Editor's note: This post is part of a series spotlighting different family recipes used by members of the Obama Administration for Passover.
This braised brisket recipe is a mash-up of various classic recipes with Julia Child. Its secret comes from two things: using parsnips in the braising vegetables, which give the meat and juice a special sweetness; and clarifying the braising liquid and reducing it to a glaze that gives the meat a rich gloss and flavor. Our seder table asks for more and, two years ago, my oldest daughter asked me for this recipe so she could serve it the first time she led a seder.
Glazed Beef Brisket
The recipe has three stages: preparing and browning the brisket, preparing the braise, and straining and clarifying the stock. It is time-consuming, so it’s best to finish the braising a day ahead.
This recipe is based on an 8-lb brisket for 12; adjust the quantities to your own serving size and preferences.
1 head garlic
4 medium carrots
4 large parsnips (to equal carrots in volume)
1 large onion
2 celery stalks
2-3 bay leaves
4 whole cloves
Dry white wine
1 can whole or pureed tomatoes
Bourbon or Cognac
6-8 egg whites
Preparing the ingredients
Trim excess fat from brisket. You want some fat left to moisten the meat but not too much to skim off later.
In a blender, prepare a paste of equal parts garlic gloves and olive oil, with kosher salt. Rub onto brisket.
Trim or peel leeks, carrots, parsnips, onion, and celery stalks and chop roughly.
Put a roasting pan large enough to fit brisket plus vegetables on stove over high heat. Add about 1 cup canola oil, don't let it smoke. Add brisket and sizzle a few minutes on each side to brown.
Remove brisket and set aside. Add vegetable mixture to roasting pan and brown lightly. When the mixture is fully sweated/ browned, add 1 cup bourbon or cognac and evaporate off the alcohol. Off heat.
Preheat oven to 325°.
Remove 1/2 to 2/3 of vegetable mixture from roasting pan, and lay brisket over remaining vegetables. Then add broth - a mixture of dry white, beef stock, and water as needed to cover the brisket by about 2/3. Smother the brisket with reserved vegetable mixture.
Season with several cloves of peeled garlic, several sprigs of parsley, peppercorns, and cloves. Cover with tomatoes.
Cover roasting pan with foil fairly tightly or lid and cook c. 3 hours. Then off heat and leave in while the oven cools -- I believe this helps draw in the juices and tenderize.
Once cool enough to handle, remove from oven and take brisket out. Scrape off any vegetables and surface fat. Wrap tightly with some broth to keep moist and refrigerate or keep in a cool place.
Preparing the meat glaze
Strain the vegetable mixture. You want to get as clear as possible -- best done by straining with progressively finer tools, e.g. from a slotted spoon to a colander or sieve lined with cheesecloth or toweling, then a fine strainer or coffee filters. Refrigerate overnight if possible so fat congeals and is easily skimmed off. Ice cubes also help.
Once as clear of fat as possible, prepare to clarify the broth. This is a flourish but worth the effort. As described in From Julia Child's Kitchen:
About 1/2 cup egg whites. Beat 1 cup cool stock into whites and blend thoroughly. Heat rest of stock to simmer, by driblets beat into whites mixture. Set a saucepan over moderate and bring just to simmer, whisking slowly all over pan to keep egg whites and stock continuously blended. Once at a simmer, [stop whisking] lower heat and move saucepan so just one corner is over heat. Keep at gentle simmer so coagulated whites rise, rotate a 1/4 turn each 5 minutes.
The egg whites will gradually congeal and rise, collecting solids from the broth. Do not stir, but you can gently push the cap to one side to help the clarification and watch the progress.
Once clear, off heat, push as much of the egg white carefully to one side as you can so not to remix, and gently ladle the broth through a cheesecloth-lined strainer, starting with the clearest and ending with what's mixed with solids.
Put the clarified broth in a clean saucepan on medium heat and reduce in by at least 3/4, until it coats a spoon with a rich glaze. Whisk the pan to collect what congeals on the sides. Adding some white wine and/or bourbon or cognac when the reduction is halfway mellows the flavor.
Warm the brisket in foil with broth or glaze inside to keep it moist; be careful not to dry it out. Slice thinly on the bias and coat with glaze before serving. Use remaining glaze as sauce or gravy.
Discard the braised vegetables or puree for use as a side dish or sauce thickener.
Cameron Kerry is the General Counsel of the Department of Commerce.