Kitchn Love Letters

This Heirloom Brisket Recipe Anchors My Passover Celebration Year After Year

published Apr 2, 2023
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Beef brisket in a Dutch oven topped with onions, garlic and bay leaf before cooking.
Credit: Shani Frymer

There is comfort in the predictability of the annual holiday calendar — Christmas and Hanukkah, Purim and Halloween, Easter and Passover. While folks are wondering how they are going to host a painted eggstravaganza with the current egg shortage, I’ll be quietly plotting how many of Josh Cohen’s briskets I will be cooking this year for myself and for my clients, wondering what side dishes I will select to round out the feast. Passover, although a somber holiday, is celebrated in the springtime, which always feels like an awakening. I happily emerge from the doldrums of all the hearty winter stews, and can often get distracted in the minutiae of this year’s spring vegetable preparation — yet this stalwart recipe remains the same and keeps me anchored year after year.

What Makes Josh Cohen’s Brisket So Special?

Written as an ode to his family’s culinary matriarch, Libbie Miller, who was known to fly with her mise en place from her home in Green Bay, Wisconsin, to Rhode Island, this recipe was developed to properly document the centerpiece of those infamous holiday feasts. Josh and I are colleagues, which is how I learned of his brisket. He has spoken to the comfort it brings him to prepare something consistent every year in the midst of the hustle and grind of any given day. Chefs trading recipes is certainly not new, and it was clear from the first time I prepared this one that it would never be supplanted by another. Recipes like this are handed down as heirlooms and trigger a particular sort of nostalgia. Something about the combination of these specific ingredients reminded me of my own Safta, a fleeting sensation I’m not eager to lose.

Credit: Shani Frymer

How to Make Josh Cohen’s Brisket 

You begin by preheating your broiler and generously seasoning the brisket with salt and pepper. Then you sear (or, in my case, broil) the brisket on both sides until you attain an attractive brown crust. Briskets are often large and oddly shaped, and it can be difficult to find the right-size pan to fit it in. Broiling it also minimizes the fat splatter in your kitchen. You’re welcome. Then you assemble a simple “tomatoey” glaze that is smeared all over. Together with some sautéed onions, sliced garlic, a splash of water, and a shot of apple cider vinegar, the brisket gets transferred to a Dutch oven with a lid and braised for two to three hours, flipping every hour or so.

Aside from the occasional flip to ensure moist and even cooking, this recipe is delightfully hands-off. What emerges is a soft, aromatic brisket that is absolutely greater than the sum of its parts — it’s oh-so tender and moist. Plus, the ample sauce that is produced comes in handy the day after as the most killer pasta sauce you will ever encounter.

If You’re Making Josh Cohen’s Brisket, a Few Tips 

  • Broil the brisket instead of pan-searing. This minimizes the fat splatter, and saves you the trouble of finding a pan large enough to sear in.
  • Allow the brisket plenty of time to rest before slicing. A hot brisket isn’t just in danger of sending you to the burn unit — it slices so much more easily when it’s cool.
  • Have your glaze ready before you sear or broil, and have some gloves on hand. A spoon or brush does a decent job, but I prefer getting in there with my hands to ensure an even coating.