Shhh! I’m Not Preparing My Mother’s Brisket Recipe for Passover

Last October, I shared my mother’s recipe for brisket, as I lamented the onset of fall but my anticipation for a long season of braising, my favorite method of cooking. Well we are almost into barbecue season but I have one last chance for The Big Braise. We are celebrating Passover with a family seder Friday night, and my nephew and his girlfriend are flying in to join us for the traditional symbolic meal. Seems like my mother always prepares the brisket but since she’s been busy enjoying Shakespeare in Ashland, Oregon, I offered to step in.

Grandma Ethel's Tzimmes style brisketBut I’m worried – I’m not using her recipe! Instead, I have adapted a recipe I found on Epicurious, originally from Gourmet magazine in April 2005. It is called Grandma Ethel’s Brisket with Tzimmes. I am hoping the word Grandma in the title will soften the blow of a new recipe. Actually I’ve made it before at my annual Rosh Hashanah gathering and some people give it an equal thumbs up to my mom’s. So pray for me people, please!

Tzimmes, if you are not familiar, is a meat or meatless dish that combines dried fruits, carrots, and sweet potatoes to create a sweet and savory side dish or main course. There are thousands of variations – every Jewish family must have their version. In fact, the recipe for this brisket says it is only a guideline – feel free to change it as you like.

Grandma Ethel’s Brisket with Tzimmes

adapted from a Gourmet recipe by Karen Stabiner, April 2005
Active prep: 1 hour; Total time: 24 – 48 hours including chilling in frig and slicing meat
  • 1 (6- to 7-lb) first-cut brisket
  • 2 medium onions
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 3 1/2 cups brown chicken stock or reconstituted brown chicken demi-glace**
  • 3/4 cup Sherry vinegar – an interesting ingredient that adds richness and a little tang to the resulting gravy
  • 2 lb carrots, peeled and cut crosswise into 2-inch-long pieces
  • 4 medium sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 3/4 cups dried pitted prunes, dried apricots, and dried cherries (or whatever dried fruit you like or have in the house)

** Choices for what stock to use – this linked stock was also from Gourmet April 2005 and is a chicken stock that starts with roasting the chicken and vegetables which creates a rich, brown-looking chicken stock that would be perfect for this dish. Any homemade chicken stock (I like Ina Garten’s) that is rich and jelly-like when cooled will work. Or, if your freezer is devoid of homemade stock (as mine was this time), buy store-bought but be sure it is stock, if possible or buy Demi-Glace which is a super-reduced very flavorful stock-type ingredient. Another option would be to use beef broth for this dish. If you are keeping kosher for Passover, be sure to check the store-bought labels carefully, as they might have an additive that would be dietarily inappropriate.

Grandma Ethel's brisket

The color difference of demi-glace vs. store-bought chicken broth

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F or 325°F on convect.

Slice onions across in thin slices (no need to chop), add the oil to your large roasting pan, straddled across two burners and heat to medium heat. Add onions and brown, moving them around to get a little color all over.

While onions are getting some color (about 3 – 5 minutes), rub brisket all over with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Push the onions to the edges of your pan, turn heat up to medium to medium high and place the brisket fat side down into the pan. Brown on both sides, about 5 minutes per side.

Remove the pan from heat, add the 1/2 cup of red wine to the pan to start deglazing the yummies from the bottom. then add stock and vinegar to pan. Cover pan tightly with heavy-duty foil and braise brisket in oven 2 hours.

Grandma Ethel's Tzimmes style brisketAdd carrots to pan and braise, covered, 1 hour. Add potatoes and dried fruit and braise, covered, until meat is fork-tender and potatoes are soft, about 30 – 60 minutes more. Cool meat, uncovered, to room temperature, about 1 hour, then chill, covered, at least 12 hours.

Braising Brisket

Pay close attention to the grain of your brisket – so important to cut ACROSS the grain when slicing.

To reheat, put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F or 325°F on convect. Transfer brisket to a cutting board and slice the brisket ACROSS THE GRAIN (so important for this cut of meat) at least 1/4 inch thick so it doesn’t fall apart. Discard as much fat as possible from surface of vegetables and sauce, then return sliced meat to pan and reheat, covered with foil, until heated through, about 40 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper, then arrange meat with tzimmes and sauce on a large platter.

If the oven is not available and your meat is in a pan that is stove-top safe, you can reheat on medium low on the stove-top.

Grandma Ethel's Tzimmes style brisket

Have a wonderful Passover or Easter! Eat well and enjoy the time with your family and friends.

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14 Responses to Shhh! I’m Not Preparing My Mother’s Brisket Recipe for Passover

  1. lizthechef April 5, 2012 at 12:26 pm #

    It is so hard to make brisket into a beauty shot – but you did it!

    • omgyummy April 5, 2012 at 12:28 pm #

      OMG! Liz – you have no idea how much I appreciate that comment! I worked harder than normal, including different light and different cameras. Thanks for noticing! You made my day.

  2. sandy corman April 5, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

    looks good to me.

    • omgyummy April 5, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

      Well if I’ve got your approval then I guess I’m good to go!

  3. bibberche April 5, 2012 at 2:43 pm #

    I have to try this one day (and there is always a convenient day for braising – I don’t look at the calendar:)
    Looks really comforting and tasty and I love the idea of tzimmes!
    Enjoy your Holiday!

    • omgyummy April 5, 2012 at 2:59 pm #

      You would make a wonderful version and it is great leftover or in sandwiches or or or….

      Yes, I really do braise all year round but definitely more in the cold seasons.

      Happy holidays to you too Lana!

  4. paula April 5, 2012 at 3:18 pm #

    Beth, I am enjoying your blog SO much!! It’s such a welcome sight in my inbox! I am going to try this brisket recipe—brisket has always been a challenge for me–and I love the tzimmes! Can’t wait to see what you have coming up!! Thank you!

    • omgyummy April 5, 2012 at 3:25 pm #

      Oh that makes my day again! So glad you look forward to it Paula!

      So the trick with brisket is to cut it properly (perpendicular to the grain or across the grain) and to cut it either an hour before it is done cooking or after it is cold, if you are not eating it right away. Also, letting it be in the fridge for a day is wonderful for amping up the flavor a bit more.

      And don’t get too concerned with exact times, your fork will tell you what you need to know for doneness – veggies and meat should be fork tender.

  5. Dana @ Foodie Goes Healthy April 17, 2016 at 4:33 pm #

    This is the first year that I am not making my family’s famous brisket recipe– so I love that you ventured out too. Don’t get me wrong, the family recipe is really good and reliable, but it’s time to say good bye to Lipton onion soup mix and ketchup. Wish me luck!

    • Beth Lee April 21, 2016 at 4:07 pm #

      I am not even making brisket this year! I am going with an old apricot lemon dijon mustard chix. What recipe are you using?

      • Dana @ Foodie Goes Healthy April 21, 2016 at 8:21 pm #

        Your chicken sounds delicious. I am in the middle of developing a new brisket recipe– I’m trying to make something similar to my family recipe but without artificial ingredients. The sauce is basically onion, wine, and tomato. I’m hoping to get a good photo so I can post it.

        • Beth Lee April 21, 2016 at 8:22 pm #

          I can’t wait to hear the details – love that u are doing that!


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