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Brisket Braised in Pomegranate Juice with Onion Confit and Pomegranate Seeds
Yield: 8 generous servings
For the Brisket
3 tablespoons olive or canola oil (or 1, if broil-searing)
A first- or second-cut beef brisket, about 5 pounds, trimmed of excess fat, wiped with a damp paper towel, and patted dry
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)
2 leeks, washed well and coarsely chopped (include both white and pale green parts)
6 large garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 large carrots, scraped and coarsely chopped
1 celery stalk with leaves, coarsely chopped
2 cups pomegranate juice
2 cups chicken broth
3 fresh thyme sprigs or 2 teaspoons dried leaves
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
2 Turkish bay leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the Confit
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 large onions (about 2 ½ pounds), very thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
Prepare brisket: heat oil over medium-high heat in large heavy-bottomed roasting pan, using two burners, if necessary, or in wide 6-quart Dutch oven or flameproof casserole. Add brisket, and brown well on both sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer brisket to a platter and set aside.
Alternatively, you might find it easier to sear meat under broiler. Just cover broiler pan well with foil to minimize cleanup. Preheat broiler. Place brisket under broiler, fat side up, and broil for 5 to 6 minutes on each side, or until nicely browned. Move meat around as necessary, so it sears evenly. Transfer brisket to a platter and set aside.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Pour off all but about 1 tablespoon of fat remaining in pan (or heat 1 tablespoon of oil if you broiled brisket), and add onions and leeks. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium-high heat, until vegetables are softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic, carrots, and celery, and continue cooking until onions are golden, 7 to 10 minutes, stirring and scraping pan to prevent scorching or sticking.
Add 1 cup pomegranate juice and bring mixture to a boil, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan with a wooden spoon, until liquid is reduced by about half. Add remaining 1 cup juice, broth, thyme, rosemary, and bay leaves and bring mixture to a simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Lightly salt and pepper brisket on both sides, and add to pan, fat side up, spooning vegetables all over meat. Cover pan tightly (use heavy-duty foil if you don’t have a lid for the pan), and braise brisket in oven, basting every half hour, until meat is very tender, 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours. (Turn oven down to 300 degrees F, if braising liquid begins to bubble rapidly.)
The brisket tastes best if allowed to rest, reabsorbing juices lost during braising, and it’s easiest to defat the gravy if you prepare the meat ahead and refrigerate it until the fat solidifies. So cool brisket in the pan sauce, cover well with foil, and refrigerate until fat congeals. (The gravy can be prepared by skimming fat in the traditional way, if you prefer. If you go that route, though, do let meat rest in pan sauce for at least an hour.)
About an hour or so before you are ready to serve brisket, make confit: in 10- to 12-inch heavy skillet, warm oil. Add onions, season lightly with salt and pepper, and toss to coat with oil. Cook, tightly covered, over lowest heat, stirring occasionally so mixture does not burn, for 1 hour, or until onions are very soft and pale gold. Add additional salt and pepper to taste, broth, and wine. Raise heat and boil mixture, uncovered, stirring, until all liquid is evaporated and onions turn golden. Taste and adjust seasoning (it may take quite a bit of salt), and turn off heat. Cover mixture and keep warm. Stir in pomegranate seeds just before serving.
Scrape off all solid fat from brisket. Remove meat from pan and slice thinly across the grain.
Prepare gravy: bring braising mixture to room temperature, then strain it, reserving vegetables. Skim and discard as much fat as possible from the liquid. Puree reserved vegetables and 1 cup of the defatted braising liquid in food processor or blender. Transfer pureed mixture and remaining braising liquid to a skillet, and reduce gravy over high heat to desired consistency. Taste for seasoning. Rewarm brisket in the gravy until heated through.
Spread onion confit over a serving platter and arrange sliced brisket on top. Ladle hot gravy over meat and serve immediately.