Slow Cooker Beef Brisket

As I mentioned yesterday, this past Saturday was Mom's birthday dinner at the humble Humiston abode in Jersey City. In addition to light hors d'oeuvres including caprese salad and smoked salmon, we feasted on a tender beef brisket. I must be honest. I have never made beef brisket. I had no idea how to cook it or even where to buy it. But I did some research and hoped for the best, figuring the worst case would be turning to the local Chinese take out place for a guaranteed dinner. (I should also note here that I don't typically recommend trying out a new dish for company, but I just had a particularly good feeling about this one...it really seemed fairly fool-proof) And when I found out that I could make the entire thing in my slow cooker, freeing up my oven for side dishes like sweet potatoes and roasted parmesean asparagus, it was pretty much a no brainer. With my go-to gal, the Barefoot Contessa herself, and her almost frighteningly easy brisket recipe, I picked up the ingredients for what would become a truly delightful main course. Note: this recipe is based on a 5 lb brisket. If you use a smaller cut of meat, adjust the ingredients accordingly, ok? Let's get down to it...

Brisket with Carrots & Onions
*Adapted from Ina Garten
5 pounds beef brisket
2 tsp kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
4 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp dried oregano leaves
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 lb carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
5 stalks celery, cut into 2-inch chunks
4 yellow onions, peeled and sliced
3 fresh or dried bay leaves
1 46 oz bottle low sodium V8
1 14 oz can low sodium beef broth
olive oil

In a skillet, heat 1 tbsp olive oil. Add meat to pan-sear for 2 minutes on each side. This will make a flavorful brown crust on the meat. (Note: my hunk o'beef did not fit in my skillet, so I had to improvise...and by improvise I mean brown half of it while the other half hung over the side...it doesn't have to be perfect, just get 'er done). Once seared, add to slow cooker (trim to fit). In a small bowl, mix garlic, salt, pepper, basil and oregano. Spread onto the brisket. Pile the bay leaves and vegetables on top of the brisket. Add V8 to cover 2/3 of the way up the meat and vegetables (I only used about half the bottle, but kept the rest on hand in the event of a veggie juice emergency...). Pour about 1/2 can of beef broth over the top, but don't cover the entire dish. Place the top on the slow cooker and cook on low for at least 8 hours. I cooked mine for 8 hours and it was fork tender, literally falling apart. I then just kept it warm until about 30 minutes before I served the meat. At that point, remove from slow cooker, place on cutting board and cover with aluminum foil. This allows the meat to rest and keeps all of the delectable juices in tact. Meanwhile, pour the liquid into a saute pan. Bring to a boil and then simmer until the gravy is thickened. After 20-30 minutes, cut the meat across the grain and serve on a platter with the vegetables. Add gravy to taste.

And the result? A delicious recipe that easy as proverbial pie. Really, the perfect dish for company since there didn't require any standing over the stove and there was pretty much no possible way to overcook the meat. I mean, really, could it be easier? Oh, and in terms of the meat, Shaun went to our local Morton-Williams and asked the butcher to cut a 5 lb hock for us. Bellisimo. And the icing on the proverbial cake? This recipe is even better when stored in gravy and reheated the next day. We only discovered this after realizing that a 5lb cut of brisket is just overboard for a group of 5. But no complaints from me on the reheated version.

So what do you think? Have you ever attempted a new recipe to serve to company? How did it turn out?