Cousin Neil heads up a harem: He and his wife, Abbe, have three daughters—Amanda, Colby, and Taylor. Even the two Maltese are females. Yet a man’s gotta eat what a man’s gotta eat, and the ladies (not to mention the very spoiled dogs!) love this hearty dish—as do their guests, who never number less than thirty for holiday meals. And what could be easier than this brisket, especially since it’s prepared a day ahead. According to Neil, it’s best served with kasha.
Yield: Serves 8 to 10
4 to 5 pounds first-cut beef brisket
½ cup ketchup
1 envelope dehydrated onion soup mix
6 ounces (½ can) Coca-Cola
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
2. Place the brisket, fat side down, in a 13 × 9-inch baking pan (or one large enough to hold it) and add water to a depth of about 1 inch. Spread the ketchup evenly over the meat, using a spatula or a spoon. Sprinkle the soup mix over the ketchup, and use the spatula or spoon to press it into the ketchup. Pour the Coca-Cola around the meat. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil.
3. Bake until tender. The time will vary according to the thickness of the meat and your preference. Start checking after 2½ hours. Three to 3½ hours usually does it for me, although Abbe’s family likes it really falling apart, and she’s been known to cook it for as long as 5 hours. (I like to remove the foil and roast the brisket uncovered for the last 20 minutes or so.)
4. Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool. Then transfer the brisket and sauce to a nonreactive dish or container, cover, and refrigerate.
5. The next day, remove and discard the fat that has congealed on top of the sauce as well as the layer of fat on the meat. Slice the meat against the grain. Strain the sauce. Arrange the meat in a Dutch oven or other large, heavy pot, add the gravy, and simmer until hot.
6. Serve hot, passing any extra gravy in a sauceboat.