Braised brisket is warming, cozy, rich and hearty, a perfect wintry meal to serve when temperatures plunge and snow piles up.
But what about in the spring, during Passover? No matter how pink the tulips or yellow the forsythia, when Seder-celebrating cooks plan their menu, a stodgy brown brisket is almost always on it. It’s as traditional to the meal as gefilte fish and matzo ball soup, a gravy-covered centerpiece year after year.
It doesn’t have to be that way; there are plenty of other entrees that will bolster you through those four glasses of wine. But even if a platter of tender brisket is as central to your family’s holiday happiness as matzo toffee, you can still try something new.
This year, with Passover falling so late in April, I’m offering a brisket recipe that’s brighter and fresher than anything your grandmother may have done with her carrots and onion soup mix, but just as satisfying.
It’s based on the lemon pot roast that my mother used to make, a recipe she got from Edda Servi Machlin’s “Classic Cuisine of the Italian Jews.” Ms. Machlin’s recipe called for eye of round as the beef to be pot-roasted. But my mother always used brisket, which works equally well and seems more fitting for the Passover table.
I made several changes to my mother’s recipe, both to deepen the flavor and to lighten it up.
The first was to sear the brisket, letting the browned layer at the bottom of the pot add richness to the sauce. Those browned bits are dissolved into the gravy as the brisket cooks, helped along by the acid in the wine, orange and lemon juice.
As for the lightening up, I do that in two ways, both in the brisket pot as it cooks, and on the plate as garnish.
In the pot, there’s the citrus juice and wine to add tanginess, spiked with loads of grated zest and garlic, all of which cuts the perceived heaviness of the meat. And for serving, the tender slices of meat are topped with a jumble of spring greens dressed with even more citrus. Use whatever good, baby greens you can find. I love a mix of lettuces and herbs with some slivered radicchio tossed in for vibrancy and crunch.
It’s a new style of brisket, all decked out in the colors of spring.
Recipe: Citrusy Brisket With Spring Lettuces
While this brisket would be good under any circumstances, chances are it may serve as the main dish at a Seder table. If so, you are in luck. The selection of kosher wines has never been better, with a wide array of good Israeli wines, and American kosher producers like Covenant, Hagafen and Baron Herzog. There are even some mainstream producers who make kosher cuvées, like Laurent-Perrier Champagne and Celler de Capçanes of Spain, which makes Peraj Petita, an excellent kosher Montsant. Even though this dish has a bright, citrusy tang to it, and white wine is used in the cooking, it still calls for red wine — any type you like, really. That Montsant would be great, but you are more likely to find cabernet sauvignons and Bordeaux blends, which would also be fine if they are not too oaky and overpowering. ERIC ASIMOV
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