Brisket, Fourth of July and Bastille Day all sort of merged together in my childhood mind. Fourth of July always included the obvious picnic but Bastille Day was my grandmother’s birthday and my aunt used to fix brisket for the family members who’d be dropping by during the day. Her version was one of those less common types that had no bbq sauce or catsup. She died before I could ask her how she made it, but I was confident that I could recreate it through trial and error.
My first assay at Mt. Brisket contained all the things that I liked and thought would enhance the meat. I’d had some wonderful coffee dusted fajitas in Texas so a shot of strong coffee went in. Her original brisket had had a sweet flavor so I added some cane syrup and the usual garlic, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke and bay leaf. I put all this in the blender with some vegetable oil, poured it over the brisket, and waited for the magic to happen.
The first indication of trouble in paradise was the slightly sour smell emanating from the oven. I assumed (incorrectly) that something had bubbled over and was burning on the bottom. After hours of low temp braising I took my masterpiece out and removed the cover.
Ever had a crawfish boil, dumped the shells in the garbage and it’s a week in the heat before garbage pick up? Remember what that smelled like? Well, this smelled almost as bad. Not rotting bad, but real sour and off bad. I couldn’t figure it out. After all, the ingredients were so good but they seemed to have had a weird negative synergy going on. Kinda like a divorce between really nice people. Everyone thinks, but they were so great – what happened? You’ll never know. And I still don’t know why coffee/syrup/spice brisket was so bad but it was. I even tried rinsing it off…hah!…it laughed in my face. The sour foulness had penetrated too deeply.
What to do? No original recipe. Memory and creativity had clearly failed. I just wanted good brisket and I was now ready to steal.
Enter Marcelle Bienvenu, Gulf Coast Goddess of cuisine. Did she have a catsup free marinade? Yes she did. And I took it as a good omen that hers also came from an aunt. My only real changes to it were substituting butter for margarine, parsley for basil and adding a bay leaf.
Best of all it neither smells nor tastes like sour shellfish garbage!
So make your marinade:
- 3 to 4 lbs. brisket
- 1 cup butter, melted
- ⅓ cup soy sauce
- ⅓ cup orange juice
- 3 medium cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 tsp. coarse ground black pepper (plus a small amount to sprinkle directly on the brisket)
- ¼ tsp. cayenne
- 2 tsps. liquid smoke
- ½ tsp. powdered bay leaf (or one crushed bay leaf)
- 2 tablespoons minced parsley
- Lay brisket in a glass or non reactive pan. Leave the fat cap on and salt and pepper it well.
- Melt butter then add orange juice, soy sauce, liquid smoke, garlic, pepper, bay leaf and cayenne and mix well. Pour over brisket, cover and marinate for several hours or overnight in the fridge.
- Bake covered at 250 till it is easily pierced by a fork, probably several hours, but this can vary. Count on at least 3 hours.
- Remove the brisket from the gravy and slice off the fat.
- Strain the gravy and refrigerate for several hours or until the fat congeals at the top. Remove the fat.
- Taste the juices. They will probably be too tart. This is where you improvise. I usually add some white sugar and/or tomato paste, but remember, you're just looking to smooth out the tartness a bit not eliminate it. After you've perfected the flavor, reduce the sauce by boiling. You can thicken it by dissolving a teaspoon of cornstarch in an equal amount of water and stirring that into the sauce and letting it boil a bit longer.
To Texify or New Mexify this recipe just drop in a smoked chili.