COCA-COLA BRAISED BEEF BRISKET
I’ll be the first to admit that I was bit skeptical the first time I came across a menu item that featured store-bought soda like Coca-Cola. Convinced that the ingredient was completely superfluous and included solely for the sake of novelty, it wasn’t until I dug into a plate of tender, fall-of-the-bone, Dr. Pepper braised beef short ribs at the Roaring Fork in Scottsdale, Arizona, that I realized it was no gimmick.
I’d like to say that braising meat with the addition of soda brings a flavor to dishes that is unparalleled in complexity and nuance, but after using it as a medium in other dishes, I’ve found it simply contributes a unique, savory sweetness. This flavor profile seems especially well suited for a tough, fatty cut of meat like brisket. Long, slow simmering renders what is otherwise a notoriously chewy cut of beef into an unctuous, meltingly-tender meal that is perfect for the cold months ahead. In the end, it’s amazing how a tough, budget cut of beef and a handful of cheap pantry ingredients can come together to create a dish that is as satisfying and filling this one. I know it looks like the cover image of a Hungry-Man TV dinner, but trust me, this stuff is comfort food at it’s best.
COCA-COLA BRAISED BEEF BRISKET
Adapted from the April, 2004 issue of Food and Wine Magazine
Keep a close eye on the brisket during the initial searing process as the spice rub is high in sugar and will have the propensity to burn if the heat is not controlled. Before you place the meat in the oven to braise, tightly cover the pot with a few pieces of aluminum foil to create tight seal before adding the lid. This dish can be prepared through Step #6 and refrigerated overnight. This will not only allow you to easily remove any solidified fat from the pan sauce, but will also improve the meat’s overall flavor from a rest overnight in it’s flavorful juices.
- 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
- One 2 1/2 – 3 pound beef brisket, trimmed
- 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 large onions sliced 1/2-inch thick
- 1 pound carrots, sliced 1/8-inch thick on a bias
- 1 cup coca-cola
- 1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons ketchup
- Combine the brown sugar, salt, garlic powder, cayenne, paprika, black pepper, cinnamon, cocoa powder, coriander and white pepper in a small bowl. Make sure the spices are well incorporated and rub the mixture evenly into the beef. Set the brisket in a baking dish, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 325°. Heat the vegetable oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Place the brisket into the pot, fat side down, and sear the meat until richly browned, about 6 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
- Add the sliced onions to the oil left in the pot and cook until softened, about 12-15 minutes. Keep the pot covered and stir frequently to prevent burning. Add the carrots, cover and cook, stirring until softened, about 5 more minutes. Transfer onions and carrots to a bowl.
- Deglaze the pan by adding in the coca-cola, tomatoes and ketchup. Scrape the bottom of the pot with the back of a wooden spoon to dissolve all of the brown, caramelized bits.
- Carefully add the brisket back to the dutch oven along with any accumulated juices. Place the carrots and onions around the meat. If needed, add enough water to keep the meat half-submerged in liquid. Cover the pot tightly with aluminum foil before closing the lid. Place in the oven to slowly braise for 3 hours.
- Gently remove the brisket from its braising liquid and allow to rest on a board, tented with aluminum foil for 30 minutes. Raise the oven temperature to 425°. Slice the rested meat across the grain into 1/4-inch slices. Spoon-off any accumulated fat from the top of the juices left in the dutch oven and return the sliced brisket to the pot.
- Return the pot to the oven, uncovered, and cook until the meat is fork-tender, about 30-40 minutes. Remove the pot from the oven and let stand for 15 minutes before removing the sliced brisket to a platter. Spoon over the onions, carrots and sauce and serve immediately.