Brisket or bust

Holiday brisket

By Ellen Futterman, Editor

As a small, non-profit, niche journalism organization, the Jewish Light sponsors a fair number of community events, but my favorite—and I know it’s not politic to name a favorite—is our annual cooking contest. Maybe it’s because I love to cook and am addicted to the Food Network (is there a better show on TV than “Chopped”?) but I enjoy the process of announcing the featured food or dish for the competition, collecting entrants’ recipes, reading through them and then handing them over to Light food writer, restaurant critic and contest judge, Margi Lenga Kahn, to pick the finalists. She’s a savant when it comes to breaking down recipes and figuring out how well they will work. To me, all the recipes make me hungry, especially this year’s because the food of choice was a fave, brisket of beef.

At 3 p.m. Sunday, six finalists (out of 18 entrants) brought their cooked briskets to the Jewish Community Center to compete for bragging rights as well as the $100 first prize gift certificate to Kohn’s Kosher Deli at the 3rd Annual Jewish Light Cooking Contest. Judging the competition was Kahn, along with Robin Rickerman, catering manager at the JCC, and longtime local food writer Suzanne Corbett.

Most of the finalists brought friends or family members for moral support. But a handful of folks showed up because they had heard the event was free and open to the public, and figured they could snag some samples.

They were right. After the judges finished tasting and left the room to deliberate, the rest of us dug into the leftover, which were plentiful and delicious. Most of us agreed we were glad not to be judges because a decision would be hard. But in the end (drum roll, please) Phyllis Cantor and her “Holiday Brisket,” capped with pitted prunes and dried apricots won while Fred Levko and his “BBQ Brisket Dry Rub Style,” cooked for five hours on a Weber grill, took second place. Levko, by the way, was the only man in three years to enter the competition. The other finalists were Jean Millner, last year’s winner of the Passover dessert competition for her flourless chocolate cake; Rochelle Karty; Arleen Kerman, another past finalist and Darlene Sokol.

As promised, the top two recipes appear at the bottom of this article.

On the subject of cooking . . . 

“The Holocaust Survivor Cookbook” has been around for five years or so, the brainchild and mitzvah effort of Florida resident Joanne Caras. She asked Holocaust survivors to send her their favorite recipes, photos, and stories of survival and wound up collecting 129 amazing stories and 250 recipes from survivors all over the world. Now Volume 2, “Miracles & Meals” is out, with 115 more stories and 250 kosher recipes. Both books can be ordered at

All proceeds from the $36 cookbooks are donated. To date, the first book has raised more than $160,000 for Carmei Ha’ar Soup Kitchen in Jerusalem since its arrival in 2007.

Jewish character on ‘Mad Men’

Like many Americans, I am a huge fan of the AMC’s “Mad Men,” about the advertising world of Manhattan set in the 1960s. Sometimes, during the rare lulls in my day of doing VERY IMPORTANT WORK at the Jewish Light, I’ve been known to peruse the Internet, searching, of course, for possible newsworthy tidbits. This week, the virtual world was thick with opinions and commentary about the two latest additions to “Mad Men,” the series first black female secretary and its first Jewish male copywriter, Michael Ginsburg (played by Ben Feldman). “Turns out everybody’s got one now,” remarked senior partner Roger Sterling of the show’s fictitious ad firm, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.

Michael was nothing short of overbearing and obnoxious as he badgered the firm’s talented female copywriter Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) to hire him. He did better impressing senior partner Don Draper (St. Louis’ own Jon Hamm). And while we know little about Michael and what bodes for him, we did catch a glimpse into his home life. He seems to live with his father in a hovel, where the elder Ginsburg, rife with a thick Yiddish accent, recited a Hebrew blessing over Michael’s head when he learned his son had landed the job.

Stay tuned. My guess is that Jewish Michael and Catholic Peggy are headed somewhere.

Holiday brisket

Submitted by Phyllis Cantor

Note: This brisket is better after a day or two when the flavors have blended, and it freezes very well.


  • 1 bag (about 4 oz.) pitted prunes
  • 1 bag (about 4 oz.) dried apricots

combine the fruits in a bowl and cover with warm water to soften

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 4 to 6 pound brisket, nicely trimmed
  • garlic powder to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 granny smith apple peeled, seeded and sliced
  • 1 navel orange peeled, seeded and sectioned
  • 1 cup concord grape wine
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon

Cooking directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Soften the prunes and apricots, then add the sugar and set aside. Rub the brisket on both sides with the garlic powder, salt and pepper.
  3. In a roasting pan, on the stove, brown the brisket lightly –top side first, then the bottom side. Pour the prune mixture over the meat.
  4. Top the brisket with apple slices, orange sections, wine, chopped carrot, chopped onion, ginger and cinnamon and lightly sprinkle with salt if desired.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees, tightly covered, for 3 1/2 to 4 hours or until tender. Baste with pan juices and remove cover for last 15 minutes.
  6. Slice the meat and cover with the pan juices. Cover and refrigerate or freeze until ready to serve. Preheat and enjoy. Serves 6 to 8 people.

