Saturday, May 2, 2015

Altanta Briskett

This was my first time preparing a fresh beef brisket, usually deferring to it's corned beef brisket cousin made each March. This version is a barbecued beef brisket, with a local twist which I discuss below.

Julian's Atlanta Brisket
Like corned beef brisket, this is a flat cut of meat from the breast or lower chest of beef. These muscles support about 60% of the body weight of standing cattle, resulting in a meat that must be cooked correctly to tenderize it. You might be inferring that the process of 'corning' or preserving the beef makes it more tender, but if you are you would be wrong. You have likely forgotten that my corned beef recipe requires a long, slow boil before the roasting process, which is what tenderizes the meat. So today we'll be doing the same long, slow cooking for the fresh (not preserved) beef brisket but instead of boil, we'll be mostly following the Cooks Country recipe which provides for a long slow roast after pan browning, classically known as a braise.

The beef brisket and ingredients. A simple list.
This recipe comes to me from my friend Phil, who tried it out instead of corned beef and pronounced it a winner. He's made it several times since and says it's "Phil Proof" and by that I guess he means it comes out right every time so long as you follow the directions.

Classic Atlanta brisket is a braised dish from the home of Coco-Cola featuring boxed onion soup mix, ketchup, and of course Coca-Cola. In this Cooks Country rendition, they've replaced the artificial-tasting soup mix with sauteed onions, onion and garlic powder, brown sugar, and dried thyme to improve flavor.

You can use the 9 x 12" baking dish the recipe suggests sealing with it foil, but then do ensure you use the parchment paper which provides a nonreactive barrier between the cola-based braising liquid and the aluminum foil. Alternatively you can use a large roasting pan with a lid or a Dutch oven, or even a slow cooker (Crockpot). The determining factor is can you fit the large rectangular brisket into the dish without disfiguring the shape. If so, by all means use the vessel.

Ingredients (Serves 6)
1 (3 1/2-pound) beef brisket, flat cut, fat trimmed to 1/4 inch
Salt and pepper
4 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 pound onions, halved and sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 cups Coca-Cola
1 1/2 cups ketchup
4 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons packed dark brown sugar
1  teaspoon garlic powder
1  teaspoon dried thyme

1. Using fork, poke holes all over brisket. Rub entire surface of brisket with 1 tablespoon salt. Wrap brisket in plastic wrap and refrigerate  for at least 6 or up to 24 hours.

Keeping the brisket flat during browning.
2. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Pat brisket dry with paper towels and season with pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Place brisket fat side down in skillet; weigh down brisket with heavy Dutch oven or cast-iron skillet and cook until well browned, about 4 minutes. Remove Dutch oven, flip brisket, and replace Dutch oven on top of brisket; cook on second side until well browned, about 4 minutes longer. Transfer brisket to plate.

Saute the onions in the drippings. 
3. Heat remaining  2 teaspoons oil in now-empty  skillet over medium heat until shimmering.  Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until  soft and golden  brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer  onions  to 13 by 9-inch  baking dish and spread into even layer.

Covered in sauce with parchment paper on top. Ready for foil.
4. Combine  cola, ketchup, onion powder, sugar, garlic  powder, thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper  in bowl. Place brisket fat side up on top of onions  and pour cola mixture over brisket. Place parchment paper over brisket and cover dish tightly with  aluminum foil.

5. Bake until fork tender, 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Check at the 3 hour mark and add a cup of water to the sauce if it is becoming too dry.  Let brisket rest in liquid, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

6. Transfer  brisket to carving board. Skim any fat from top of sauce with  large spoon. Slice brisket against  grain  into 1/4-inch thick slices and return to baking  dish. I prefer to use an electric knife for this to get a good clean cut. Serve brisket with  some extra sauce.

TO MAKE AHEAD: Follow recipe  through step 5. Allow brisket to cool in sauce, cover, and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours.  To serve, slice brisket, return to sauce, and cover  with parchment paper.  Cover baking  dish with aluminum foil and cook in 350-degree oven until  heated through, about 1 hour.

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