Fall Brisket: For You, A Recipe From The Artisan Jewish Deli At Home

Stalwarts of the recent deli revival offer a seasonal brisket in which apple cider tenderizes the meat and a sweet side of squash.

Special To The Jewish Week
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"The Artisan Jewish Deli at Home:" a book review by Amy Kritzer

With warm weather, friendly people, and the faint smell of BBQ in the air, living in Austin, Texas is a dream. But there is one thing I miss from the east coast. Classic Jewish deli noshes are nearly unheard of here. Good luck trying to find a knish in this town! Though there are plans to add a deli, for now I often resort to making my own Reubens and kugel. And now I have some new recipes to try. The Artisan Jewish Deli at Home by Nick Zukin and Michael C. Zusman is a bible of sorts with recipes for all things pickled, cured and schmaltzy.

Beginning with a brief history of Jewish deli in the United States, and its unfortunate recent decline, Zukin, co-founder of Kenny & Zuke’s Delicatessen in Portland, OR and Zusman, a state court judge, baker and food writer, dive right into the good stuff.

Basic recipes for Chicken Broth and Schmaltz set the stage for Matzo Ball Soup, Cheese Blintzes, Homemade Corned Beef and Bagels. Many of the recipes could have come from your Bubbe’s collection and are doable for the home cook. Simple, flavored schmears and chocolate-dipped coconut macaroons are easy enough to make you wonder why these aren’t staples in your own kitchen. Homemade bagels and pastrami take more skill and time, but they’re worth it.

With cheesy Pastrami and Cheddar Scones, or Zuke’s “Diet” Salad with chicken and blue cheese, this cookbook contains recipes that aren’t kosher – but then again, it’s not just for Jews, either. Anyone with an appetite for home-cured meats or American food history will enjoy the hearty recipes and anecdotes.

Though Zukin has his own deli, they also profile other greats, such as Wise Sons Deli and 2nd Avenue Deli, and offer brief explanations of Jewish food vernacular and the evolution of deli cuisine.

Besides the classics, there are a few modern updates, such as slightly healthier Zucchini Latkes, to show how delis should evolve with food trends and tastes. Others, like Chocolate Babka French Toast, Challah Sticky Buns and Pastrami Benedict are just gluttonous fun.

But the classics are where The Artisan Jewish Deli at Home shines. The photos of spreads of bagels, schmears and pickled vegetables are gorgeous, but too few in number. If only there was a photo to go with each mouthwatering comfort food recipe!

Amy Kritzer is a food writer and recipe developer in Austin, TX who enjoys cooking, theme parties and cowboys. She challenges herself to put a spin on her Bubbe’s traditional Jewish recipes and blogs about her endeavors at What Jew Wanna Eat. Her recipes have been featured on Bon Appetit, Daily Candy, The Today Show Blog and more. You can follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook and watch her cooking videos on Google+.

3 pounds beef brisket
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
4 cups apple cider
2 cups dry red wine, such as Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel or Cotes-du-Rhone
6 sprigs fresh thyme, plus 1 tablespoon minced thyme
4 large cloves garlic, smashed
2 bay leaves
1 (2-pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 2-inch chunks
3 medium red onions, peeled and quartered, leaving the root intact
Recipe Steps: 
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 300 degrees Farenheit.
If needed, trim the excess fat from the brisket so that there is about a 1/4-inch-thick layer remaining. Pat the brisket dry with paper towels and season it generously with salt and pepper. Select a Dutch oven or stainless-steel roasting pan that will be large enough to accommodate the brisket, vegetables and braising liquid. Heat the pan over medium-high heat, and then add the oil. When the oil just begins to smoke, add the brisket, fat side down first, and brown it on both sides, 4 to 6 minutes per side. Remove the brisket from the pan and set aside.
Carefully pour off and discard all of the fat from the pan. Quickly add the cider, wine, thyme sprigs, garlic, bay leaves and 1 teaspoon salt and scrape the bottom of the pan to release any browned bits. Return the meat to the pan, fat side up, with any accumulated juices. Nestle the meat into the liquid so it is nearly covered. Increase the heat to high and bring the liquid to a boil. Cover the pan tightly with a lid or aluminum foil and transfer it to the oven.
Cook the meat for 1-1/2 hours, and turn the meat over in the pan. Cover and return the brisket to the oven. After another 1-3/4 hours of cooking, add the squash and onions to the pan, nestling them under and around the brisket. Continue cooking until the squash and onions are tender when pierced with a fork and the meat is very tender and easily shreds, 30 to 45 minutes longer. To test the brisket for doneness, use two forks to gently pull the meat apart in the center. If it is still a bit tough but the squash and onions are done, transfer the vegetables to an ovenproof dish using a slotted spoon; set them aside, covered with aluminum foil to keep warm. Continue to braise the brisket for about 15 minute smore, and then retest. The internal temperature should be 195 degrees Farenheit for lean brisket, or 205 degrees Farenheit if it is a fattier brisket.
When the brisket is done, transfer it to a cutting board, fat side up, while you finish the sauce. Decrease the oven temperature to 200 degrees Farenheit. Remove the butternut squash and onions from the braising liquid using a slotted spoon and place them in an ovenproof dish (if you did not do this earlier). Taste the vegetables and season them with salt, if needed. Cover the dish and put the vegetables in the oven to stay hot.
Strain the braising liquid into a small bowl, discarding the solids. Allow the fat to separate, and then skim and discard it. Clean out the pan and pour the braising liquid back in. Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat, and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is reduced to a thickened sauce that coats the back of a spoon, 15 to 20 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
Cut the brisket against the grain into 1/2-inch-thick slices, or, if it is too tender to slice, pull it apart into large chunks. Arrange the vegetables on a large serving platter, with the sliced brisket in the center. Spoon the sauce over the brisket and vegetables. Garnish with minced thyme. Serve immediately, passing any remaining sauce at the table.

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