Brisket seems to me to be a well kept American secret. Little known over here in England, unless you count the almost-every-episode mentions of Howard’s Mom making brisket on The Big Bang Theory. A cheap cut that is becoming more pricey as the rest of us are cottoning on as to how fabulous it can be, brisket is a fantastic cut to bung in your slow cooker and go about your day safe in the knowledge a melt in the mouth meal will be awaiting you on your return. And at this time of year, as the temperature really drops and winter coats become necessities once again, we all need more meals like this Firecracker Brisket.
I’m becoming more and more reliant on my slow cooker. Plagued by early morning waking with no sign of a reprieve on the horizon, it makes sense to get dinner done when I’m conscious and my brain is working rather than when I arrive home with about as much desire to stand at the stove top with my frying pan and spatula as I do to turn around and go back to work. Plus, it means the washing up is practically all done before we sit down to eat and there is nothing which pleases Hungry Hubby more than having essentially a one pot dinner. This is the curse of food blogging – there can be an awful lot of washing up. I’m also learning what works well and how to adapt more standard stove top or oven based dishes as not everything comes out as good in a slow cooker. Chicken breasts don’t fare well in my hands at least; Pinterest tells me a lot of you feel differently. Also, I’m getting to know my machine – a Morphy Richards dinky number, with only 3.5litres capacity it is perfect to make two to three meal’s worth for the both of us at a time. The feature I love most is the insert is stove-safe so you can sear your meat in it directly on your hob then transfer the whole caboodle to the base to work the magic. No need to dirty a sauce pan as well. One thing I’ve come to realise is you can not heat this on high, ‘though. It is made of thin nonstick metal which heats in a nanosecond compared to even your bargain basement thin as a pancake frying pan and so things can burn in a heart beat if you whack it up to high like your usual pans. Keeping it on medium heat works well as the thinness means you get the searing portion of any recipe over and done with pronto.
This particular dish is reminiscent of chilli but much more smokey and not so viciously hot, with the warmth of cinnamon and the hum of smoked paprika adding sweetness. It was something I read about in the Good Food magazine and adapted to our tastes and also to make it in the slow cooker rather than the oven. Which is a little unusual for me these days, although I began blogging by reviewing famous cook’s recipes, I’ve gradually but steadily moved towards sharing my own “unique” recipes. I do mean to use the quotation marks there really is nothing new under the sun. As I’m just branching back out into the world of slow cookers I am leaning on friends for recommendations until I find my feet and get creative again. Watch this space – it will happen! For now, enjoy this warming wintery dinner which is fabulous with a cheesy baked potato (pictured below), steamed veg, cornbread, steamed basmati or maybe some of my flatbreads – you will find lots of breads on my blog in The Bread Basket of The Recipe File. It’s so easy to throw together that I wouldn’t mind at all making my own breads to go with when I wind my weary way home to the kitchen.
- 675g brisket*
- 2 red onions, quartered
- 1-2 ribs of celery
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 1 tsp olive oil
- ½ tbsp smoked paprika (can up to 1 tbsp)
- ½ tbsp mustard powder (or use English mustard)
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 4-6 dried, whole smokey chillies (optional)
- 1 tbsp soft brown sugar
- 3 bay leaves
- 25ml cider vinegar
- 400g can of tomatoes
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (this is for savoury saltiness so use soy if you can’t get this in your part of the world)
- *=This recipe will easily be scaled up with larger pieces of brisket and the meat goes much, much further than if you were serving the equivalent amount as a roasted joint or steak. Just check you can fit it in your slow cooker first if you buy a whopper!
- If your brisket is tied in butcher’s string, remove it before you start cooking.
- Sear the meat in your slow cooker pan if it is hob safe (check the instruction manual!). If not, use a large saucepan.
- Throw the onions, celery and garlic into a food processor and blitz until they are very finely chopped but if you wish to make them more paste like add a splash of water – might be handy if you have veg fearing little ones in your family.
- Remove the brisket from the pan to a dish and add the oil followed by the blitzed veg. Cook stirring well to prevent sticking for 1-2 minutes.
- Add in the bay leaves, spices, mustard powder and sugar and cook until fragrant – another minute should do.
- Add in your vinegar, tomatoes and Worcestershire sauce and stir very well to encourage the tomatoes to breakdown if whole. Now if you were cooking this on the hob you would be adding water to allow for evaporation. Trust me and restrain yourself – add no more than 75ml water which you can swish around in the insides of the tomato can but no more. You get next to no evaporation with a slow cooker.
- Nestle the brisket in, rejoice that 10 minutes work have yielded a superb dinner in the making and transfer to your slow cooker base to cook on low for 8-12 hours. Brisket needs a long slow cook to tenderise the meat so if you are delayed on your way home, no fear – it will only taste better for the extra hour or two!
- When ready to serve, the brisket will fall apart with ease – encourage it to do so with a couple of forks. Leftovers freeze very well but serve with your carbohydrate of choice and know that a little bit of sharp cheese goes exceptionally well against the sweet smokiness of the meat.