substitute with 3 cups beef or chicken broth)
10 ounce can of crushed tomatoes OR 1 small can of tomato paste
2. Make the brisket
- Pat the brisket dry. With the tip of a sharp knife, make slits in both sides of the meat and stuff with thin slices of garlic. The more you like garlic, the more slits you’ll make. Season each side very generously with 2/3 of the salt and pepper.
- Place oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium high flame. When hot, brown the brisket on both sides, lowering heat as necessary so as not to burn.
- When nicely browned, add beer, onions, remaining salt, tomato product, and cayenne if you’re using. There should be enough liquid to cover about 2/3 of the brisket. If you need more liquid, you can also use broth to supplement the beer. Stir and bring mixture to boil, then lower the flame so that broth remains “simmering”, i.e. not vigorous, but still moving gently. Cover the pot. (You can leave it on top of stove OR place in a 325-degree pre-heated oven.)
- Cook until meat is very tender but not falling apart, at least two hours. More is fine. Just make sure to check along the way to ensure that you still have some liquid in the pot. Add more if necessary.
- Remove brisket to a carving board and cover it with aluminum foil. Now look at the remaining oniony broth/gravy and decide if you like what you see or you would like it to be thicker. If so, put it back on the stovetop, at a higher temperature, and cook until it reaches the consistency you desire. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more salt or pepper if necessary. Then slice brisket AGAINST the grain and top with onion gravy.
3. Add the finishing touches:
Serve alongside something that will welcome all the sauce, like mashed potatoes, noodles, couscous or a baguette and some bagged salad greens with a sprinkle of olive oil, lemon, and salt.
Once you understand the basic technique of searing and braising you can customize your own version with a variety of flavorful additions that excite you—40 cloves of garlic, herbs like thyme or a little rosemary, spices such as cumin or curry powder, red wine instead of beer, dried apricots, or carrots and parsnips added during the last hour of cooking.
If you or your guests don’t feel like brisket, go ahead and braise short ribs. Or a shoulder of pork. The concept is the same: season and sear the meat, add aromatics like garlic and onion, and then cook slowly in a flavorful liquid until it gets as tender as you are tough.
Now rejoice and eat meat! This time around, you may enjoy the journey just as much as the destination.
Robert Rosenthal earned a professional culinary degree while president of a top global advertising agency. He has also performed stand-up in New York's hottest comedy clubs, hosted his own food programs on TV and radio, and written articles for Cookie, Adweek, and Advertising Age.