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Classic Cookbooks: Edna Lewis's Oven Brisket

Book CoverMy family has a dinner-table tic: whether we’re at a restaurant or at home and especially good bread is served, someone always says, “You know, I could just eat bread for dinner. This is all I need.” When my father says it I laugh because we’ve heard it a million times, but as often as not I’m the one who pipes up, involuntarily and completely carried away by my enthusiasm for bread and butter.

This weekend I made brisket and realized I’ve developed a new kitchen tic all my own. Whenever I slow-cook or braise a tough piece of meat, I taste it to see if it's tender enough, then announce, “I bet this is going to be so good tomorrow.” Everyone knows that kind of thing improves with a day or two, but saying it aloud reassures and excites me.

Alas, mere hours after I pulled Edna Lewis’s brisket from the oven Saturday night I was on my way to the airport, so I did not get a chance to taste it on the second day. (Yes, Andrew is home alone with several pounds of meat—lucky!) This was particularly upsetting because it was quite good even on the first day—the onions are incredibly rich and sweet and soft, making up for anything the beef might have yet to develop in terms of flavor, texture, or moistness.

The best thing about this recipe, though, is how easy it is. I am a slow cook, but I was able to complete all the prep work (i.e. slicing some onions) while the meat browned, after which everything went into the oven for a few hours. No rubbing with spices and letting sit overnight, no larding, no deglazing. In the spirit of that ease, I neglected to purée the onions into sauce at the end and did not regret it.

About the author: Robin Bellinger recently escaped a career in book publishing, which was cutting into her cooking time. Now she's a freelance editor and can bake bread on Tuesday afternoon if she feels like it. She lives in Midtown Manhattan with her husband and blogs about cooking and crafting at home*economics.

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