Like many Jewish dishes, brisket developed out of necessity. Many Jewish home cooks in Eastern Europe could not afford expensive cuts of meat. So they found ways to transform the tougher, thriftier cuts into something desirable by braising them for extended periods of time until they turned juicy and tender. In twentieth-century America, the dish took on a modern flavor, with cooks adding everything from ketchup and chili sauce to onion soup mix. In the American South, cola became a popular brisket ingredient, with the carbonation contributing to the meat’s tender texture, and the syrup adding sweetness. This version keeps things classic and clean, with red wine, tomatoes, garlic, and thyme providing the base of flavor. Brisket takes a while to make, but there is relatively little prep—the majority of the magic happens in the oven. It also tastes even better on the second or third day, the perfect make-ahead dish for any festive dinner.
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C/gas mark 3).
2. Generously sprinkle both sides of the brisket with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven (casserole) or other large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the brisket and cook, turning once, until browned on both sides, 8 to 10 minutes total. (If the brisket does not fit the pan, cut it in half and sear it in two batches.)
3. Remove the brisket from the pot and set aside. Add the onions, carrots, thyme, garlic, bay leaves, wine, and vinegar. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until the vegetables soften slightly and the mixture is fragrant, about 5 minutes.
4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the tomatoes, stock, honey, onion powder, garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon salt until fully combined. If you used a Dutch oven: Lay the brisket on top of the onions and carrots and pour the wine-tomato mixture on top. Cover and transfer to the oven. If you used a pot: Transfer the onion and carrot mixture to a roasting pan and top with the brisket, then pour the wine-tomato mixture on top, cover tightly with foil, and transfer to the oven.
5. Bake for 2 hours. Remove from the oven, uncover, and carefully flip the meat over. Re-cover and continue cooking until the meat is fork-tender, another 1 to 2 hours.
6. Transfer the meat to a carving board, cover loosely with foil, and let rest 10 to 15 minutes before slicing against the grain. Discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Use a slotted spoon to remove the onions and arrange around the brisket. Spoon some pan juices over the brisket before serving.
Adapted from The Jewish Cookbook © 2019 by Leah Koenig. Reproduced by permission of Phaidon. All rights reserved.