God’s gift to fake news (and Democrats), Jon Stewart turns 49 today. In his book Naked Pictures of Famous People, Stewart observed that “the [Jew’s] threat of persecution has not been offset by the promise of an occasional nice brisket.” He’s also said a lot of funnier things, but none are better at tying together Jon Stewart and garlic.
In Jewish Holiday Cooking, Jayne Cohen transforms the French classic — chicken with forty cloves of garlic — into brisket with thirty-six cloves. She uses thirty-six cloves because, beginning with aleph, which equals one, each letter of the Hebrew alphabet stands for a number, and so every word has a numerical value. All multiples of eighteen, the numerical value of the Hebrew word chai, life, are considered especially auspicious, which is why donations to charity and wedding and bar mitzvah gifts are often given in multiples of eighteen. If you’re half-Jewish like me, consider a compromise of 38 cloves. תיאבון ב
Braised Brisket with 36 Cloves of Garlic
2 c. (about 36) unpeeled garlic cloves
3 T. olive oil
5 lb. beef brisket, trimmed of excess fat
2 T. red wine vinegar
3 c. chicken broth
3-4 fresh thyme sprigs or 2 t. dried
2 fresh rosemary sprigs, plus 1 t. chopped leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 t. grated lemon zest
Preheat the oven to 325°F.
Drop the garlic cloves into a small saucepan of boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain immediately. Peel as soon as the garlic is cool enough to handle. Set aside on paper towels to dry.
Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed roasting pan or casserole large enough to accommodate the meat in one layer. Add the brisket and brown well on both sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer the brisket to a platter and set aside.
Pour off all but about 1 tablespoon of fat remaining in the pan and add the garlic cloves. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic edges are tinged with gold. Add the vinegar and deglaze the pan, scraping up all the browned bits from the bottom with a wooden spoon. Add the stock, thyme, and rosemary sprigs, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Salt and pepper the brisket to taste on all sides, and add it to the pan, fat side up. Spoon the garlic cloves over the meat.
Place the brisket in the oven, covered, and cook, basting every half-hour, until the meat is fork tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours or longer. (As the meat cooks, periodically check that the liquid is bubbling gently. If it is boiling rapidly, turn the oven down to 300°F.)
Cool the brisket in the pan sauce, cover well with foil, and refrigerate until the fat congeals. Scrape off all solid fat. Remove the brisket from the pan and slice thinly across the grain.
Prepare the gravy: Bring the braising mixture to room temperature, then strain it, reserving the garlic and discarding the thyme and rosemary sprigs. Skim and discard as much fat as possible from the liquid. Puree about one half of the cooked garlic with 1 cup of the defatted braising liquid in a food processor or a blender. (If you want a smooth gravy, puree all of the cooked garlic cloves.)
Transfer the pureed mixture, the remaining braising liquid, and the rest of the cooked garlic to a skillet. Add the chopped rosemary, minced garlic, and lemon zest. Boil down the gravy over high heat, uncovered, to the desired consistency. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Rewarm the brisket in the gravy until heated through. Arrange the sliced brisket on a serving platter. Spoon some of the hot gravy all over the meat and pass the rest in a separate sauce boat.
And as we’ve just celebrated Thanksgiving, I give you one of Stewart’s funniest quotes: “I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way. I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land.”