Rum… and coffee… brisket?? Sounds crazy, I know. And yet, you were curious enough to click through, which means you’ve got an open mind. Trust me, this is one cooking experiment you must try!
I’ve been around the brisket block a time or two. I’ve done the traditional, the herb braised, the onion soup, the beer brisket. I’ve even dabbled in the exotic with Middle Eastern-inspired flavors, like pomegranate molasses brisket. Me and brisket are old friends. So this year, with the High Holidays approaching, I challenged myself to come up with something new and different. A few years ago, a friend mentioned to me that she uses coffee as part of the cooking liquid for her brisket. I loved that idea… something about the flavor of coffee and brisket seemed to just go together. I’d also seen a bourbon coffee brisket recipe in a cooking magazine a few years back (Bon Appetit, I think?) which sounded interesting. I don’t love bourbon, but when alcohol cooks down in a recipe like this it often tastes nothing like the original drink. I experimented with combining bourbon and coffee, then beer and coffee. I replaced regular coffee with a darker espresso blend, which gave the sauce a deeper flavor. Then my friend Gary, a chef, suggested rum.
Bingo! The result was off-the-charts delicious. With onions, garlic, and red peppers added for a very subtle sweetness, this brisket turned out incredibly flavorful. It’s still that homey, comforting brisket we know and love… the tender, savory goodness you’ve come to expect at the holidays. And yet, there’s something different… something special. I had a few friends taste test it, and they couldn’t put their finger on what it was, but they all agreed it was amazing. When I told them it was rum and coffee, they were floored. Then they asked for seconds.
Some of you might be put off by the idea of the rum, thinking the flavor will be too strong. Let me assure you that there is very little “rum” flavor to the brisket. When the alcohol of the rum cooks off, it leaves behind a trace of rum essence; it’s very subtle, the opposite of overpowering. What I taste here more is the coffee. It makes a dark, rich, savory sauce that infuses the brisket with tons of flavor. Make it ahead if you can, and let the brisket marinate in the sauce overnight (or even two nights). Prepare to swoon. You’ll love it!
What is your favorite way to make brisket?
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- 5-7 lb brisket, first cut
- 4 cups onion, peeled and diced
- 4 cups red bell pepper, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 cups strong brewed coffee or espresso blend
- ¾ cup dark rum (recommended Bacardi Select)
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
- Beef broth
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 4 tsp cornstarch (you can substitute potato starch for Passover if you prefer)
You will also need
- Large heavy roasting pan, foil, skillet (if needed), blender (optional). If making ahead, you will also need plastic wrap and a ceramic or glass roasting dish.
- Note: If gluten free, make sure all pre-packaged products including rum and beef broth are certified gluten free. If making for Passover, check to make sure your rum and all other pre-packaged products have a Passover kosher hechsher.
- Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F. Rinse the brisket and pat dry, rub with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large roasting pan over medium high heat. Place the brisket into the pan. Brown the brisket on both sides (about 5 minutes per side). If you don't have a roasting pan that will heat up on your stovetop, you can do these initial browning and sautéing steps in a large skillet, then transfer everything over to a large roasting dish before putting in the oven.
- Remove brisket from the pan. Drizzle remaining 2 tbsp olive oil in the pan and add the diced onions, diced red peppers and garlic. Sauté the vegetables for a few minutes, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan with your spatula.
- When onion is translucent, add coffee and rum and bring to a simmer. Scrape up any remaining brown bits on the bottom of the pan as the liquid heats up.
- Place brisket back into the pan, cover with peppers, onions and liquid. Pour beef broth into the pan until it goes halfway up the sides of your brisket.
- Cover roasting pan tightly with foil, tenting slightly so there is no contact between the foil and the ingredients inside, and place in the oven.
- Let the brisket roast undisturbed for 5 to 7 hours. It will take about 1 hour per pound of meat (leaner cuts of meat may take longer—test for doneness). Brisket is ready when it flakes and is fork tender. You can let it cook even longer for a soft, shredded texture if that’s what you prefer. When fully cooked, the brisket will have shrunk in size.
- I recommend making this brisket ahead; allowing it to sit in the refrigerator for 1-2 nights will improve the flavor. If you would like to do this, skip ahead to where it says “Make Ahead Directions.” If you are not making ahead, continue reading.
- Remove brisket from the pan and let it rest on the cutting board fat-side up for 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile, pour the sauce and vegetables from the roasting pan into a smaller saucepan. Skim fat from the surface of the cooking sauce, then reheat the sauce till hot. Mix together 4 tsp cornstarch and 2 tbsp cold water till smooth, then stir into the sauce. bring sauce to a boil till it thickens (add more cornstarch/water mixture to thicken further, if desired). Alternatively, once you've skimmed the fat from the sauce, you can blend the sauce and vegetables in a blender, then reheat the mixture to make a thicker gravy (you will lose the pretty pepper chunks this way, but the gravy will be nice and flavorful). Cut fat cap off the brisket, then cut the brisket in thin slices against the grain. Serve brisket topped with warm sauce and softened veggies.
Make Ahead Directions (Recommended)
- Open the foil to vent and let the brisket slowly return to room temperature. Discard foil. Transfer brisket, vegetables and cooking juices over to a glass or ceramic baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. Let the brisket chill overnight, or up to two days. You can also freeze the brisket up to a week ahead if you prefer.
- 1-2 hours before serving, remove the brisket from the refrigerator and preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. The fat in the sauce will have risen to the top and solidified. Use a spoon to scoop the fat bits out of the sauce and discard. Take the brisket out of the dish and brush any excess sauce and vegetables back into the dish. Place brisket on a cutting board, fat-side up. Slice the meat cold—first cut the fat cap off the brisket, then cut the brisket in thin slices against the grain.
- Take the brisket out of the dish and brush any excess sauce and vegetables back into the dish. Place brisket on a cutting board, fat-side up. Slice the meat cold—first cut the fatty flat cap off the brisket, then cut the brisket in thin slices against the grain.
- If my brisket is very large and wide, I often cut the slices in half lengthwise to make the size of the brisket pieces more manageable.
- Mix 4 tsp of cornstarch into 2 tbsp of cold water. Stir the mixture into your cooking liquid. Alternatively, rather than adding the cornstarch mixture, you can blend the sauce to make a gravy. Once you've skimmed the fat from the sauce, pour the chilled cooking liquid and vegetables into a blender and blend. This will make a thick and flavorful gravy, but you will lose the pretty pepper chunks. Either way works!
- Return the sliced brisket to the dish and spoon sauce and vegetables or blended gravy over it, making sure to spoon a little sauce between each slice.
- Cover the dish with foil and place it in the oven. Let the brisket roast for 45-60 minutes till heated through. You can cook it even longer to let it become more tender, if you wish. To thicken the sauce further, stir in more of the cornstarch/water mixture, a teaspoon at a time, into the hot sauce till it has thickened to your liking. Add salt and pepper to taste, if desired. Serve brisket with pan sauce and softened veggies.