We can remember a time when cooking a brisket was a gamble of the highest order. Sometimes mom lifted the lid off the pot and produced a cut of meat so tender you could spread it like pâté. Other times, a tough piece of meat produced a quiet, collective disappointment rivaled only by mealtime in The Grapes of Wrath. Our knowledge of cooking challenging cuts of meat has come a long way — thanks largely to an onslaught of Food Network programs and the general osmosis of scientific cooking techniques into the home kitchen. Braising is one technique we now better understand.
This being the Month of Beef, we decided to braise six pounds of Wagyu brisket given to us by DeBragga, one of the tri-state area’s finest meat purveyors (and one we profiled in our survey of mail-order meat companies).
Find out how to cook such a beastly brisket after the jump.
You may ask yourself, “When will I ever find myself clutching 96 ounces of Wagyu brisket?” The truth is, you may not. We were a little shocked when our monstrosity of a cut showed up at GP HQ. The important thing to remember is that brisket from any breed of cow will do. Wagyu happens to be exceptionally well-marbled with fat, but the beauty of braising — cooking a piece of meat on low heat in the oven, sitting in liquid, covered — is that it’s designed for tough cuts. It slowly breaks down the connective tissue and releases collagen, which thickens the liquid and keeps the meat tender.
To make sure we didn’t mess up such fine piece of beef, we consulted with Wes Whitsell, a private chef who has cooked at Gjelina and Canele in California and at Little Owl in New York (he also cooked for Diddy at one point). He’s a Texan, and he knows his way around a side of beef. He explained the process; we improvised on the proportions.
Braised Wagyu Brisket
6 lbs Wagyu brisket (or regular brisket)
1 bag of celery (about 10 stalks)
1 bag of carrots (about 10 carrots)
1 can of tomatoes
3 bay leaves
1 handful of fresh thyme
Grapeseed oil (or other high temperature cooking oil)
Salt and pepper
Heat oven to 300°. Roughly chop onions, carrots and celery. Season the brisket liberally with salt and pepper. In a very large and deep skillet, heat enough grapeseed oil to coat the bottom, until smoking.
Sear the brisket on both sides to develop a rich brown crust. Remove from pan. Pour several cups of wine into the pan to deglaze (this removes the brown bits left from the brisket). Pour liquid from pan and reserve.
On high heat, cook vegetables in skillet until they develop some color. Return meat to pan, resting on top of the vegetables. Add tomatoes, herbs, reserved liquid, wine and stock. The proportion of wine to stock should be approximately 1:3, and the liquid should come up about halfway on the meat, but not cover it. Cover pan, either with a cover or with aluminum foil, and place in oven for six hours.
After six hours, remove skillet from oven. Remove meat from the skillet and set aside. Strain liquid from the pan and set aside the cooked vegetables. Reduce the strained liquid in a saucepan by about half. Slice meat and put it back in the skillet with vegetables and reduced liquid. Return to oven for a few minutes, until hot, and serve. Gorge until full, and then gorge some more.