Where’s The Brisket?

In our 45 years together, I don’t recall Joanna ever serving brisket – maybe she did, I just don’t remember it. Fast forward several years… Rob is living in Dallas. On one of my visits, he remarked how Texans are in love with their brisket. On another visit, the girls’ school had a fundraiser at one of the many BBQ restaurants. I had the brisket and it was delicious. I’m a convert!

Back in Tampa the only meal I’ve ever had at Four Rivers Smokehouse is, of course, BRISKET. After downing their brisket sandwich and two sides I can hardly move, but it is soooo good!

I’ve been frequently asked, now that I live alone do I cook many of my meals. My answer is always, “If it weren’t for the microwave, I’d probably starve.” At the urging of several people, I invested in a slow-cooker.

Thumbing through a crockpot cookbook recently, I found Brisket with Cranberry Gravy. I thought it looked simple enough, so I added the brisket to the shopping list. [see recipe at bottom of post]

My regular go-to grocer is Publix. They’re a Florida-based company with a great customer-service mindset. In a recent Consumer Reports ranking, Publix tied with Wegmans as America’s favorite supermarket. Not choosing one store as “my” Publix, there are four stores relatively near that I frequent. Armed with my shopping list, I headed out to get me some brisket!

Publix #1: “Sorry, we’re all out. You could get a raincheck at the service counter.” Me: “Oh, it’s on sale?” Butcher: “Yes, $5.99 a pound.” I didn’t get the raincheck, but after finishing the rest of my shopping, decided to check another Publix on the way home.

Publix #2: “We just sold our last one about an hour ago.” I’m thinking, “This is crazy – must be that sale price.” There was one more store to check out.

Publix #3: “I think we have a couple in the case over there.” The butcher came from behind the counter to help me. None to be found! He apologized profusely as he explained that with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year celebration that week, there’s a great demand for it. He expected a new shipment the next day.

I set out on a quick internet search to understand the link between Jewish celebrations and the brisket. Food writer Leah Koenig describes it this way:

I was fortunate enough to take brisket’s appearance on our family’s holiday table for granted. But, according to Gil Marks’ Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, the dish began as poverty cuisine. “The often-impoverished Jews of eastern Europe could rarely afford to ‘live high on the cow’ — to buy the more tender cuts from the rib and chuck. [So] they learned how to make do with the cheaper, less desirable parts,” he writes. Over time as people continued to cook them, dishes like brisket became revered in their own right, making them traditional and desirable staples of the holiday table.

Mystery of missing brisket solved: I chose the wrong week to try a new recipe! Later that week, I returned to Publix #3, found it (still on sale) and cooked it up. Delicious!

Brisket with Cranberry Gravy
PREP: 25 minutes
COOK: 8-10 hours
MAKES: 6-8 servings
1    fresh beef brisket (2.5 pounds)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1    can (14 ounces) whole-berry cranberry sauce
1    can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
1/2 cup chopped onion
1    tablespoon prepared mustard
  1. Rub brisket with salt and pepper; place in 5-qt. slow cooker
  2. Combine the cranberry sauce, tomato sauce, onion and mustard. Pour over brisket
  3. Cook on low for 8-10 hours or until meat is tender
  4. Remove brisket. Thinly slice across the grain
  5. Skim fat from cooking juices; serve with brisket