"You could smell the
brisket all over the house, it had so much garlic in
it. A roast like that, with a fresh warm twist, is a
delicacy from heaven."--Sholem Aleichem, "Tit for
In my take on the French classic, chicken with forty
cloves of garlic becomes brisket with thirty-six
cloves. All that feisty garlic turns sweet and mellow
with gentle braising; when pureed, it forms a
seductive gravy, which is finished with a zing of
chopped raw garlic and lemon zest.
Why thirty-six cloves? Beginning with aleph, which
equals one, each letter of the Hebrew alphabet stands
for a number, and so every word has a numerical value.
All multiples of eighteen, the numerical value of the
Hebrew word chai, life, are considered especially
auspicious, which is why donations to charity, and
wedding and bar mitzvah gifts are often given in
multiples of eighteen.
1. Preheat the
oven to 325.
2. Drop the garlic cloves into boiling water
for 30 seconds. Drain immediately. Peel as
soon as garlic is cool enough to handle. Set
aside on paper towels to dry.
3. Heat the
olive oil over medium-high heat in a
heavy-bottomed roasting pan or casserole
large enough to accommodate the meat in one
layer. Use two burners, if necessary. Add
the brisket, and brown well on both sides,
about 10 minutes. Transfer the brisket to a
platter and set aside.
4. Pour off
all but about 1 tablespoon of fat remaining
in the pan, and add the garlic cloves. Cook
over medium heat, stirring occasionally,
until the garlic edges are tinged with gold.
Add the vinegar and deglaze pan, scraping up
all the browned bits from the bottom with a
wooden spoon. Add the stock, thyme and
rosemary sprigs, and reduce the heat to a
simmer. Salt and pepper the brisket to taste
on all sides, and add it to the pan, fat
side up. Spoon the garlic cloves over the
the brisket in the oven, cover, (if you have
no lid, use heavy-duty foil), and cook,
basting every half-hour, until meat is fork
tender, 2 1/2 - 3 hours or longer. (As the
meat cooks, periodically check that the
liquids are bubbling gently. If they are
boiling rapidly, turn the oven down to 300.)
the brisket to a cutting board and tent it
loosely with foil.
the gravy. Strain the braising mixture,
reserving the garlic and discarding the
thyme and rosemary sprigs. Skim and discard
as much fat as possible from the liquid.
Puree about one-half of the cooked garlic
and 1 cup of the defatted braising liquid in
a food processor or a blender. Transfer the
pureed mixture, the remaining braising
liquid, and the rest of the cooked garlic to
a skillet. Add the reserved chopped rosemary
and minced garlic and the lemon zest. Boil
down the gravy over high heat, uncovered, to
desired consistency. Taste and adjust
seasoning. (If you want a smooth gravy,
puree all of the cooked garlic cloves.)
8. Cut the
brisket into thin slices across the grain at
a slight diagonal. Arrange the sliced
brisket on a serving platter. Spoon some of
the hot gravy all over the meat and pass the
rest in a separate sauceboat.