By Gretchen McKay

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3 cheers for leftover brisket!

Categories : Food

Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, is almost upon us. Celebrating the holiday with family and friends probably means a few sure things when it comes to dinner. There will be sweet foods like apples dipped in honey and honey cake to ensure a sweet and happy new year. The supper table also will feature pomegranates, a symbol of fertility with its many red seeds, along with rounds of braided challah to signify the circle of life.

But the one food many look forward to above all else during the two-day celebration that begins Friday is the ultimate Jewish comfort food: sweet and sour slow-cooked brisket.

Braised with onions and tomato until it’s melt-in-your mouth tender, brisket is the Jewish equivalent of ham on Easter or turkey with all the fixings at Thanksgiving. No Jewish feast is complete without the humble cut of beef, and eating it means it’s probably a special occasion. It also goes without saying that your bubbe’s recipe is definitely better than your neighbor’s, if not the world’s best.

“Like a lot of food traditions, it’s about sense memories,” my friend and Pittsburgh Magazine food critic Hal Klein says.

He’s filled up on brisket every year at Rosh Hashana his entire life, and can’t imagine the holiday without it. Even if you don’t make it often, he says, it triggers an instant emotional response.

“And it’s really tasty,” he adds.

If you’re lucky, there is enough Rosh Hashana brisket to produce leftovers for at least one meal if not two or three. It can get really interesting if you’re willing to think beyond simply reheating it the next day for a quick supper or stuffing it into a sandwich for lunch.

Cooked brisket can be cut into big, tender cubes, which makes it an ideal partner for a savory breakfast hash or chunky chili. It also shreds like a dream. Stuff the meaty strands into a taco, enchilada, burrito, lettuce wrap or empanada; toss it into a salad; layer it with cheese inside a quesadilla; or mix it with a little barbecue sauce and make a brisket bruscetta. The possibilities are endless.

Yet to get to all those yummy leftover possibilities, we have to first prepare a brisket from scratch. If you don’t have a Jewish grandmother to guide you, it can seem kind of intimidating. It shouldn’t be.

There are several ways to make a brisket, and all are pretty easy. The most traditional method is to braise it low and slow in the oven on a bed of sauteed onions and root vegetables, a technique that allows this cheaper (and tough) cut of kosher meat to break down and become succulent.  But you also can smoke it like as do in Texas, grill it, throw it in a slow cooker or — if you really want to be trendy — prepare it in an Instant Pot. 

I chose the time-honored method for my inaugural effort, with a surprisingly easy recipe from Food 52. It turned out perfectly, with meat that was as moist as it was tender and a rich onion gravy that I could eat by the spoonful. From there, it was a snap to turn the leftovers into three different dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Brisket makes a great addition to a breakfast hash of potatoes, onions and other veggies, especially if you top it with leftover onion gravy. It’s even more tasty when tossed in a spicy chipotle sauce and stuffed along with pickled onions and crumbled queso fresco into a soft corn tortilla to create a street taco. 

Shredded brisket also is quite scrumptious in a Thai noodle stir-fry. So good, in fact, that once your Rosh Hashana feast is in your rear-view mirror, you’ll want to try your hand at slow cooking another brisket just so you can immediately turn it into leftovers. 

Leftover Brisket Hash

Nothing beats a savory hash for brunch or breakfast. This tasty recipe combines multicolored baby potatoes with leftover brisket and fresh veggies. A dippy egg fried in brown butter goes on top, with a drizzle of leftover onion gravy. I shredded the brisket but you also could make it with large chunks. 

4 tablespoons butter, divided

24-ounce bag of petite potatoes, cooked until al dente and sliced

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 small shallot or ½ small red onion, thinly sliced

2 cups cooked brisket, chopped into large pieces or shredded

1 celery stalk, thinly sliced

1 or 2 cooked carrots, chopped

3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

2 scallions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)

4 fried eggs, optional

Onion gravy leftover from braised brisket, optional

Melt half of the butter in a large cast-iron pan over medium-high heat. Add potatoes, season with salt and pepper and cook undisturbed until browned and crispy on one side, 5 to 7 minutes. Add shallot/red onion and toss to combine.

