Fit for a king
Beef brisket used to be an inexpensive cut of meat. It was less popular than easy-to-cook cuts, such as steak and chops, because it's tough and takes a long time to simmer into submission. Over the years, cooks have developed many delicious brisket recipes, and what was once a dish for when money was tight is now quite costly. Here are two recipes to make the most out of your brisket.
Braised beef brisket with onion (pictured)
If you have time (it's best to plan ahead), salt the meat a day or two in advance.
2kg piece of beef brisket
About 50ml cooking oil
3 large onions, sliced about 5mm thick
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1 bay leaf, broken into pieces
Dried chilli flakes, to taste (optional)
About 200ml home-made chicken or beef stock
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pat the meat dry with paper towels then sprinkle salt lightly but evenly over the entire surface. Leave at room temperature for an hour, or cover with cling-film and refrigerate for up to two days. Bring it to room temperature before cooking.
Heat the cooking oil over a medium flame in a deep pan large enough to fit the brisket. Dry the brisket with paper towels then put it in the pan. Sear the meat to medium-brown before carefully flipping it over and browning the other side. Remove the meat from the pan. If there's a lot of fat in the pan, pour off most of it, leaving behind about 60ml (or if needed, add more oil). Turn the heat to medium-low then add the onion and garlic and stir to coat with the fat. Stir in the bay leaf, chilli flakes and some salt and stir for about 30 seconds. Put the brisket back into the skillet then add the chicken or beef stock. Bring to the boil then lower the heat, cover the pan with the lid and simmer until very tender (about four hours or more). If too much liquid evaporates, add more stock (or plain water).
When the meat is ready, remove it from the pan, put it onto a warm platter and cover it tightly with aluminium foil. Bring the liquid to a boil and cook it so it reduces to a light sauce consistency. Add some ground black pepper then taste for seasonings and add salt, if needed. Cut the meat into thick slices and serve with the sauce and roasted vegetables.
Chinese braised beef brisket with tendon, mushrooms and white radish
Ask the butcher for thick pieces of brisket layered with fat and connective tissue; these help to keep the meat tender.
Wrap the spices for this dish in an ingredient bag; it's made from thin cloth (similar to that of a teabag) and securely holds the spices, so they're easier to remove when the dish is cooked. The bags are available at Jusco $10 shops.
8-10 medium-sized Chinese mushrooms
600 grams beef tendon
1.2kg beef brisket
About 80ml cooking oil
4-6 slices (about 5mm thick) fresh ginger, peeled
3 large garlic cloves, peeled
? a cinnamon stick
1 star anise
1-2 dried chillies
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, toasted until fragrant over a low flame in an unoiled skillet
6-8 whole black peppercorns
80ml soy sauce, or to taste
50ml rice wine, or to taste
? tsp fine sea salt
700 grams white radish (lo bok)
Minced spring onion, for serving
Soak the mushrooms in 300ml warm water until soft.
Cut the tendon into 4cm lengths. Bring a large pot of water to the boil then add the tendon and simmer for 15 minutes. Drain the tendon then rinse it throughly with cold water.
Cut the brisket into 3cm chunks. Heat half the oil in a large wok and when it's very hot, add half the beef and all of the ginger. Brown the beef in the hot oil, turning it as needed. Put the meat into a very large Chinese clay pot (or use enamelled cast iron).
Pour more oil into the skillet, add the garlic cloves and the rest of the meat. Brown the meat as before, then add it to the clay pot.
Put the cinnamon stick, star anise, dried chillies, Sichuan peppercorns and black peppercorns into an ingredient bag, tie it securely then add it to the clay pot along with the tendon, soy sauce, rice wine and salt. Remove and discard the stems from the dried mushrooms then cut the caps in half and add them to the pot.
Strain the mushroom-soaking liquid through a fine sieve (to remove any grit), then add the liquid to the pot. Bring to a boil over a medium-high flame then lower the heat, cover with the lid and simmer for about three hours. If it seems dry, add a little water.
Peel the radish and cut it into large chunks. Put the radish into the pot, nestling it into the other ingredients so the pieces simmer in the sauce.
Cover the pan again and continue to cook until the beef, tendon and radish are tender. Remove and discard the ingredients bag. Taste the sauce for seasoning and correct, if needed.
If you want to thicken the sauce, stir some cornstarch into cold water until dissolved, then stir this into the simmering ingredients. Sprinkle with spring onion just before serving with white rice.
Styling Nellie Ming Lee