A truly delectable brisket, this has the distinction of being the only recipe in this book where the lid on the baking pan is left ajar. If you prefer a richer sauce, substitute half beef broth and half wine for the water. Tip: It’s really important for the flavor and the color of the finished sauce to slowly cook the onions until deep golden.
Best prepared a day or two before and gently reheated when ready to serve.
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
In a Dutch oven or other heavy baking pan large enough to hold the brisket, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in the oven for 10 minutes. Pat the brisket dry and season with salt and pepper to taste. Roast the brisket in the pan, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
While the brisket is roasting, in a large heavy skillet cook the onions in the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over moderately high heat, stirring, until softened and beginning to turn golden. Reduce the heat and cook the onions, stirring occasionally and reducing the heat if necessary, until deep golden, about 20 minutes more. Stir in the garlic, paprika, salt, and pepper and cook for 1 minute. Stir in 3 cups of water and bring to a boil.
Spoon the onion mixture over the brisket and bake, covered, with lid 1/2 inch ajar, until the brisket is fork tender, about 3 1/2 hours. (Check the pan every hour; if necessary, add more water.) Remove the brisket from the oven and cool in the onion mixture for 1 hour.
Remove the brisket from the pan, scraping the onion mixture back into the pan, and chill, wrapped in aluminum foil, overnight. Spoon the onion mixture into a 1-quart measuring cup and chill, covered, overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Discard the fat from the onion mixture, add enough water to the mixture to measure 3 cups total, if necessary, and in a blender blend the gravy until smooth. Trim the fat, then slice the brisket against the grain (thick or thin). In a large ovenproof skillet heat the gravy until hot, add the brisket, cover with foil, and heat in the oven for about 30 minutes.
Recipe from The Brisket Book: A Love Story with Recipes. by Stephanie Pierson (Andrew McMeel Publishing, 2011). Recipe reprinted with permission.
Harold McGee, the author of Keys to Good Cooking, is an expert on the chemistry behind food and cooking. McGee recently made his first trip to China, where he learned more about rice wine.