Growing up, my mother, like many Jewish American home cooks, always made a braised brisket recipe for Rosh Hashanah. The juicy meat, which came perfumed with plenty of onions and garlic, was Jewish comfort food at its finest. I love it just as it is, but in recent years, I have begun to play around with the flavors to make a dish that reflects the bounty of the early fall season and includes dried apricots and figs.
Rosh Hashanah (also called the Jewish New Year) is the spiritual head of the Jewish calendar – a time of great joy and introspection. Families and friends join together for festive meals filled with a variety of symbolic foods. The best known of these symbols dips crunchy apple slices into golden honey as an edible embodiment of one’s wishes for sweetness in the coming year. The challah served on Rosh Hashanah is similarly woven into a round shape, rather than the typical braided loaf, to symbolize hopes for a full, round year ahead.
Some families observe the custom of eating a “new fruit” – either something they have never eaten before, or something they haven’t eaten in the previous year – to symbolize the sense of newness that the holiday brings. It is not uncommon to see a platter of sliced star fruit, a bowl of gooseberries, or a few spiky rambutan on the Rosh Hashanah table. Seasonal produce like pomegranates, squash, and figs are also commonly woven into the Rosh Hashanah meal.
In this riff on classic Jewish brisket, I amped up my mother’s braised brisket recipe with a hearty glug of red wine, a drizzle of maple syrup, and a heap of dried figs and apricots. The dried fruit gets slowly braised alongside the savory meat, adding hints of jammy sweetness and helping to cut through the dish’s richness. The brisket that emerges from the oven tastes just like tradition – only better!
Brisket with Dried Apricots and Figs
- 3 tablespoons sunflower oil (or another neutral oil), divided
- 1 brisket (about 5 pounds)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 large onions , halved through the root and thinly sliced
- 6 garlic cloves , thinly sliced
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
- 4 cups beef or chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup Orchard Choice or Sun-Maid California Mission Figs , stems trimmed and halved vertically
- 1/2 cup dried apricots , halved
- Preheat the oven to 325°F. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large Dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Generously season the brisket on both sides with salt and black pepper, place in the hot pan and sear, turning once, until well browned on both sides, 4 to 5 minutes per side. (If the meat doesn’t fit in a single layer in the pan, cut it in half and sear in two batches.) Transfer the browned meat to a large plate and set aside.
- Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the Dutch oven, then stir in the onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes.
- Add the wine, vinegar, onion powder, and 1 teaspoon of salt and cook until the wine reduces a bit, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the broth, maple syrup, and bay leaves and bring the mixture to a boil.
- Gently return the seared brisket to the Dutch oven (along with any juices accumulated on the plate), and spoon some of the liquid over the meat.
- Cover the Dutch oven and transfer to the oven. Let the brisket cook, undisturbed, for 1 ½ hours. Stir in the dried figs and dried apricots, re-cover the Dutch oven, and continue cooking until the meat is very tender, another 1 ½ hours.
- Remove from the oven and let the meat cool. Refrigerate overnight, then thinly slice the meat against the grain while it is cold. (Brisket is easier to cut cold than hot.) When ready to serve, reheat the sliced meat and juices in a 325°F oven until bubbling. Taste and add more salt, if desired.
- Transfer the meat, dried fruit, and onions to a serving platter (discarding the bay leaves), and spoon a generous amount of the cooking liquid over top. Serve hot.