So maybe you’re over the whole hearts, flowers, and fatty chocolate foolishness. Maybe your current idea of romance is a bit less predictable, something juicy, primal, perhaps thickly sliced, cloaked in a sheen of perfectly caramelized glaze: brisket, the-ever elusive, nearly unknowable cut of beef that, not unlike a romance, demands patience and perseverance.
The brisket’s scarlet beauty seems to promise the most tender of relationships with a slow hand and some culinary wiles. Seduce her with a warm, saucy bath, both during and after cooking time, and then she’s all yours (after 15 minutes of beauty rest, of course).
Be My Brisket, for the Sweet and Smoky Valentine
Serves 8 to 10
1 large, sweet onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups ketchup, preferably low sugar
1/2 stick butter
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce, or more, to taste
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 chipotle pepper, minced, plus 2 teaspoons of adobo sauce
3 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon liquid smoke
4 1/2-pound brisket
Coarse salt and pepper, for seasoning brisket
3 tablespoons light olive oil or canola
Sauté onion in cooking spray until softened over medium heat, about 5 minutes, in a large saucepan. Add garlic and sauté 2 minutes more. Add ketchup, butter, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, chipotle pepper and adobo, chili powder, cayenne, horseradish, salt and liquid smoke. Bring to a slow simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Preheat oven to 325F.
As sauce simmers, season brisket with salt and pepper on both sides. In a large skillet, sear brisket until nicely browned on both sides. Coat a large Dutch oven with cooking spray and place the brisket fat side up. Ladle 3 cups of the sauce over brisket, cover and cook for 3 to 3 1/2 hours, check brisket every hour, basting as necessary with a small measuring cup.
At 3 hours, use tongs to gently squeeze brisket (do not puncture). If brisket has a bit of wiggle to it and feels tender, remove from oven, place on a large platter or cutting board and cover loosely with foil. Allow to rest for 15 to 20 minutes before slicing. To serve, drizzle with remaining sauce.
Diva Confession: Unless your brisket sports over an inch or two of fat, leave it alone. Trimming the fat means trimming the flavor, not to mention the tenderness. Cooking the brisket in a Dutch oven keeps the heat slow and steady, trapping all those delicious juices in the pan.