Stevie Pierson on Her Love Story About Brisket

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What's not to love about brisket? Author Stephanie "Stevie" Pierson is convinced that a good brisket will not only satiate your appetite but improve your life. Pierson wrote "The Brisket Book" after realizing that while the delicious dish is in many cookbooks it doesn't have one of its own. They're not hard to find either, as you can pick up a brisket at your local supermarket.

Brisket bliss can also be found it the most unlikely places — such as an Oregonian man who surprised his daughter with a brisket birthday cake. Pierson gets brisket recipes from the cream of the culinary crop as she pens a true love story with recipes.

Braised Fresh Brisket in Stout with Onions
Adapted from Simon Hopkinson's Second Helpings of Roast Chicken, Hyperion, 2001

Serves 4

The saucy British chef and writer, Simon Hopkinson, believes that what the world needs today is simple, old-fashioned food made from the finest ingredients, handled with tender care, hence this gloriously rich, deeply delicious stew. "Do not," he writes, "be alarmed over the quantity of the onions; they should be looked upon as almost a vegetable here in their own right . . ." If you can't find mushroom ketchup, (not readily available in the United States), Hopkinson suggests substituting Worcestershire sauce, using a little less because it is spicier.

1 (2-pound) beef brisket

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons beef dripping or lard

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter

3 1/3 pounds onions, peeled and sliced

3 to 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon mushroom ketchup

1 tablespoon anchovy paste

1 cup stout

1 cup beef stock

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

Preheat the oven to 275°F.

Season the brisket all over with salt and pepper, then dredge with flour. Melt the dripping or lard in a deep cast iron lidded casserole dish until very hot.

Sear the meat on all surfaces and remove to a plate. Pour off all of the fat and then add the butter; there is a lot of it, but this is necessary to cope with the large amount of onions. Allow the butter to become fully melted and turn frothy and toasty-smelling before carefully tipping in the onions. Stir them around thoroughly in the butter until well coated and do not add any salt (this can prevent the onions from browning).

Gently sweat over very low heat with the lid on, stirring from time to time, until they have flopped down into the bottom of the pan as a slippery muddle; this can take anything up to 30 to 40 minutes or so.

Turn the heat up a little now and, stirring more frequently, allow the onions to color to a deep, rich, golden brown. Add the vinegar, allow it to bubble furiously, and drive most of it off over full heat until the onions are dry and buttery once more. Stir in the mushroom ketchup, anchovy paste, stout, stock, and bay leaves.

Bring up to a simmer and remove any scum that forms on the surface with a ladle. Slip the beef back into the pot and bury it under the onions and liquid.

Cover with a sheet of wax paper cut to fit the dimensions of the pot and press gently down upon the surface.

Put on the lid and cook in the oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until completely tender when poked with a skewer. Check for seasoning and stir in some of the parsley. Remove the beef to a cutting board, trim the fat, and slice against the grain.

Serve the meat and the contents of the pot in deep soup plates and sprinkle with the rest of the parsley.

Also, per request by listener who commented below:

My former best friend's ex-mother-in-law's brisket:

Serves 6 to 8

If you love your brisket bathed in a sweet, rich, thick tomatoey sauce, this is for you. When I got this recipe, I had never made a brisket before. And suddenly, I was a star. This takes next to no prep time, uses simple ingredients, and always gets raves. I add fresh carrots for sweetness, texture, and to assuage my guilt about using so many packaged ingredients. Tiny tips: the foil just adds an extra seal. And if the sauce is too thin at the end, just reduce it in a pan on top of the stove.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 (3- to 4-pound) beef brisket, trimmed
1 cup red wine (something big and rich, like a Malbec)
1 cup Heinz chili sauce
1 cup Heinz ketchup
1 envelope Lipton dry golden onion soup mix
4 large carrots, peeled, trimmed, and sliced on the bias into 1-inch pieces
Handful chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

In a large heavy skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add the brisket and brown on both sides, 5 to 7 minutes per side. Transfer the brisket to a platter and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the wine, chili sauce, ketchup, and 1 cup of water, and set aside.

Line an ovenproof enameled cast iron pot or other heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid, just large enough to hold the brisket snugly, with heavy-duty aluminum foil, leaving enough overhang to seal over the brisket. Sprinkle half of the soup mix on the bottom of the foil, then top with the brisket. Sprinkle the remaining soup mix on top of the brisket. Pour the reserved liquid mixture on top of the brisket. Place the carrots around the brisket, making sure they are covered with the sauce. Sprinkle the parsley over everything.

Tightly seal the foil, encasing the brisket and all the other ingredients inside the packet. Cover the pot, then place in the oven and braise until fork-tender, about 3½ hours.

Transfer the brisket to a cutting board and slice the meat against the grain to the desired thickness. Serve with the sauce and carrots.

Refrigerate overnight if you want. It tastes even better the next day, gently reheated on top of the stove.