 BBQ brisket dry rub style

Submitted by Fred Levko


  • 10-12 pound flat cut brisket

For the rub:

  • 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorn– coarse
  • cracked
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds– ground
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds—ground
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 tsp garlic—coarse
  • 1 tablespoon onion flakes– ground
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Meat preparation:

Pat meat dry. Grind rub ingredients to coarse consistency—rub entire surface of meat—pierce through flat fat side of meat with fork every 1/2 inch with carving fork

Weber grill preparation:

  1. 20-30 charcoal briquettes along one side–ignite coals wait until covered in white ash.
  2. Place 1 quart water in fireproof bowl placed in center of the grill. Place meat on center of grill rack on aluminum foil with fat side up –fold one edge of foil near coals to deflect heat.
  3. Place 1 cup mesquite wood chips on hot coals.
  4. Cover grill with lid and cook for five hours with temperature around 300 degrees. Add 5-7 charcoal briquettes every hour to maintain 300 degrees as required.
  5. Remove from grill and allow meat to rest 20 minutes. Carve against meat grain. Serves 12 to 14.

Arleen Kerman’s Brisket to Die For


  • 5 to 8 pound brisket (larger preferred) with cap
  • 1 pound carrots, cleaned and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 6 ribs of celery, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 4 medium yellow onions, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 3 large cloves garlic, medium chopped
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • paprika
  • baking soda
  • red wine
  • salt and pepper
  • unseasoned meat tenderizer 


  1. All stoves and ovens are not the same. Times will vary.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Rack should be on the lowest setting.
  3. Trim the brisket but leave some of the fat on the cap.
  4. Heat a large skillet on top of the stove.
  5. Place brisket fat side down in the skillet and brown. Turn and brown on the other side. You might need to re-arrange the meat and brown it in sections if you do not have a large enough skillet. I sometimes use my mother’s blue enamel roaster and place in over two burners. Remove after browned and set aside.
  6. In the roaster or skillet, add 2 to 3 tablespoons of oil. Heat the oil and add the onions to brown. Stir occasionally. When the onions start to stick and turn brown, add about 2 teaspoon baking soda and sprinkle with paprika. This gives the golden brown look and allows the onions to release their juices without burning. Add the garlic and continue to stir as needed. You might need to lower the temperature. After about 10 minutes add the carrots and celery. Sauté for about 5 more minutes. You could use one of the blue enamel roasters, or a large what is called a roasting pan that is at least 4 inches deep, or you could even use a deep lasagna pan. They will all work. I always spray the bottom and sides of my pan. It makes life easier.
  7. I now place the sautéed vegetables or mirepoix in the bottom of my roasting pan.  The seared brisket, cap side up is placed on the top of the vegetables. Sprinkle with unseasoned meat tenderizer and salt and pepper to taste and paprika. I use the meat tenderizer with all roasts no matter what the quality of meat. Do we know what the cow has eaten? Why take a chance!
  8. Aside from the money invested in the roast, there is the time. Add enough water to cover the brisket about one third. Please do not use a pan that is twice as big as your brisket.  You should have about three inches of space around the brisket and the side of the pan.  Add the bay leaves and wine. How much wine? I use a good 2 cups. The wine will definitely make a difference.
  9. At this point I cover the pan tightly with heavy-duty foil. If the roast is above the edge of the pan, spray with Pam so the meat will not stick to the foil. My rule of thumb is 20 minutes per pound at 325 degrees. The slower it cooks, the less shrinkage and it will be more tender. After around an hour, I check the pan to see if more liquid is needed.
  10. Slowly stir the vegetables around to mix the flavors. Check about every 30 minutes. Add more water or if you have homemade beef stock that does not have salt, you may want to add some of that.
  11. When the meat is fork tender remove the foil and let the brisket brown. This will form a crust on the top of the brisket. After it has browned, remove from pan and let cool.
  12. Strain the vegetables and let the gravy cool before placing in the refrigerator. Save the carrots.
  13. When the meat is cool, wrap in foil and refrigerate over night. Could be 2 or 3 nights. Place the strained gravy in a tightly sealed container and also refrigerate. The fat will rise to the top and can be used later for flavoring with kasha and shells along with the gravy or it can be discarded.
  14. To serve, slice against the grain and leave in the shape of the brisket. Place in sprayed 9×13. Add gravy around the meat. You will know if the gravy is rich because it will look like Jell-O when it has set. Arrange carrots on top and around meat. Cover with foil. Warm in 325 degree oven. Serve. How many people does this serve? You know your family!

