Braised beef brisket is the quintessential Jewish holiday dish for Passover or Rosh Hashanah. It also makes a festive main course at any time of the year, for any faith. I’m a big believer in the fall season so I like to make this recipe when the weather outside requires that I wear an oversized sweater. The sweet-sour yam-and-prune mixture that cooks with the brisket is one of many versions of the traditional accompaniment know as tsimmes, a Yiddish word that also means “mess,” capturing its appealingly chunky character that goes great with my sweater. You can substitute carrots for the yams and dried apricots for the prunes. Many fans of braised brisket swear that it’s even better reheated the next day.
1 marbled beef brisket, about 3 lbs
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 yellow onions, cut into chunks
1 cup dry red wine
1 cup beef broth
1 cup ketchup
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 cups pitted prunes, halved
2 1/2 lbs small yams, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
1 cup orange juice
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
Trim away excess fat from the surface of the brisket. In a small bowl, stir together the paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Rub the spice mixture evenly over the meat.
In a large pot over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the brisket, fat side down, and cook until browned on both sides, about 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and set in the slow cooker, fat side up.
Add the onions to the pot and sauté over medium-high heat until they start to brown, 6-8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and sauté for about 1 minute. Pour in the wine and deglaze the pan, stirring and scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Stir in the broth and ketchup and bring to a boil.
Add the onion mixture to the slow cooker, spooning some of the onions over the brisket. Add the bay leaves and sprinkle in the thyme. Cover and cook for 4 hours on the low heat setting. In a large bowl, combine the yams, prunes, orange juice, and brown sugar, tossing to coat the yams and prunes. Push the yams and prunes into the cooking liquid around the brisket and drizzle the juice-sugar mixture over them. Cover and cook for 3 to 4 more hours until the meat and yams are tender.
Transfer the brisket to a carving board. Cover loosely with aluminum foil to keep warm and let rest for about 15 minutes.
Carve the brisket across the grain into slices 1/4-1/2 inch thick. Arrange the slices on a warmed platter and top with the cooking juices and vegetables. Serve at once.
If you plan to serve the brisket a following day, place the slices in a storage container and cover with the cooking juices. Keep the vegetables in a separate storage container. Refrigerate for up to 48 hours.