Aug 11, 2010

Recipe of the Week: Slow Cooker Brisket

When I was trying to fill up the hollow legs of three hungry children (without spending all our money on food), my menus centered around simple, hearty, tummy-filling foods.  This brisket recipe was among those in the Once-a-Month Cooking method I latched on to back in the mid-90s.  It has always yielded tasty, juicy, tender meat.  That's no mean feat with brisket - as most of us can attest, it can be a little fickle to prepare.

I found I could make a lot of inexpensive meals from a single brisket if I watched for the big untrimmed briskets to go on sale.  When they did, I hauled home one or two, cut them in portions that would fit in my slow cooker and wrapped and froze the rest until I was ready to cook another batch.  The cooked brisket can be frozen with enough gravy to cover, making quick meals on busy days.

No matter how I fixed it, the brisket was always a smash hit with our family.  Today, if I want to ensure a big crowd for dinner, all I have to do is tell everyone I'm fixing brisket and they will come a'running.  The recipe itself is caveman simple.
 (I wonder how long this pop culture reference will be relevant?)
How you serve the brisket is limited only by your imagination and your family's preferences.  I listed four suggestions below to help you get started.

Mrs. Ringle's* Brisket

1 brisket (5-7 pounds)
1 package onion soup mix
2 tablespoons prepared mustard (spicy brown or yellow, it won't matter much)

I also recommend adding a dash or two of liquid smoke (don't go overboard until you figure out the amount that suits your family's tastebuds.)

Place brisket fat side up in slow cooker.  Sprinkle with soup mix and squeeze on a little mustard and sprinkle with a few drops of liquid smoke.  Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours, depending on the size of the brisket.  It can be cooked overnight (the OAMC cookbook recommends starting it the night before your cooking day.)

When the brisket shreds easily with a fork, it's done.  Scrape off the seasoning crust and mix with the juices that formed.  Place meat on on a cutting board and let it cool, then pull/shred it.  The juice can be run through a fat separator and used as a base for gravy or au jus.  If you're not serving the brisket immediately, place in freezer bags, squeezing out all the air.  Or divide among freezer containers and cover with meat juices or brown gravy to freeze for a few weeks.

My Favorite Ways to Serve This Brisket:
  1. A meal of shredded brisket, mashed potatoes, vegetables and bread is simple and good. 
  2. It also makes great sandwiches (we like to use sliced french bread, buttered and griddled on one or both sides.)
  3. Beef hash is a family favorite that stretches a little meat a long way:  In a large hot skillet, pour a tablespoon or two of olive oil and brown a 32-ounce package of southern-style hash browns and a diced onion, stirring to keep from sticking together.  When the potatoes are nearly done add 1-2 cups of shredded brisket and a cup of brown gravy.  Let heat through completely.  Serve with a corn pudding and green beans, stand back and watch your hungry eaters tuck in.  I've had to negotiate treaties over who gets the last little scoop out of the pan.
  4. Mix with good barbecue sauce and serve on crusty rolls, or place a portion on a warm flour tortilla, top with coleslaw, roll up and smother with some ranch beans.  (That's probably a recipe for another day...) 
*In case you're curious, no I don't know who Mrs. Ringle is, either.  The cookbook didn't give any hint as to her identity.  But God bless this woman, whoever she is, for giving us this simple, surefire recipe.