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.
This is the first Merlot we've created since the 2012 vintage, but we felt that the fruit was so gorgeous this vintage that we couldn't pass it up. Merlot, one of the six Noble Grapes and one of the five Bordeaux varietals, is known for it's lucious character of red fruits, its easy tannins and soft finish. At Cultivar, we think these "easy drinking" qualities make Merlot one of the best wines to pair with a wide variety of dishes.
So, we caught up with our own Chef David and Nick Barker of Cultivar SF to ask them about the dishes they think our Merlot would compliment the best.
You may not think at first that an Autumn Salad would pair with Merlot, but we love the combination. Featuring spinach, Granny Smith apples, Bosc pears, Cultivar bacon, pepitas, dried cranberries, and golden balsamic dressing, it's a perfect combination of sweet and savory.
Our Ricotta Dip is another suprising choice: Caspar Estate Vegetables, peccorino romano, and melted mozzarella & ricotta give this dish a gooey decadence that punctuates the bright acids in our merlot. Chef David comments that the earthiness of the chanterelle mushrooms and the spinach pair make it a natural for Merlot. Nick loves this hearty, warm, winter dish and that it balances the medium body of merlot with a touch of fruit.
Chicken Mole? Yes, please! Chicken, homemade mole, polenta, cilantro cream, micro oregano and cotija cheese create an explosion of flavors. Our Napa Valley Merlot refreshes the pallate and brings alll the incredible flavors to the fore. Chef David particularly likes the spices of the mole with the Napa Valley Merlot.
Come in to Cultivar SF on Sunday, November 15th to celebrate the public release of the Napa Valley Merlot and taste these pairings for yourself. When you order a glass of our 2017 Merlot you will receive a surprise paired bite.