Add brisket, celery, carrots and half of the chopped cilantro/parsley. Season with salt. Cook for 5 minutes or until the brisket is browned on one side, then add scallions.

Meanwhile, heat remaining butter in a nonstick or cast-iron pan. Carefully break the eggs into the hot butter, working in batches if necessary. Season with salt, pepper and remaining  cilantro/parsley. Cook until the whites are set, about 3 minutes.

Divide the hash between four plates and top with a fried egg. Garnish with leftover onion gravy from the braised brisket. Serve with toast for scooping and dipping. 

Serves 4.

— Adapted from andrewzimmern.com

Stir-fried Udon With Leftover BrisketP

Stir-fries are a great way to stretch leftovers into multiple servings while offering up something fresh. Here, leftover brisket teams up with thick and chewy udon noodles and crisp-tender veggies in a Thai-inspired noodle dish. I used red pepper, onion and julienned carrots, but you also could add shredded cabbage, mushrooms, broccoli or snow peas. 

For sauce

⅓ cup brown sugar

¼ cup soy sauce

¼ cup rice vinegar

2 tablespoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

Juice of ½ lime

For noodles

8 ounces udon noodles

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 cloves minced garlic (about 1 tablespoon)

1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger or ¼ teaspoon powdered ginger

4 scallions, sliced on the diagonal, with some reserved for garnish

½ red pepper, julienned

1 large carrot, julienned

½ red onion, sliced into thin half moons

2 cups shredded leftover brisket

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, plus more for garnish

For garnish

Chopped fresh cilantro

Chopped toasted peanuts or cashews

Make sauce: Whisk together all sauce ingredients in a small bowl or measuring cup and set aside.

Prepare noodles: Bring pot of salted water to a boil, and add udon noodles. Cook for 8 to 10  minutes or until noodles are soft with no hard core. Remove to strainer, rinse with water and drain; set aside.

Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high. Add garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add scallions, pepper, carrot and red onion and cook, tossing often, for 4 minutes. (The veggies should remain crispy.) 

Add shredded brisket and cooked noodles to pan and toss to combine. Add sauce and cook, tossing constantly, until noodles are coated in sauce (don’t forget to scrape the bottom of skillet to scoop up any browned bits), about 45 seconds. Remove from heat and fold in 1 tablespoon sesame seeds.

Serve with chopped cilantro, chopped toasted peanuts/cashews and a good sprinkle of sesame seeds.

Serves 4.

— Gretchen McKay

Leftover Chipotle Brisket TacosP

These tacos are on the spicy side, with the shredded brisket dressed in a fiery chipotle sauce. Pickled red onion adds color and crunch, while crumbled queso fresco contributes a salty tang. They’re great for lunch, but I also had a few for breakfast. If you can’t find queso fresco, substitute crumbled feta or shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack. 

For chipotle sauce

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

¼ cup fresh lime juice

¼ cup red wine vinegar

2 medium cloves garlic, chopped

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 (7-ounce) can chipotles in adobo

For tacos

2 cups leftover shredded brisket

12 (4½-inch) corn tortillas

Crumbled queso fresco or cotija cheese

Chopped fresh cilantro

Quick pickled red onions (recipe follows)

Slices of fresh or pickled jalapeno peppers

Make chipotle sauce: In a blender, pulse olive oil, lime juice, vinegar, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and a good grind of pepper. Pour all of the adobo sauce from the can of chipotle peppers into the blender, along with 1 chipotle for a mildly hot sauce or 2 or 3 chipotles for a hotter sauce. Puree until smooth, then set aside. 

Assemble tacos: Place shredded brisket in a large bowl and add enough chipotle sauce to moisten to your liking. (I added about ½ cup.) Heat tortillas on a hot skillet until soft. Using tongs, place some dressed brisket into the taco shell, then top with crumbled cheese, chopped cilantro and some pickled onions. For extra heat, add a few slices of jalapeno.  

Make pickled red onion: Thinly slice 1 large red onion; place in a saucepan with ⅔ cup red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon sugar and ½ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, stirring to combine, then remove from heat. Allow to sit for 15 minutes, then transfer onions and liquid to a glass jar. Store in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

Makes 12 tacos.

— Gretchen McKay