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Like many people, I have been trying to find things that comfort me during these ~unprecedented times~ caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Since I'm a foodie, that means I've been trying out new recipes in my free time. Most recently, I combined my passion for food with my other great love, TV, by making a recipe courtesy of my favorite (fictional) Jewish mother. With high hopes and only a bit of self-doubt, I tried Midge's brisket recipe from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel to see if it really could make everything turn out alright.
Midge's brisket is an iconic part of her character. In the pilot, which hit Amazon Prime Video in March 2017, she used it to snag her husband Joel a better open mic time at The Gaslight. She was so proud of her creation, she boasted: "I'm buying it a sash and a crown."
The brisket was also her go-to comfort food while she was away from her family and on tour opening for singer Shy Baldwin in Las Vegas. Once, when feeling a bit homesick, she invaded her hotel's kitchen to make the brisket for herself and Shy's bandmates. “This brisket is magic. You’ll see. It grants wishes,” she told them.
Whenever Midge makes her brisket, things seemed to get just a little bit better. So, in a time when I'm searching for new things to keep me optimistic in quarantine, this seemed like the perfect recipe to try. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel's social accounts shared the recipe back in May 2020, so I had my eye on i for a few weeks before I decided to finally try it. I hoped this would prove I could at least cook like Midge, because I definitely won't ever be able to make an audience laugh like she does.
The instructions for the brisket are a bit minimal, so I did some research on my own for extra tips on cooking a marvelous brisket. Here's how it turned out:
1. Gather The Ingredients
Unlike Midge, who had a go-to local butcher, I had to venture all around the city to find this specific cut of meat. I went to four stores and called five more before I finally tracked down a place that had what I needed. My advice: Call around to find a store with brisket before you hop into the car. Midge's recipe serves eight to 10 people, and I only needed to feed four, so here's what my modified list consisted of:
- 1 baking dish
- 1 large pan
- Aluminum foil
- 2.5 to 3 pounds of brisket
- 1.5 medium onions
- .5 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1.5 cloves of minced garlic
- Ground black pepper
- 6 ounces chili sauce
- 15 ounce can of jellied cranberry sauce
- 6 ounces beer
- 1.5 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2. Preheat The Oven To 375 Degrees
This step is basic, but Midge wouldn't forget it, so I made it a point not to either.
3. Chop The Onions
Again, this recipe is pretty basic and doesn't specify what type of onions are best for a brisket. I chose to use classic white onions, only because they were on sale at the store. If your eyes water excessively like mine do while cutting onions, I'd highly recommend putting on some swimming goggles. Midge might not allow herself to look this silly, but it's effective, I swear.
4. Sauté Onions & Minced Garlic In A Large Pan
Next, I scrounged around my kitchen to locate a large pan, drizzled a tablespoon of oil onto it, and turned the heat up to medium-high. After about a minute, I put all of the chopped onions on the pan, added three cloves (1.5 teaspoons) of minced garlic, and sauteed until browned. This took about 15 minutes — just enough time to re-watch some of Midge's best stand-up sets on my phone.
Note: Picking out a large pan for this is important because the brisket will have to go into this pan later.
5. Put Sautéed Onions & Garlic In A Baking Dish
Once the onions and garlic were browned, I spread them out along the bottom of the baking dish that would later go in the oven with the brisket. Word to the wise, it helps to use a dish with raised sides so the sauce (made later) doesn't drip everywhere.
6. Sear Brisket On The Stove
After seasoning the brisket with a pinch of salt and pepper, I grabbed the meat with a pair of tongs and placed it in the same pan I used to cook the garlic and onions. Since this recipe didn't specify how to sear the meat (and I had never seared anything before), I turned to YouTube and found a quick tutorial. Going off of those instructions, I seared each side for about four minutes to get the perfect brown color, because I knew Midge wouldn't settle for anything less if she was in charge.
7. Place Brisket In The Pan
Next, I placed the seared brisket in the pan on top of the onions and garlic. So far, things were looking good, so it was time for a drink break. I opted for a sparkling seltzer, but perhaps should have gone with one of Midge's martinis to keep with the theme. (I tried her drink recipe a few days later, and it was as good as it looks on TV.)
8. Make The Sauce
Combining half of the 12-ounce bottle of chili sauce, one 15-ounce can of jellied cranberry sauce, half a bottle of beer, and 1.5 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, I made the sauce that would go on top of and around the brisket. The recipe doesn't specify what type of beer is best for brisket, so I bought a light beer with a fun label, but apparently, most brisket recipes use lager (a lesson I learned after making my beer purchase). Once combined, the sauce didn't look that great — the cranberry sauce sunk to the bottom — but I had faith it would all come together.
9. Add Sauce To Baking Pan & Sprinkle With Brown Sugar
Next, I poured the sauce over the brisket in the pan. In retrospect, a larger pan might have been a better call to avoid potential spillage, but it ended up working out — I only spilled a little bit of sauce onto the counter. Part of the brisket remained uncovered by the sauce, which was perfect because I was able to sprinkle some brown sugar on the top, just like the recipe indicated.
10. Wrap With Aluminum Foil & Bake For 3.5 Hours
Once everything was in the baking dish, I wrapped my creation tightly with aluminum foil and politely asked my boyfriend to put it into the oven. I was way too nervous I'd drop the contents of the dish all over the floor to do it myself.
11. Refrigerate Overnight
This may have been the hardest step of them all. Sure, there's not much active work here, but after 3.5 hours of smelling glorious aromas coming out of the oven, all I wanted to do was eat the brisket. However, the recipe said to slice and eat the next day, and I wasn't going to go off script. Apparently, letting the brisket hang out for a night makes slicing easier and ensures the meat will be more moist. Just make sure to use plastic wrap to cover it while it's in the fridge.
12. Slice & Enjoy
Finally, more than 24 hours after starting this process, it was time to dig in. I sliced the brisket cold — which was as easy as advertised — drizzled some sauce over the slices, and put it in the oven for 45 minutes to warm up. When it came out, it was tender, juicy, and definitely worth every ounce of work that went into it. The macaroni and cheese, broccoli, and garlic bread I also made paired nicely with the meat.
Overall, I really enjoyed making this recipe. It pushed me a bit; I had to learn a new skill (searing) and practice some serious self-control in letting it rest in the fridge overnight. I think the whole process might have been a bit easier if I had a pan that I could use both on the stove and in the oven so I wouldn't have to transfer the ingredients in the middle of the process. Nevertheless, the meat came out juicy, I was full, and my boyfriend was happy. That's really all I can ask for. I'm officially adding this one to my recipe book so I can channel Midge Maisel whenever I need a pick-me-up.