Braised Brisket With Fennel and Shallots

Brisket is a cut of beef not everyone knows about, but should. And Jews love it. This is my braised brisket with fennel and shallots, and it’s a great, easy dish I make during the week, but that’s also elegant enough for a holiday dinner. Braised brisket is a popular dish in Ashkenazic Jewish cuisine and has been eaten for special occasions, such as Passover, since the 1700s. And, if you’re wondering, because brisket comes from the front of the animal, it’s considered kosher.

braised brisket with fennel

Despite its Jewish reputation, there are many other cultures that love brisket including; Korean, German, Thai, British, Pakistani, and Vietnamese cuisine. In Israel, butchers have their special names for different cuts of beef including brisket. There, butchers refer to brisket as “bruit” and “chazeh.”

In the butchery world, brisket is one of the nine “primal cuts” of beef. The other seven primal cuts include; chuck, rib, loin, round, flank, shank, and short plate. Fresh brisket is an inexpensive boneless cut of beef that needs to be cooked slowly to break down the connective tissues. The unique thing about this cut of beef is that it can be slow-cooked so it’s “fork tender“, yet is still sliceable. Brisket also has what can be described as a better “beefy flavor” compared to other beef cuts like chuck. When cooked properly braised, smoked, or slowly roasted, brisket renders a soft and satisfying meat with incredible flavor.

braised brisket with fennel

Two Kinds of Brisket:

Once the whole brisket is cut in half, each half is given a different name—the first cut and the second cut. The first cut, also known as the flat cut, thin cut, or center cut, is the leaner piece of meat. The second cut has more flavor due to a bit of extra fat.

The first cut is more attractive and will slice up neatly. It’s a great choice for corned beef. The second cut (the type I use in this recipe) is a favorite in Jewish cooking, as the fatty cap contributes to a rich and satisfying stew as the meat braises. Pit masters also gravitate toward the second cut, as the preponderance of fat makes for a juicy smoked cut that shreds nicely.

braised brisket with fennel

Cooking with Brisket:

Brisket is what is used to make both corned beef and pastrami. People often ask what is another cut of beef similar to brisket, but the answer is, there isn’t one. There is no cut of beef with the same cooking qualities as brisket. Shocking, I know. When cooking brisket, you must accept two important rules; one, it takes a long time to cook and two, you cannot eat it rarely. And there are no exceptions to these rules.

Brisket is a cut of beef made for slow cooking, not fast cooking. Its unique characteristic compared to other slow-cooking cuts of beef is that it holds its shape even after hours and hours of slow cooking and can be sliced. Many other cuts of slow cooking cuts of beef like chuck and short ribs, fall apart easily because more connective tissues is running throughout the meat which break down with slow cooking.

braised brisket with fennel

This braised brisket with shallots and fennel recipe may require some substantial cooking time, but its preparation is rather simple. As with most brisket recipes, my recipe can easily be prepped ahead and reheated without losing an ounce of flavor. Native to the Mediterranean region, fennel is one of Italy’s most popular vegetables and it’s also one of my favorite iron-rich vegetables and a great one to use when cooking brisket. In this recipe, the fennel almost caramelizes as it cooks, taking on a sweeter flavor and a melt-in-your-mouth texture that accompanies the tenderized brisket in this recipe just perfectly.

About the Author

Andrea Potischman

I am a professionally trained NYC chef turned CA mom and food blogger. I post about real food, with doable ingredient lists that are family friendly.

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