Holiday gatherings this year are going to be a little different especially depending on where you live. We’re in San Francisco, and since March 2020 we’ve been sheltering in place. With a vaccine for COVID-19 still under development, we’ll be celebrating Chanukah with just our immediate family. And we’ll be enjoying a mouthwatering brisket that’s perfectly sized for our family of 3.
There are tons of recipes for entertaining hordes on the Internet. Few explain how one might make a brisket for themselves and their partner. This recipe is for an intimate Chanukah dinner—a couple, two roommates, a parent and a teen, a parent and two littles.
This recipe is the result of years of research, experimentation, and troubleshooting. So, rather than simply modifying another recipe - a hit or miss proposition at best - give this stress-free recipe a try.
Four Tips for a Mouthwatering Brisket
I’ve found there are four things that increase your odds of serving a mouthwatering meal your family will reminisce fondly about for years to come...and none of them involve browning your brisket before tossing it into the slow cooker. Browning your brisket won’t save your meal if you make one of the following rookie errors:
1. Don’t even proceed with this recipe if your well-meaning butcher trims the fat off your brisket. (It won’t work so don’t even try it; make a lovey beef stew instead.
2. If you can’t find brisket, don’t blindly toss a different cut of meat into your slow cooker. Brisket is the toughest of cuts, so the length of time in the slow cooker is too long for other more expensive cuts like Prime Rib.
3. Cooking on HIGH for half the time will not save you from poor time management skills or lack of planning. Wake up early if you want to eat it the same day you make it; start it the night before to rest when you rise and finish in the oven later; or just make it the day before, let it rest overnight, and finish in the morning.
4. Make sure you have the same size brisket as the recipe. Your liquid-to-meat ratio as well as cooking time won’t be the same if you’re using more or less than 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds of beef brisket. Also, you need one cut that’s 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds. If your portion is less than a pound, chop up and make beef stew.
And now...the recipe!
The Ultimate Brisket
This slow cooker recipe doesn’t require you to use your oven or stovetop. You’ll chop your vegetables and toss them, the brisket, and sauces into your slow cooker and basically forget it for a few hours.
Note: Because you’ll flip the brisket halfway through the cooking process, this isn’t a good recipe to start before you go to bed. If you’re planning on eating Chanukah dinner earlier in the day, you can leave it to cook overnight, just flip the brisket in the morning and cook on slow for an additional hour.
Before you start assembling ingredients, we need to chat about cooking with wine. To save money you may be tempted to select a bottle of “cooking wine” from your grocery aisle. Don’t do that. My cousin, a chef, chastised me for doing this years ago. “If you wouldn’t drink a wine, you shouldn’t cook with it.”
Now, this doesn’t mean if you’re serving an expensive bottle that you need to use it for cooking. He recommends choosing the same varietal of wine or in a pinch same color. We enjoyed our brisket with 2016 Cultivar Cabernet Sauvignon Leaky Lake Vineyard ($98) and added Merlot to our brisket in the slow cooker.
Ingredients (Serves 2):
3 yellow gold potatoes, quartered
A bunch of baby carrots, cut in thirds
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pound beef brisket, flat cut
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 Tablespoon soy or tamari sauce
1 1/2 cups beef or mushroom broth
1/2 cup Merlot, Pinot Noir, or Cabernet Sauvignon (if you don’t have wine, substitute with broth)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large yellow or red onion, sliced in half moons
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
Instructions (cooking time: 8-9 hours)
Red wine lovers will rejoice when you bring out this brisket. Because of the subtle flavors in this dish, you can easily serve it with Pinot Noir, a well-balanced Cabernet Sauvignon, or even a Merlot.
Which of the three reds you pair your Chanukah brisket with will come down to personal tastes (and your side dishes). For me, mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy screams Pinot Noir. My husband is partial to Cabernets with beef, so I swapped the mashed potatoes with latkes and delicata squash. We chose the 2016 Cultivar Cabernet Sauvignon Leaky Lake Vineyard over the 2018 Cultivar Cabernet Sauvignon Napa County to avoid having tannins overwhelm the apple sauce and squash. Don’t fret: the 2018 Cultivar Cabernet Sauvignon Napa County had its moment in the spotlight when we served our Vegetarian Harvest meal (coming to the blog soon).
Eden Hensley Silverstein is a third-generation Californian, who has been feeding her family, friends, and soon-to-be friends around her kitchen table since she was in third grade. Along with her husband, 8.5 year old daughter, and Maine Coon/Ragamuffin rescue cat, she makes 849 sq ft a welcoming home in The Mission. They share recipes and misadventures on The Road to the Good Life.
What does it take to produce a truly world class Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon? First of all, it takes fruit: grapes grown in that special region that winds around only 2% of the earth's surface and includes the Napa Valley. But just as important, it takes the expert touch of a master winemaker, someone who can combine artistry, chemistry and a little bit of magic into their craft. For Caspar Estate, that winemaker is Julien Fayard.
Julien is a firm believer that the wine is made in the vineyard. He frequently walks the vineyards and checking on the fruit. Our vineyards have several microclimates because of the row layout and the pockets of the hills and valleys. Julien is very selective, starting with the fruit that is ripe - it can be mid row but often it starts at the end of the row on the western side since it gets the most late afternoon sunlight.
On September 23rd, 2020, Julien supervised the harvest of several tons of our estate cabernet sauvignon, grown on slopes located above the Rutherford Bench in Napa. It was a gorgeous day, producing equally gorgeous fruit.
The fruit was quickly transported to Fayard Winemaking, Julien's custom winemaking facility at the south end of the valley. This is where the first, critical steps of the process will occur, though as Julien says, it's not the most important part: "Winemaking begins in the vineyard." Julien’s wines are a pure expression of Caspar Estate terroir, highlighting the characteristics of the fruit, vineyard management, soil and climate.