Sorry for the long interval between posts, I was out of town last week.
I’ve made this recipe twice, on the left is my first attempt, which was almost black, dry, and found me trying to deglaze the sides of my dutch oven to end up with a sauce. On the right is attempt number two (with carrots and parsnips thrown in a few minutes before the end), which fell apart at the touch of a fork, was loaded with flavour, and had more than enough gravy to go around. The difference? tinfoil, and a watchful eye.
This is a classic Belgian braised dish, a brisket, braised in beer, with onions. There are a lot of things to love about brisket. In this dish it capitalizes on the magical powers of braising, which can turn nearly inedible (and dirt cheap) cuts of meat into fillet mignon tender bites. It’s also more flavorful than the loin cuts, and has got a bunch more connective tissue. Connective tissue + long slow heat = gelatin = home made Jello time. Sounds kind of gross, but it makes sauces saucier and gives them a mouth feel you can’t get any other way. I believe unctuous is the word for this sensation, and I can’t think of a less appealing word for such a nice attribute.
This dish was as simple as you could wish for, I just browned the brisket, softened the onions, then added the brisket and the rest of the ingredients back into the pot. After bringing it to a boil I covered it and put it in the oven for the next three and half hours. No maintenance necessary, or so I thought. When I pulled attempt number one of this dish out almost all the liquid had evaporated, the onions were nearly black, and the brisket was starting to dry out. The next time around I paid a good deal more attention to it. I think the lid of my dutch oven doesn’t sit as tightly as I might wish, so I sealed it with tinfoil the second time. I also checked it once an hour, and added more beer as necessary. Attempt number two was superior in all ways but one. The first time around the onions had been cooking in so little liquid that they got really deeply caramelized, which added a great level of flavour which was missing in the second attempt.
I wouldn’t change a thing about this recipe. It takes four and a half hours, but you’re only working for twenty minutes. It uses a really affordable cut of meat, and packs huge flavour into every bite. It’s cooked in beer which gives you lots of room to experiment with different brews. And, it’s a great excuse to fondle your dutch oven.