Moroccan-style Brisket with Dried Fruit

For years, I made Nach Waxman’s “most-Googled brisket recipe” for every Jewish holiday. My family loved it, but eventually we all got tired of the same ol’ same ol’. One year, I decided to mix things up a bit and give the recipe a Moroccan twist. I added Middle Eastern spices, dried fruit, and capers, and everyone thought it was a wonderful twist on the original. The ingredient list looks long, but don’t let that scare you off; it’s really just a lot of spices. Plus, you can make it days ahead of time—in fact, you should, because the flavor improves the longer it sits. This dish is so abundant and impressive looking, you can keep the sides simple: some couscous and a green vegetable and your holiday dinner is done.

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • One 4 to 6-lb [1.8- to 2.7-kg] flat-cut brisket
  • 1 heaping tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 11/2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 5 medium yellow onions cut into slices ½in [12 mm] thick
  • 2 teaspoons packed light brown sugar 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 11/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 11/4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 5 garlic cloves roughly chopped
  • 6 carrots peeled and quartered on the diagonal
  • 14 dried apricots
  • 12 pitted prunes
  • 2 tablespoons capers drained
  • 1/4 cup [10 g] chopped fresh Italian parsley

Steps

Step 1

Preheat the oven to 350°F [180°C] and set an oven rack in the middle position. Season the brisket on both sides with the salt and pepper. Lightly dust with the flour, turning to coat both sides evenly.

Step 2

In a heavy flameproof roasting pan or ovenproof enameled cast-iron pot just large enough to hold the brisket, carrots, and dried fruits snugly, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the brisket to the pan, fatty-side down, and sear until browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Using a pair of tongs and a large fork, flip the brisket over and sear the other side in the same manner.

Step 3

Transfer the brisket to a platter, and then add the onions to the pan. (If the pan seems dry, add a few tablespoons of water.) Cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon and scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, until the onions are softened and golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes.

Step 4

Add the brown sugar, paprika, cumin, ginger, coriander, cinnamon, and cayenne to the onions and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute more. Add 1 cup [240 ml] water and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Step 5

Remove from the heat and place the brisket, fatty-side up, and any accumulated juices from the platter on top of the onions. Spread the tomato paste evenly over the brisket, and then scatter the garlic around it. Cover the pan very tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil or a lid, transfer to the oven, and cook for 1½ hours.

Step 6

Carefully transfer the brisket to a cutting board (leave the oven on). Using an electric or very sharp knife, cut the meat across the grain on a diagonal into thin slices (aim for 1⁄8 to ¼ in [3 to 6 mm] thick). Return the slices to the pot, overlapping them at an angle so that you can see a bit of the top edge of each slice. The end result should resemble the original unsliced brisket leaning slightly backward. Scatter the carrots, apricots, prunes, and capers around the edges of the pot and baste with the sauce; cover tightly with the foil or lid and return to the oven.

Step 7

Lower the heat to 325°F [165°C] and cook the brisket until it is fork-tender, 1¾ to 2½ hours. Transfer the brisket to a serving platter, and then sprinkle with parsley. If you’re not planning to serve the brisket right away, let it cool to room temperature and then cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Cook Notes

Pro tip: If the sauce seems greasy, transfer the meat and vegetables to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm. Pour the sauce into a bowl and let sit until the fat rises to the top. Using a small ladle, spoon out the fat. Pour the skimmed gravy back over the meat.

Sourcing savvy: Butchers typically sell two types of brisket: flat cut and point cut. These two pieces together make up a full brisket, a large slab of muscle from the steer’s chest. The point cut has more marbling, while the flat cut (also called “first cut” or “center cut”) is lean but topped with a thick fat cap. This recipe calls for a flat-cut brisket. Don’t let your butcher trim all the fat off! A small fat cap bastes the meat, adding flavor and keeping it from getting dry and tough. You can trim any excess fat off of the brisket and skim the fat off the gravy once it’s cooked

photo by David Malosh