I’m a nice jewish boy, so I grew up eating a lot of brisket. Brisket’s an interesting piece of meat. By almost any reasonable standard, it’s an absolutely godawful cut of beef. It’s ridiculously tough. We’re not talking just a little bit chewy here: you can cook a hunk of brisket for four hours, still have something that’s inedible, because your teeth can’t break it down. It’s got a huge layer of fat on top – but the meat itself is completely lean – so if you cook it long enough to be chewable, it can be dry as a bone.
But my ancestors were peasants. They couldn’t afford to eat beef normally, and when special occasions rolled around, the only beef they could afford was the stuff that no one else wanted. So they got briskets.
If you get interested in foods, though, you learn that many of the best foods in the world started off with some poor peasant who wanted to make something delicious, but couldn’t afford expensive ingredients! Brisket is a perfect example. Cook it for a good long time, or in a pressure cooker, with lots of liquid, and lots of seasoning, and it’s one of the most flavorful pieces of the entire animal. Brisket is really delicious, once you manage to break down the structure that makes it so tough. These days, it’s become super trendy, and everyone loves brisket!
Anyway, like I said, I grew up eating jewish brisket. But then I married a Chinese woman, and in our family, we always try to blend traditions as much as we can. In particular, because we’re both food people, I’m constantly trying to take things from my tradition, and blend some of her tradition into it. So I wanted to find a way of blending some chinese flavors into my brisket. What I wound up with is more japanese than chinese, but it works. The smoky flavor of the dashi is perfect for the sweet meatiness of the brisket, and the onions slowly cook and sweeten, and you end up with something that is distinctly similar to the traditional jewish onion-braised-brisket, but also very distinctly different.
- 1 brisket.
- 4 large onions.
- 4 packets of shredded bonito flakes from an asian market.
- 4 large squares of konbu (japanese dried kelp)
- 1 cup soy sauce.
- 1 cup apple cider.
- Random root vegetables that you like. I tend to go with carrots and daikon radish, cut into 1 inch chunks.
- First, make some dashi:
- Put about 2 quarts of water into a pot on your stove, and bring to a boil.
- Lower to a simmer, and then add the konbu, and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Turn off the heat, add the bonito, and then let it sit for 10 minutes.
- Strain out all of the kelp and bonito, and you’ve got dashi!.
- Slice all of the onions into strips.
- Cut the brisket into sections that will fit into an instant pot or other pressure cooker.
- Fill the instant pot by laying a layer of onions, followed by a piece of brisket, followed by a layer of onions until all of the meat is covered in onions.
- Take your dashi, add the apple cider, and add soy sauce until it tastes too salty. That’s just right (Remember, your brisket is completely unsalted!) Pour it over the brisket and onions.
- Fill in any gaps around the brisket and onions with your root vegetables.
- Cook in the instant pot for one hour, and then let it slowly depressurize.
- Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 275.
- Transfer the brisket from the instant pot to a large casserole or dutch oven. Cover with the onions. Taste the sauce – it should be quite a bit less salty. If it isn’t salty enough, add a bit more sauce sauce; if it tastes sour, add a bit more apply cider.
- Cook in the oven for about 1 hour, until the top has browned; then turn the brisket over, and let it cook for another hour until the other side is brown.
- Slice into thick slices. (It should be falling apart, so that you can’t cut it thin!).
- Strain the fat off of the broth, and cook with a bit of cornstarch to thicken into a gravy.