Darlene Sokol’s Brisket


  • 3-6 lb. brisket – a little fat and marbling good
  • 1-2 large onions – peel and dice
  • 1/2 – 1 lb. mushrooms – sliced
  • 4-5 fresh garlic cloves – slivers
  • Salt, pepper, garlic powder, seasoning to taste
  • Flour to dust brisket
  • 1-2 teas. Kitchen Bouquet-darken gravy (optional)
  • 2-4 C water
  • 1 T vegetable oil – enough to spread over bottom of roaster that is large enough to hold brisket flat


  1. Best to make the brisket the day before you plan to serve it.
  2. In using a turkey roaster or similar type pan, sauté onions in oil first till softened, then add mushrooms and cook till lightly browned.
  3. Prepare the brisket while onions & mushrooms brown.
  4. Cut slits on one side of meat and plug with pieces of fresh garlic clove.
  5. Season to taste with salt, pepper, garlic powder, etc. Dust surface with flour with a sifter or shaker.
  6. Turn over and repeat on other side.
  7. Remove onions and mushrooms from pan, placing meat fat-side down in pan to brown and then turn over. When meat is brown on both sides, place brisket fat-side up with onions/mushrooms on top
  8. Add enough water to leave the top of meat exposed (about 2 cups)
  9. Add Kitchen Bouquet to darken gravy.
  10. Cover and bake at 325 degrees for 30 to 60 min. per pound.
  11. Roast is done when fork goes in and out easily. Remove roast from pan and wrap in foil. Refrigerate to harden before slicing.
  12. Pour gravy into deep bowl or tall, wide bottle and refrigerate – remove fat on top when cooled.
  13. Slice roast (electric knife best) against the grain in thin slices but not tissue-thin. Arrange in ovenware server pouring ample gravy over it.
  14. Cover and reheat for 20-30 minutes before serving.

Extra notes:

  • Don’t cut off fat till cooked and cooled.
  • Can add water during cooking – should have at least
  • 1 C when done and skimmed
  • Can plug only one side of meat unless very, very thick – plugs about one inch apart
  • Adjust cooking time, mushrooms and onions to size
  • Can add water to gravy but reheat in pan before serving

Sangria Braised Brisket 

Recipe by Jean Millner

Make this brisket the day before you plan to serve it.

Sangria Marinade Ingredients 

  • 1 cup red wine of choice (Norton, Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • Juice of half an orange (reserve other half of orange to serve sliced on top of brisket)
  • ½ cup apple juice
  • ½ cup ginger ale

Brisket Ingredients

  • 4 lb. brisket
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • Vegetable or canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey (optional)


  1. Pat brisket dry with paper towels; season with salt and pepper on both sides; set aside.
  2. Whisk together wine, onion, garlic, chili powder, ginger ale, orange juice and zest.
  3. Place brisket in large zip-top bag and add marinade. Zip closed, squeezing out air.
  4. Marinate in refrigerator for four to eight hours, turning once or twice, if possible.
  5. Heat oven to 275°F.
  6. Heat skillet over high heat; coat skillet lightly with vegetable or canola oil.
  7. Pat brisket dry with paper towels, reserving marinade.
  8. Sear brisket in hot oil, getting a good caramelization on all sides.
  9. Transfer brisket to Dutch oven or roasting pan, fat side up.
  10. Pour reserved marinade over brisket; it should reach about half way up the side of the meat. (If there is still leftover marinate, boil for 5 minutes and refrigerate for use later.)
  11. Cover tightly and braise for 4 hours.  True braising requires that the brisket be turned halfway through the cooking process but is not necessary for this recipe.
  12. Remove meat to cutting board.  When cool, wrap in foil and refrigerate. Combine any leftover marinade to a covered container and refrigerate.
  13. One hour before serving, discard solid grease from top of marinade; trim fat from brisket.
  14. Slice brisket cross-grain and place in oven safe baking dish; Pour marinade over slices, cover with foil and heat in a 200°F oven until warmed through (about an hour).
  15. Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with orange slices.
You can make a pan sauce by heating the marinade in sauce pan and whisking in a little butter.
Serves 4 to 6


Recipe by Rochelle Karty


  • 7 lbs. beef brisket, trimmed
  • 1 teasp. dry mustard
  • 2 teasp. onion salt
  • 1 T celery salt
  • 1 teasp. garlic salt
  • 2 T worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 T liquid smoke


  1. Rub brisket with onion, celery, dry mustard and garlic salts and let stand for about 30 minutes. Place in a roster and pour worcestershire sauce and liquid smoke over surface of roast. Cover and refrigerate several hours.
  2. Drain off marinade, wrap brisket, fatty side up, in heavy duty alum. foil and seal. Bake 5 hrs. at 300 degrees. Allow to cool.
  3. Slice thinly across the grain, place in a baking dish. Cover w/barbecue sauce and bake 20 minutes at 325 degrees.

Serves 10/12.

Sauce Ingredients:

  • 1 cup catsup
  • 1/4 cup worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teasp. chili powder
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 teasp. celery seed
  • 1 cup brown sugar


  1. Combine all ingredients and simmer 20 minutes over medium heat. Yields 1 quart.